Indiana House passes Pryor resolution to recognize Bethel A.M.E. Church

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INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana House members passed a resolution authored by Representative Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) today that recognizes the history of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1836 by William Paul Quinn and Augustus Turner, was the first African Methodist Episcopal church in Indianapolis. In the church’s beginning, a small congregation met weekly to worship in Augustus’ log cabin, then known as “Indianapolis Station.”

As the congregation grew, a small house of worship was constructed to accommodate the expanding church in 1841.

“Bethel has provided hope to members of Indianapolis’ African American community during times of desperation and despair,” Pryor said. “It is time we recognize the rich history of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the important legacy it has here in Indianapolis and across the state.”

The church has a long history of participation in the abolitionist movement, serving as a safe house for fugitive slaves making their way to Canada. It is believed that the church’s involvement in the Underground Railroad is what led proponents of slavery to burn down the church in 1862, 21 years after the building was erected. Members of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church community, united in strength and faith, raised enough money to build a new church five years later in 1867.

Bethel continued to serve the community after the end of the Civil War by opening schools for African Americans in Indianapolis and operating a kindergarten out of the church facility. The church also established an Indianapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s club.

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 for the continued service the church provided to the Indianapolis community. It is the oldest African American church in the State of Indiana.

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