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BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
(The oldest Black Church on the Original Main Line-Founded 1878)
50 South Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010
Church Office: 610-527-6674
Church Website: http:/www.bethelbrynmawr.org
Church email: Bethel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Bethel Bryn Mawr African Episcopal Church was started as a mission in 1878 in the private residence of the late John Hooper o what is known as Conestoga Road, west of Lippincott and Eadies Store.
John Hooper a local minister, was the first to start a Negro Church in the Lower Merion vicinity of the Main Line. His wife being an infidel and his children not believing in Christ, was carrying on a mission in his home alone securing the presence of 2 or more persons to join him in worship whenever he could. Mr. George Barrick having lived in Bryn Mawr since 1872, left for a short time and returned in 1878 and on one Sunday morning while walking with his wife on Conestoga Road, passing Hooper's home, Hooper called out to him and asked if they were looking for a church and if so, join him in his home. Barrick joined and they carried on the mission for two years before Hooper died in 1880.
Barrick carried on the mission alone for six months trying to get a minister. He finally secured Rev. Boulton who served for a short time before he too died. Barrick carried on alone for six more months until Samuel Curtis who had come to Bryn Mawr between 1880-1890 and joined forces with Barrick. The main meeting place was at "Dusty Hall" on Buck Road, Haverford, Pennsylvania. The rent was for $4.00 a month and being unable to pay this they were compelled to move place to place wherever anyone would allow them to worship. When they couldn't find a minister, Barrick and Curtis carried on alone. Previous to buying ground where the present church stands, they made an effort to buy a plot of ground at White Hall only having $90.00. They had to support the local minister who was employed at the Bryn Mawr Hotel and his family; they used the money to pay the minister and lost possession of the ground.
The mission, having been organized by members of the A.M.E. Church appealed to the Philadelphia Conference for a pastor and they sent Rev. J.B. Hill in 1888. With no parsonage, Rev. Hill and his family moved from place to place. To get their plot of land on Merion Avenue, Barrick, Curtis and Alexander Murray of Bethel, Philadelphia had to sneak under cover at night to stake out their claim, as they feared opposition from the white neighbors on the street. After getting the ground, Curtis told his employer, Miss Morris of Bryn Mawr, who told the group to try to build the church and she would pay for it. Along with other white residents, Miss Morris, John & Mary Grant gave $4,000. Built in 1889 the church was organized by the white residents who helped to build it.
Since 1889 many improvements and additions have been made. Most notably, the Edifice was rebuilt in 1921 and a 40,000 square foot community center was added in 1973. Today Bethel Bryn Mawr, standing at 50 South Merion Avenue houses the oldest Black congregation on the Main Line.
Bethel A.M.E. Church of Bryn Mawr has served God and mankind with unending love since its beginning. That tradition and heritage continues.