About Us

Our Name

The term “African” means that our church was organized by people of African descent and heritage. It does not mean that the church was founded in Africa, or that it is for people of African descent only. It simply means that those Americans who founded it were of African descent.
Our church is a member of the family of Methodist churches founded by John Wesley in England. Richard Allen felt that Methodism would suit the people best due to its emphasis upon the plain and simple gospel.
The word “Episcopal” refers to the form of government under which our church operates. In the New Testament the Greek word episkopos, from which Episcopal is derived, is translated as bishop or overseer (1st Timothy 3: 1-2). The Episcopal form of government means that the chief executive officers or overseers of our denomination are Bishops.


 “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer,
Holy Spirit our Comforter, Humanity our Family”

The History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

The founding of the AME Church is a powerful story that began in 18th century America and underscores our mission–to minister to the social, spiritual and physical development of all people.  The following history is reprinted from the official website of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.   
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787. When officials at St. George’s MEC pulled blacks off their knees while praying, FAS members discovered just how far American Methodists would go to enforce racial discrimination against African
Americans. Hence, these members of St. George’s made plans to transform their mutual aid society into an African congregation. Although most wanted to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church, Allen led a small group who resolved to remain Methodists. 
In 1794 Bethel AME was dedicated with Allen as pastor. To establish Bethel’s independence from interfering white Methodists, Allen, a former Delaware slave, successfully sued in the Pennsylvania courts in 1807 and 1815 for the right of his congregation to exist as an independent institution. Because black Methodists in other middle Atlantic communities encountered racism and desired religious autonomy, Allen called them to meet in Philadelphia to form a new Wesleyan denomination, the AME.
The geographical spread of the AMEC prior to the Civil War was mainly restricted to the Northeast and Midwest. Major congregations were established in  Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, and other large Blacksmith’s Shop cities. Numerous northern communities also gained a substantial AME presence. Remarkably, the slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, and, for a few years, South Carolina, became additional locations for AME congregations. The denomination reached the Pacific Coast in the early 1850’s with churches in Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco, and other places in California. Moreover, Bishop Morris Brown established the Canada Annual Conference.
The most significant era of denominational development occurred during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Oftentimes, with the permission of Union army officials AME clergy moved into the states of the collapsing Confederacy to pull newly freed slaves into their denomination. “I Seek My Brethren,” the title of an often repeated sermon that Theophilus G. Steward preached in South Carolina, became a clarion call to evangelize fellow blacks in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and many other parts of the south. Hence, in 1880 AME membership reached 400,000 because of its rapid spread below the Mason-Dixon line. When Bishop Henry M. Turner pushed African Methodism across the Atlantic into Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1891 and into South Africa in 1896, the AME now laid claim to adherents on two continents.
While the AME is doctrinally Methodist, clergy, scholars, and lay persons have written important works which demonstrate the distinctive theology and praxis which have defined this Wesleyan body. Bishop Benjamin W. Arnett, in an address to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, reminded the audience of the presence of blacks in the formation of Christianity. Bishop Benjamin T. Tanner wrote in 1895 in The Color of Solomon – What? that biblical scholars wrongly portrayed the son of David as a white man. In the post civil rights era theologians James H. Cone, Cecil W. Cone, and Jacqueline Grant who came out of the AME tradition critiqued Euro-centric Christianity and African American churches for their shortcomings in fully impacting the plight of those oppressed by racism, sexism, and economic disadvantage.
Today, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has membership in twenty Episcopal Districts in thirty-nine countries on five continents. The work of the Church is administered by twenty-one active bishops, and nine General Officers who manage the departments of the Church.

