Bethel A.M.E. Church (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Bethel A. M. E. Church
|Location||414 W. Vermont St., Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architectural style||Modern Movement, Other, Romanesque, Post Modern|
|NRHP Reference #||91000269|
|Added to NRHP||March 21, 1991|
The Bethel A.M.E. Church is a historic church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It was built in 1869 and added to the National Register in 1991.
Bethel is Indianapolis’s oldest African-American church. It has steadfastly served its community since before the Civil War. The church was founded in 1836 by a group of African-American Methodists. Members built a small church building on Georgia Street in between the Central Canal and Senate Avenue five years later. In 1857 members purchased Christ Episcopal Church and moved the building to their church’s site on Georgia Street. The role of Bethel AME Church, which was originally known as the Indianapolis Station AME, grew along with the black population of the city.
That black population made up approximately less than 3 percent of the total population in Indianapolis before the Civil War. Out of the total population of 1,338,710 in the state of Indiana in 1860, only 11,428 were African American. As the Civil War progressed though, the number of blacks coming to Indianapolis from the South as well as rural areas around the state only grew higher and higher.
Bethel AME Church members purchased a lot on West Vermont Street in 1867 for the construction of a new church building. By 1869 members had approved the name Bethel and moved to the new building on 414 West Vermont Street. The new place of worship also became a place for social activism as well as a venue for organizing and implementing services in the black community. Those services included providing money, clothing, and temporary lodging to African-Americans immigrating to the city from the South after the Civil War.
Bethel AME Church continued to be an important thread in the fabric of the black community located to the northwest of Indianapolis’s downtown area during the twentieth century, functioning as a space of racial solidarity and fulfilling a role that was interwoven throughout civil rights struggles and community outreach services for African Americans in the city. The church also served as a venue for the organization of local associations that were instrumental in the push to achieve better housing, education, and equal rights for African Americans. Both the Indianapolis NAACP chapter and Indiana State Federation of Colored Woman’s Clubs were established at Bethel.
Members renovated the church building and adjoining parsonage in 1974 in order to make more space for outreach activities. Bethel AME Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It is the only African-American church building in Indianapolis to receive that recognition.
Indianapolis’s oldest African-American church is still active in 2014, occupying the same site it did in 1869.
The state Historical Marker for Bethel AME Church, which is located across from the building on West Vermont Street, was dedicated on Saturday, June 20, 2009.
Reverend Carey A. Grady was assigned to Bethel AME Church as the Senior Pastor by John R. Bryant, Presiding Bishop of the Indiana South District AME Church, on October 24, 2009. The church has 313 members as of July 2014. Bethel facilitates several community-centered activities, including the Back-To-School Giveaway and Adopt-A-School Program, which supplies school materials for the entire student body of Flanner House Elementary School as well as $15 gift cards to teachers, and the Homeless Program, which provides free lunches for homeless individuals every Tuesday. The church is also a member of the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCan) and has served as headquarters for IndyCan’s Mass Transit Campaign since 2013.
→Check out a post about Bethel A.M.E. Church on The Indiana Historic Newspaper Digitization Project Blog.
→The Indiana Digital Historic Newspaper Program's database provides "free, online access to high quality digital images of Indiana's historic newspapers." The collection, which will continue to be expanded, currently contains 14,217 newspaper issues published between 1841 and 1922.
→For a chronology of events, check out Angela Potter’s Timeline for Bethel A.M.E. Church.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Hale, Michelle D. “Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.” In The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, ed. David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, 318-319. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994; Warren, Stanley. “The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.” Traces (Summer 2007): 32–36.
- Thornbrough, Emma Lou. “African-Americans.” In The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, ed. David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, 5-14. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
- “Forged Through Fire: Bethel AME Church, Indianapolis Station AME Church, 1836-1869.” Accessed July 7, 2014. http://forgedthroughfire.wordpress.com/
- “Colored Immigrants in Indiana: Their Character and Location.” The Indianapolis Leader, January 24, 1880. Pages 1-2. Accessed July 7, 2914. https://newspapers.library.in.gov/
- Hale, Michelle D. “Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.” In The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, ed. David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, 318-319. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994; Bethel A.M.E. Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. Interviews by Melissa Burlock, 18-21 July 2013. Audio recordings, IUPUI Special Collections and Archives, e-Archives, https://archives.iupui.edu/handle/2450/6956/browse?type=dateissued.
- Indiana Historical Bureau. “Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.” Accessed July 8, 2014. http://www.in.gov/history/markers/Bethel.htm; “Above the Underground Railroad: Bethel AME Church.” Accessed July 8, 2014. http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/in1.htm
- Hale, Michelle D. “Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.”
- Indiana Historical Bureau. “June 20, 2009 – Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.” Accessed July 8, 2014. http://www.in.gov/history/BethelDed.htm
- Grady, Carey A., Senior Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church. Phone conversation with writer, 14 July 2014; NUVO Editors. “IndyCAN heralds mass transit bill passage.” Accessed July 14, 2014. http://www.nuvo.net/indianapolis/indycan-heralds-mass-transit-bill-passage/Content?oid=2784803#.UyJoWeddUQY ; “Bethel Cathedral.” Accessed July 8, 2014. http://www.bethelcathedral.org/
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