Bethel A.M.E. Church was organized September 27, 1870 by Rev. John W. Malong, as the oldest predominantly black congregation church in Bloomington. Services were held in the old church located on West Sixth Street, which was at one time occupied by the United Presbyterian Congregation. It was named Bethel, after the Mother A.M.E. Church of the connection in Philadelphia, PA.
The local congregation was founded by a group of A.M.E.’s who migrated to Bloomington from southern Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. As worship services continued in the structure on Sixth Street, the sixty-four members of Bethel began to desire a more suitable location, due to the growth of the downtown district which would soon be engulfing the property of the church and the parsonage.
In 1920, plans were made for the building of the new church, with several quarries donating stone. Plans for the church were continued and in the early spring of 1922 the old church was sold to the Smallwood Brothers. Through the untiring efforts of Mattie Jacobs Fuller, who with her little organ played and sang the old songs of Zion, money was raised to buy this lot which Bethel now stands on and the building of the church was begun. The following August, the corner stone was laid by the Masonic Lodge Russell No. 9 of Mitchell, Indiana and was formally dedicated by the Bishop then being the Rt. Rev. L.J. Coppin.
The years 1922 to 1929 were very hopeful years in which the aid of benevolent friends was given to pay for our church. But terrible depression made paying the three loans a great burden. But the persevering efforts of the membership, blest by the goodness and mercy of God brought us through to victory. On a Sunday, July 29, 1945 $3,515.81 was more than enough raised to pay the balance of the mortgage debt. On Sunday, August 26th, the congregation and friends of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated the burning of the mortgage with an all day meeting.
Bethel could not have made it without God being the overseer, the members being the hands to work and the pastors to guide and encourage. We thank God for our Bethel Church Building and its family members. Since its inception God continued to reign down on Bethel and He has promised to never leave us. We cherish each year that God allows us to choose to work in His great vineyard.