The History of Bethel A. M. E. Church, Cave Spring

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church had its inception in 1867 when Mr. Benjamin Deyerle and his wife Jilianne deeded two acres of land to trustees Henry Clark, Bowyer Beane, Philip Watkins, and Edmond Beale for the purpose of erecting a place of worship for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The deed was recorded in Roanoke County on December 28, 1867.  The trustees supervised the construction of a log structure for worship and educational training. Rev. I. K. Plato and Mr. Bowyer Beane, a Cherokee Indian, served as leaders of worship services and teaching.
The first black church in the Roanoke County after the Civil War, Bethel was known as the Cave Spring A.M.E. Church.  The first minister assigned by the VA Conference was Rev. John W. Diggs, a native of Frederick County, Maryland.  Cave Spring was a member of the Danville District.  The Roanoke District was organized in April 1897.  Cave Spring, Ballyhack, and Piedmont (Mt. Lebanon) comprised the Cave Spring Circuit.  At the November 3, 1885 Quarterly Conference, Elder Robert Davis presided and Brother John Bailey served as secretary.  The following officers attended: G. Jimmerson, George Wade, Moses St. Clair, William Barnett, Andrew Washington, Edward Clarkson, Walker Divers, James Wright, D.L. Ferguson, Otis Raymond, Frank Mac George, Ben Casey and Bob Wright.
Bethel Cave Spring continued in the service of the Lord adding members and worshiping in spirit and truth with the following ministers: Rev. J. E. W. Moore, James Henderson and C. H. Hunter.  In 1886, funds were collected for church repair.  Rev. Robert Armstead was then pastor.  The church was rebuilt and parsonage repairs made under the pastorate of Rev. Isaac Ewen.  Other ministers served Rev. J. B. Lewis, R. T. Lewis, P. M. Only, Jordan Lemmon, J. C. Young, John Lemons, J. H. A. McClamney, J.L. Jones, S. W. Watkins, and W. W. Wilson. The present structure was rebuilt in 1907 and the cornerstone was laid while Rev. A.I. Williams was pastor.
In 1909 there were thirty-three members on record.  The church was rebuilt in 1912 during the term of Rev. Daniel Mays,Pastor.  The officers were Brothers William Barnett, J. L. Bailey, John Williams, E. E. Wade, Taz Bailey, J. L. Beane and Lewis Arrington.  Later, in 1918 Bros. John Wright, Herbert Brown, George Tinsley, C. L. Preston, and Oscar Barnett were added to the Official Board.
Pastors J. E. Harris, H. C. P. Baker, P. D. Smith and J. O. Foster served diligently.  Bro. James H. Beane became a steward in 1928.
The choir was organized in 1935 under the pastorate of Rev. George Harrington with Mr. Leroy Parris as director.  The choir sang music by reading shaped notes.  It sang throughout the Roanoke Valley and state of Virginia.  Three members of that choir are still serving as choir members in 2011.  Directors have included Mr. Parris, Mr. Junius Hardy, Mr. Othello Wilson and Mrs. Gertrude Harris.  Choir chairs were purchased in 1936 with Rev. C. B. Brown as pastor. Rev. S. W. Fuga served well.  The choir stand was erected in 1940 and dedicated in 1942 with Rev. F. R. A. Wood as pastor.
Lights were installed in 1947 while Rev. W. M. Albritton served as pastor. Rev. H. H. Lee followed with his dynamic wife Julius.  The Missionary Society was reorganized and the choir began singing with an accompanist. 
Under Rev. S. A. Raines (1951-1955) leadership, the first Vacation Bible School was held, excavation of the cemetery and installation of a furnace.  Mrs. Mary Jordan, an ardent, energetic and untiring member initiated the Building Fund on 4 Sundays.  She planned the service each month.  Later,  Building Fund leaders were assigned monthly.  Mr. Henry Gravely and Mr. Willie Jordan served as officers of the church.
The beginning of a “dream come true” was realized under Rev. W. H. Tynes’ administration (1955-1978).  The many and various activities kept the church awake.  Brother William M. Beane saw the need for musical training for the youth and secured Mr. Groham as instructor.  Mrs. Shirley Beane organized a Tiny Tots Choir in honor of Rev. W.H. Tynes.  Dulcina Beane accompanied the choir with Dorothy Beane as director.  Brother Chester Bundick and Mrs. Claudine Bundick became stewards of the church.
Plans for renovation of the church were completed on November 21, 1955.  In 1961 the present choir stand, pulpit area, kitchen and dining area were built.  The stained glass windows were installed by Brother William M. Beane.  This was a very skillful and difficult task.  Brother Chester Bundick and his wife Claudine donated dishes, chairs and table and other articles for the new kitchen.  Carpet was installed through the efforts of Mrs. Martha Hart, a friend of the church.  Rev. Tynes gave wise and helpful counsel, and souls were saved.
April 1977, Mr. & Mrs. John Harris, Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Gray, Mr. Joseph Kyle II, Mrs. Elizabeth Lawson, Mrs. Mary Pitts, Mrs. Julia Williams, Mrs. Fannie Cuff, Mrs. Beatrice Mann, and Mr. Raymond Saunders, joined our flock after the closing of Bethel A.M.E. Church, Salem.  Mrs. Harris immediately served as organist.  She still serves diligently as organist and choir director.  Mrs. Gray, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Kyle joined the Choir.
In 1978 plans were formulated for the educational annex.  These plans continued under Rev. E. Philip Terrell’s pastorate, and were implemented in 1979 under the pastorate of Rev. A. A. Simmons.  The Florence Beane Helping Hand Club purchased tables and chairs in 1980, and the church entertained the District Conference.  Dedication services were held December 2, 1980 for the educational annex and organ.  Rt. Rev. John Hurst Adams, Presiding Prelate for the 2 Episcopal District was the guest speaker.   
