History of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Babylon, New York
“I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.” – I Kings 8:13
In the early 1900’s, citizens in the village of Babylon gathered together in the spirit of the free African Society of Philadelphia and the mission of Richard Allen’s A.M.E. Church.
On January 3, 1906, six dedicated members under the leadership of Reverend John Cuff, purchased a plot of land costing $700.00, in order to erect a church.
The original Trustees were: Lemuel Murray, John Althauss and George Queen. As recorded in the Southside Signal newspaper, Mr. Queen was a member of the “True Reformers” lodge. This organization was “colored owned” and “conducted a system of stores with an annual business of $100,000.
In 1907, the edifice called Bethel A.M.E. Church – Babylon was built.
On Tuesday, October 31, 2911, Bethel Church was found ablaze at 12:45am. The church was totally destroyed. Although investigated by local officials, the cause was never found. The church was insured for $4,500.00. The assigned minister was Reverend Murcherson and the membership was 24 people.
The church was rebuilt in 1913. In the ensuing years, Bethel, Babylon continued to be a circuit church on the Brooklyn-Long Island District. Although small in number, the congregation diligently worked in God’s vineyard.
There have been several ministers over the 111 years that have served Bethel, Babylon. Many of their names and time of service can not be accurately documented, but their labor will not be forgotten. Three of our former pastors of record were Reverend Murcherson, Reverend Irons and Reverend Joseph McKenzie.
The minster with the longest tenure (16 years) was the beloved, Reverend Aaron E. Stewart. His tenure was 1956 through 1971. During his assignment the church building was totally remodeled; adding a dining area and enlarging the sanctuary. The youth choir was formed and named the “A.E. Stewart Choir.” On December 12, 1971, the church was dedicated by Bishop John D. Bright. Many local church leaders and dignitaries from the community were present.
In 1971, Reverend Edward Jermont was assigned to Bethel Babylon for six months.
From June 1972 through May 19, 1972 – Reverend Abner Freeman was assigned to Bethel, Babylon. Rev. Freeman died while serving Babylon.
Reverend Ernest Boston was assigned to Bethel, Babylon from June 1972 through June 1973.
Reverend Rudolf Douglas was assigned to Bethel, Babylon from June 1973 through June 1974.
Reverend Charles Bryant was assigned to Bethel Babylon from June 1974 through June 1975.
Reverend Theodore Nichols was assigned to Bethel, Babylon from June 1975 through May 1984. During his tenure, Bethel, Babylon, had its first Associate Minister, Reverend Charles Spruill. The officers of the church rallied to purchase 46 Cooper Street to serve as the parsonage and the kitchen area was refurbished. In 1977, the parsonage was dedicated by Bishop Richard Allen Hilderbrand.
Reverend Paul Q. Baker was assigned to Bethel Babylon from May, 1984 through May, 1990. A second Associate Minister, Reverend Oliver Young, formerly of Bridge Street AME Church, Brooklyn served the church. During Reverend Baker’s tenure, the Trustees and members paid for the installation of aluminum siding to the church exterior and new church windows were installed.
Rev. Baker retired from Bethel, Babylon in May, 1990.
In May, 1990 through May, 1993, Reverend Carlton Gibson was assigned to Bethel, Babylon. During his tenure, youth activity increased and the Sunday School expanded. Also, the Trustees and members decided to restructure the parsonage into a two apartment dwelling. In 1991, the parsonage was rededicated by Bishop Frank C. Cummings.
In May 1993, Reverend George Harmon was assigned to Bethel, Babylon. Reverend Cynthia Vaughn, of Allen AME Church, Jamaica, served as the third Associate Pastor of Bethel, Babylon. Rev. Harmon retired from active pastoring in May, 1999.
Reverend Larry Jennings was assigned to Bethel Babylon from May, 1994 through June, 2008. During his tenure liturgical dance was initiated, and the Male Chorus. The church also purchased a new piano. In December, 2007, Reverend Jennings led in the commemoration of the 100th Church Anniversary. Bishop Richard F. Norris, was the guest speaker.
Our current pastor is the Reverend Leonard M. Davis. He was appointed by Bishop Richard F. Norris on June 14, 2008. The first lady, Sister Margaret (Peg) Davis was the first WMS Life member to serve at Bethel, Babylon. Under their leadership we have accomplished the following:
We launched the Justin J. Shippy Scholarship Fund to assist Bethel’s young people who will graduate from high school and continue their education. The fund was initiated under the pastorate of Rev. Jennings.
- We instituted a Wednesday Mid-day Neighborhood Prayer Service.
- We joined the Babylon chamber of Commerce and the Babylon Clergy Cluster.
- We purchased and installed a new furnace for the church.
- We developed a fully functioning church website, and installed a new computer system for the church and parsonage.
- In 2014, Sister JoAnn McCaslin, became the second WMS Life member at Bethel, Babylon.
- During Rev. Davis’ tenure, Bethel, Babylon has several members serve as First District, New York Conference and Eastern LI Area officers in the WMS and YPD.
Now in our 111th year, we still function at a high level of energy in the Lord. We look forward to greater things in Him ,“To God Be The Glory”.