Since our congregation’s foundation, we have been driven with the purpose to promote inclusivity in religious service. Find out more about how our church came to be
In 1822, a licensed preacher named Brother Charles Spicer was sent to New Bedford where a chapter of the Free African Society was organized. He was assigned to the town by Right Reverent Richard Allen with the duty to develop the said society into a viable African Methodist congregation.
Our Ministry's Beginnings
The African Methodist Episcopal Church of New Bedford, as our ministry is formerly known, served as the venue for the New England Conference in 1852. At this time, 200 people were reported to be members of the church. Due to the sheer size of both the membership and the church edifice, the second New England Annual Conference (NEAC) was held in New Bedford.
During the NEAC in Bethel New Bedford presided by Bishop David H. Sims on May 1942, Mrs. Adele H. Emery was elected as the president of the church. This makes her the first layperson in New England to become one. In this conference, Bethel New Haven, Bethel Springfield, and St. Paul Cambridge were the only recorded local lay organizations that were represented.
Electing Lay Officials
Our Current Ministers
At present, the congregation of Bethel A.M.E. Church is led by a lovely couple who are ordained Methodist ministers. Read more about them here
Rev. Dr. Sandra
Her Military Career
She served our country for 22 years after being commissioned an officer in the Air Force ROTC program. In her Air Force Contracting/Acquisition career specialty, she was assigned to different places like California and Japan. Apart from this, she also received many military decorations while serving in the following positions:
Chief and Director of Contracting, Master Instructor, Staff Officer, and Policy Writer for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon
Special Duty Assignment as Chief of Operations - Armed Forces Inaugural Committee in Support of the 53rd Presidential Inauguration
Reverend Dr. Sandra Gatlin Whitley, or Pastor Sandra, is many things: a prayer warrior, visionary teacher, preacher, marriage and family pastoral counselor, and author. She is someone who dedicates her existence to serving her fellow sisters and brothers. Her life journey is clearly embodied by the following passage:
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…” —1Cor. 15:10
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Pastor Sandra is the eldest daughter of eight children. When she was young, she experienced living in different parts of the world due to her father’s job in the military. She surrendered her heart to God as a teenager in East St. Louis, Illinois, and became a devout Christian. She moved back to Montgomery after the divorce of her parents.
After graduating from George Washington Carver High School, she earned her bachelor of science degree in Business Administration from Alabama State University. While on active duty in the military, she finished her Masters degree in Management from Webster University. She also holds Master’s degrees in Divinity and Counseling, as well as a Doctorate of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Her Spiritual Calling
Various experiences throughout her life have made her realize the need to fulfill her obligations to dedicate her life to the Lord’s Great Commission. As a military member and Christian servant-leader, she was actively involved in these chapel programs:
Bible Study Fellowship
Crown Financial Ministries Leader
Pentagon Christian Embassy Women's Bible Study Leader
Promise-Keepers Prayer Team Coordinator
Protestant Women of the Chapel President
Women's Ministry Conferences and Retreats
Titus II Women’s Advisor
Her love for the Lord is reflected in the following message:
“…He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit” —John 3:32-33
The following are the organizations she belongs in:
Air Force Association – Lifetime Member
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority – Lifetime Member
Governor’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans – Appointed Member
Women in Military Service for America – Charter Member
Rotary Club International and Various Boards - Member
Her Personal Life
She married her God-sent life and ministry partner, Reverend Kenneth Whitley. Together they rejoice in God’s love, travel, and take photos. They also love making their nieces, nephews, godchildren, and other loved ones very happy.
Serving As A Minister
She was the pastor for the People’s A.M.E. Church in Chelsea, Massachusetts for 14 years. Currently, she is serving her second pastorate, the Bethel A.M.E. Church of New Bedford. She is also an ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who wholeheartedly shares wisdom with fellow children of God.
Pastor Sandra wrote the book titled, “Daughters You Are Special: To Love and Be Loved By our Heavenly Father.” She did this as part of her mission to inspire other women in putting Christ in the center of their hearts.
His Military Service
Rev. Ken served in the military as a navigator and acquisition officer. As he approached his 26th year of active duty, he perceived a higher calling on his life to respond to the Great Commission.
Meeting Pastor Sandra
While assigned to the Pentagon in the early nineties, Rev. Ken met a fellow Air Force officer, Sandra Gatlin of Montgomery Alabama. They married in 1996 and relocated to the Boston area in 1997.
