Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), 532 Kampton St. in New Bedford, has a deep cultural history according to newly appointed pastor Rev. Sharyn Halliday.
In discussing her new assignment, the pastor said that the history of the church is an amazing story. Having celebrated its 200th anniversary as a formal denomination in 2016, the church members are proud of its development.
“Richard Allen was a slave who lived in Delaware,” Halliday said. “He and his brother converted to Christianity and shared the gospel with their owner. After working for many years, they were able to buy their freedom.
“They attended a Methodist church and ministered to the slaves that came with their owners," Halliday said. "One day, when all of the slaves went up to the altar to pray, at some point it became overwhelming for the officers and members of the church. They then tried to drag them out of the church while they were still on their knees praying.
“They all left that church and Richard Allen began the AME church in a blacksmith shop in Philadelphia,” Halliday said, noting that a cross with an anvil is the logo because the church began in a blacksmith shop.
“It took several years for the church to be established and 20 years to get the denomination established. The first church structure they built is still there,” she said. “It has a beautiful facade and is known as the ‘Mother Bethel AME Church.’ It was one of the first African-American churches in this country.
“The history is a story of liberation,” the pastor said. “It came out of the need to be empowered. There are now three million members worldwide, with 19 districts throughout the world.”
Halliday said her family has a steep history of AME, tracing back to a family member starting a church on a plantation and many of his descendants becoming pastors, including her.
Reverend Halliday also has an extensive background in banking and community development. Her area of interest is stewardship and personal finance.
With a passion for God’s word, a love for God’s people and a heart for the community, she is ready to serve in her new position.
Along with her pastoral duties, Reverend Halliday is the AME/Women In Ministry New England conference coordinator and an instructor for the New England Conference Ministerial Institute.
“I grew up in New York City,” she said. “Women were not pastors at that time."
She graduated with honors from Northeastern University and earned a bachelor of science in business administration and a master of divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston.
Her goals for Bethel AME includes continuing partnerships with other churches and the community.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Waypoint Event Center, the church will sponsor a “Black Lives Matter Symposium” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with keynote speakers and workshops. The focus will be on health and healthcare. The event is free and open to the public.
On Sept. 30, they will hold a “Girl’s Empowerment" workshop from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for girls 5 to 18 years old. Events will include esteem-building exercises. Parents are welcome to accompany their daughters.
The church has adopted Carney Academy and have filled up more than 30 backpacks with school supplies for students.
The church’s motto is “The Church By The Sea Making Fishers Of All People.” Summer Sunday services are at 10 a.m. Beginning Sept 3, they will be at 11 a.m. Church school begins one hour before service. There is also a bible study at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights. For more information call 508-997-2410.