It’s safe to say no one living in Liberty County was alive 140 years ago. However, there are churches here that were established well over that period.
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Gause Street in Hinesville is one of them. It was organized 140 years ago. Although none of the original members of the church are alive today, their off-springs and other members continue to carry on the traditions of the church.
Bethel has been a source of pride in the community, and her members play active roles in the community.
“The people at Bethel are a loving group. They are very nurturing. We are trying to build a spiritual team and bridging the gap between the seniors and youths. This is important in order for the church to grow,” said Pastor Richie Williams. Williams has been pastor of this historical church for three years.
The members of Bethel have a lot to celebrate. They don’t have to worship in a building that has no air conditioner or padded pews the way their forefathers did. They don’t even have to worry about how they are going to get to church. While their forefathers walked, they have cars and a church bus is available to pick them up.
God has blessed them to have services in a beautiful sanctuary, which was built in 1994. They can enjoy time of fellowship in the spacious Booker T. Burley Fellowship Hall. With the build-up of Fort Stewart and Liberty County, the church has more of a diverse population. Many members are active duty and retired military.
As the church grows, both physically and spiritually, more ministries have been implemented to help the members and the community. Some of the ministries include the Citizens Relying on Spiritual Services, Singles on a Mission, couples ministry, children ministry, and Just among Men. JAM meets the third Saturday of the month to discuss issues concerning men.
CROSS members visit senior citizens and take baskets at Thanksgiving to those in need. Every second and fourth Saturdays, CROSS has a food and clothing giveaway. Plans include building a resource center to store food and clothing and provide temporary shelter for those in need.
Bethel also has classes to enrich marriage and family. Various workshops on issues facing the community are held each year. The church is reaching beyond its walls to help Liberty County become a better place.
The members of Bethel spent a part of the past week celebrating their rich history with a three-night revival as part of the anniversary celebration. On Wednesday, Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson, St. Luke Baptist Church, was the speaker; Rev. Hermon Scott, Baconton Missionary Baptist Church, was the speaker on Thursday; and Elder A. D. Shaw, Full Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, was the speaker on Friday.
The annual church cookout was at Hilliary Park in Walthourville on Saturday at noon. The ladies of the church prepared their favorite dishes.
Closeout services were Sunday, with Elder James E. Taylor of Savannah, (presiding Elder of the Old Georgia Conference); and at 3 p.m. with Rev. Dr. M. L. Jackson, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Following the morning service, there will be an anniversary dinner.