A pew committee was formed in 1982 under the leadership of Rev. Edward P. Best.  This committee later became the Sunshine Club.  New pews were installed after Rev. Keith A. Grooms became our pastor.  Rev. Best was invited to speak for the dedication of new pews, choir chairs and a baptismal font.  Alternating joint 5 Sunday services were initiated between Bethel Cave Spring and St. John A.M.E. under Rev. Groom’s leadership.  The K.A. Grooms Gospel Singers were organized with members from Bethel and St. John.  Through the efforts of the Sunshine and Florence Beane Helping Hand Clubs a sound system, intercom, and ramp for the handicapped were installed.
The Sunday School has remained active through the years providing instruction for all ages. It has sponsored a Christmas night program through the years for as long as anyone can recall, with members, former members, and friends filling the church each year.  Other special days are also celebrated by the Sunday School and Young Peoples Department.
Rev. Quentin White and his energetic wife, Pamela, served Bethel well and inspired us to continue in the spirit of uplifting humanity and soul saving.
In 1990, God sent a new shepherd in Rev. James PlumerBeatty.  He and his wife, Regenia, served Bethel until May, 2011.   Rev. Beatty, a native of Kelly, N.C., was already a resident of Roanoke when he accepted his appointment at Bethel.  His family included Tina (daughter), Derrell (son) and Timothy (son). Rev. Beatty’s grandchildren Selah and Titus were baptized as infants at Bethel A.M. E. Church. 
During the course of 21 years, Rev. Beatty led Bethel into the 21 century.  A highway project, from which the church was spared, had resulted in structural damage and a change in the landscape.  The people had a mind to work and Rev. Beatty came for such a time as this, sacrificing, working, changing Bethel’s future course.  Renovations and many improvements were completed under his direction.  The improvements included new carpeting, landscaping, paving of the parking lot, retiling of the basement floor, interior and exterior work on the sanctuary walls, railing outside the church, ramps for the disabled, furnishings for the pastors study, new addition on the front of the church, installation of restroom facilities on the first floor, setting up a church nursery, renovation of the church kitchen and the purchase of the house next to the church for use as a parsonage. Spiritually, Rev. Beatty has helped Bethel remain a “praying church”.   Notably, it was during his pastorate that America elected its first African-American President, Barrack Obama.  Rev. Beatty consistently asked that the congregation pray diligently for President Obama and his family.   
He encouraged the growth of Bethel’s music ministry.  In addition to the Senior Choir and thriving Gospel Choir, a Men’s Chorus (the Sons of Thunder), and a children’s choir (J.P. Beatty Youth Choir) organized during his tenure. Rev. James P. Beatty left his appointment with Bethel, Cave Spring in May 2011 when he was appointed Presiding Elder of the Portsmouth/Roanoke Richmond District, VA Conference, 2 Episcopal District.  Rev. Adam Jefferson Richardson was the Presiding Bishop at this time. 
On May 14, 2011, during the 145 Session of the Virginia Annual Conference, the Right Reverend Adam Jefferson Richardson, appointed Rev. Jacqueline Hardy-Harris as pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Notably, Rev. Hardy-Harris was the first woman of God appointed to shepherd the Bethel A. M. E. congregation.  Rev. Hardy-Harris and her husband, Brother Brian Harris arrived to meet the congregation with a joyous, willing and exciting spirit.  Rev. Hardy Harris delivered her first sermon to Bethel parishioners on May 22, 2011, it was a rousing sermon entitled, “Servants of God, Doing God’s Work in God’s Way.”   Within 6 months (December 2011), Rev. Jacqueline Hardy-Harris was appointed by Presiding Elder James P. Beatty to fill a vacancy created a Greater Ebenezer AME Church in Richmond, VA.  In her brief stay at Bethel, she accomplished much including the development of the church’s first official website and the inception of The Sons of Allen Men’s Ministry at Bethel.  Rev. Hardy-Harris along with Rev. C. Ziglar of served as host pastors of the 2011 District Conference held in Roanoke.  This conference was significant because it was also the first District Conference for our former pastor, Presiding Elder Beatty.  
From December 2011 until the Annual Conference in May 2012, Presiding Elder Beatty continued to serve as the shepherd  and interim pastor of the Bethel, he had come to know and love.   
On May 12, 2012, during the 146th Session of the Virginia Annual Conference, again the Right Reverend Adam Jefferson Richardson, appointed a new pastor to shepherd our beloved Bethel AME. Reverend Delphoney Kargbo delivered her first sermon at Bethel on Mother’s Day, (May 13, 2012).  Rev. Kargbo quickly became known for her spirit-filled sermons, life-altering testimonies, passion for service,  praise and a zeal for achieving a beautiful  vision. Right away, Rev. Kargbo made Bethel’s vision  and her platform known–church growth, freedom in praise and a debt-free Bethel.  Pastor Kargbo is known for her desire to impact young people and to spread the “good news” far and wide.  One of her first intiatives as new pastor, was the inclusion of sermon highlights as part of the Bethel AME website, the inception of a praise dance team and the establishment of a church e-mail account–underscoring her desire to enhance the use of technology in church administration. Within two months of Rev. Kargbo’s arrival, Bethel unveiled “The Bethel Freedom Project:  No Debt, No Doubt.
The Lord has blessed us through these 145 years of existence.  We will continue to look to the future and continue in the service of the Lord. For generations of the future, remember that God has watched over this church for many years, through prosperity and challenges.  The walls of Bethel were erected by man but they have remained intact by our faith, trust and love of God.  We always give Him the honor, praise and the glory! 
Mrs. Louise Brown, Historian
Mrs. Laurie B. Peery, Historian
Ms. Eulah Price, Steward Pro Tem (Updated June 2012)
Church Location:
5056 Pleasant Hill Drive
Roanoke, Virginia 24018