top of page
BethelNB (28).png

Our History

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.

Conferences Throughout
The Years

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
Gatlin Whitley

BethelNB (29).png

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

Her Work

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

Her Childhood

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.

Her Education

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.

Present Day

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

Her Affiliations


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.

Rev. Kenneth

BethelNB (26).png

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.

His Childhood

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.

His Education

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

Present Day

His Struggles

With Faith

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

  • Praise Leader

  • Protestant Program Coordinator

  • Revival and Anniversary Coordinator

  • Sunday School Teacher

  • Vacation Bible School Volunteer

  • Worship Service Leader

Recent Endeavors

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.

Rev. Ken Whitley

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

Be A Part Of Our Community Today

Whenever you feel lost, let our ministers provide you with the guidance you need to get back on the right track. For more information about our spiritual services, feel free to get in touch with us today.

bottom of page