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A Ministry That Celebrates Cultural Diversity

At Bethel A.M.E. Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts, we realize the importance of unconditional love. We are always glad to help those who are in need—no matter who they are and where they are from. We strive to make everyone feel that they belong in the love and joy of Jesus. As we worship and fellowship together in unity and through the bond of peace, may the glory of God be revealed.

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:

Our Ministry’s Beginnings

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.

Conferences Throughout the Years

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.

Electing Lay Church Officials

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.

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

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:

Meet Our Pastor

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

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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.

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 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

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.

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 Work

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.

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.

Get To Know Reverend Kenneth Whitley

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.

reverend kenneth

His Early Childhood

Rev. Ken was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he grew up in the inner city. Despite the divorce of his parents at a young age, he never failed to attend church regularly. His deep connection with his faith stayed with the help of a family friend who was an associate minister at a local church.

His Education

He was a humble boy who graduated from Philadelphia’s public school systems. Afterward, he got his tertiary education from the United States Air Force Academy, earning a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science in the United States Air Force. He received a master’s degree in Administration from Central Michigan University. He also finished his Master of Divinity education in the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

His Struggles With Faith

As he was transitioning into a fully mature human being, he had a weak commitment to serving the Lord. His attendance to Sunday Worship Service became seldom. He then decided to reconnect with his lost devotion to God in his early thirties by fulfilling his pastor’s challenge. In the 1990s, he went back to living a Christ-centered life through baptism and being part of the church’s lay staff.

His Military Service

Rev. Ken served in the military as a commissioned U.S. Air Force second lieutenant as well as a navigator and acquisition program manager. As he approached his 26 years in active service, he was called by God to answer His Great Commission.

Meeting Pastor Sandra

On March 9, 1996, Rev. Ken met Pastor Sandra, the woman whom he would spend his life with. Together, they actively served as ordained ministers at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Boston and the Hanscom AFB Chapel in Bedford.

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.

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.