Reverend Kenneth Whitley, also known as Rev. Ken, works side by side with Pastor Sandra in providing pastoral care to the members of the Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Rev. Ken was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he grew up in the inner city. As he approached his teen years, his parents divorced but family friends made sure he regularly attended church.
After graduating from the Philadelphia public school system, Rev Ken headed to the University of Pittsburgh. Upon completion of his freshman year, Rev Ken received a congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. There he earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He later earned a master’s degree in Administration from Central Michigan University and a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
As Rev Ken transitioned into his early adult years, his commitment to God and the Bible came under attack. A very active lifestyle impacted his religious commitment. But his early thirties brought a renewed commitment to God’s Word. In the 1990s, Rev Ken went back to living a Christ-centered life and joined the ranks of his church’s lay staff.
His Ministry Involvement
To fulfill his spiritual obligation to serve his fellow Christians, Rev. Ken also held the following positions:
Crown Financial Ministries Coordinator
Family Life Marriage coordinator
Men’s Ministry Coordinator
Men’s Retreat Coordinator
Parish Council (Trustee Board) President
Protestant Program Coordinator
Revival and Anniversary Coordinator
Sunday School Teacher
Vacation Bible School Volunteer
Worship Service Leader
During the 157th Session of the New England Annual Conference in 2008, Rev. Ken was ordained as an Itinerant Elder. At the present, he continues to incorporate his military and ministry leadership experience to serve in any way God sees fit.
Our Past Pastors
The church has been led by many compassionate
ministers throughout the years, namely:
1822: Reverend Charles Spicer
1842: Reverend Eli N. Hall
1843: Reverend John Butler
1844: Reverend H. J. Johnson
1847: Reverend Richards Robinson
1848: Reverend Leven Tillman
1849: Reverend Peter Gardner
1850: Reverend H. J. Johnson
1852: Reverend Dayton Doyle
1853: Reverend Thomas M. Ward
1854: Reverend J.D.S. Hall
1855: Reverend Joseph R. Turner
1856: Reverend Lewis S. Lewis
1858: Reverend Jacob Mitchell
1860: Reverend Henry J. Young
1861: Reverend William Grimes
1871: Reverend Joseph G. Smith
1872: Reverend William Johnson
1873: Reverend John T. Hayslett
1875: Reverend Stephen Douglass
1876: Reverend E. W. Williams
1877: Reverend P. S. Stanford
1879: Reverend William J. Laws
1882: Reverend William J. Hunter
1885: Reverend John C. Brock
1888: Reverend F. J. Cooper
1889: Reverends John T. Hayslett, C.C. Felts, R. French Hurley, and William H. Bryant
1896: Reverends Francis F. Giles, W. H. Thomas, Israel Derricks, William A. Lynch, Reverdy C. Ransom, J. W. Morrishaw, J. T. Whitten, C. P. Cole, C. H. Yearwood, Henry M. Shields, and A. B. Morton
1915: Reverend D. Ormond Walker
1920: Reverends John Henderson, Edward K. Nichols, William H. Lacey, Charles Crawford, Isaiah A. McCoy, and Douglas Robinson
1935: Reverends Daniel E. Davis, Samuel P. Perry, R. Henry Gross, Norman Brown
1940 Reverends P. Vaugh Sterrett, Norman A. Hylton, Wilfred L. Griffith
1948 Reverends Vernon E. Carter, H. Solomon Hill, Julian J. Jenkins, John William Lee, and Daniel D. Davis
1952: Reverends Isaac R. Clark and George Richardson
1956: Reverends Forrest H. Worten and Edward Millette
1959: Reverend John W. Parker
1961: Reverend Melford A. Mesquitta
1979 Reverends Leotis Strong and Robert Woodbury
1984: Reverend Zedekiah I. Grady, III
1990: Reverend Charles Thompson
1992: Reverend Myron D. Howie
1993-1998: Reverend Idola Williams
1998-2007 Reverend Mark Green
2007-2010: Reverend Milna I. Johnson
2010-2015: Reverend Irma Thibodeaux
2015-2017: Reverend Kevin Taylor
2017-2019: Reverend Sharyn Halliday
2019-2021: Reverend Charles Cloy
2021-present: Reverend Dr. Sandra Gatlin Whitley