Firmly planted

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The Rev. Tarrance H. Mallory and Teresa Granger stand outside of Bethel A.M.E.’s new home at 17777 Little Chicago Rd. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

The Rev. Tarrance H. Mallory and Teresa Granger stand outside of Bethel A.M.E.’s new home at 17777 Little Chicago Rd. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Bethel A.M.E. Church celebrates its 150th anniversary

Church Choir - 1930

Church Choir – 1930

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in March 1862 by Mr. Indicutt, a local preacher from Indianapolis, in an old log schoolhouse, situated three and a half miles northwest from Noblesville, on the southeast corner of the Pleasant Evans farm. The congregation at the time had 13 members.

One hundred and fifty years and four moves later, the church has recently found a new home at 17777 Little Chicago Rd. The Rev. Tarrance H. Mallory said the congregation has 200 members and averages approximately 95 people each Sunday.

“It’s one of the best locations you could have for a church,” he said of the July move. “There’s a lot of curiosity. People are coming in all the time.”

Sunday School - 1949

Sunday School – 1949

Bethel moved to downtown Noblesville in 1968. According to “History of Hamilton County,” written by T.B. Helm in 1880, “Elder Hezekiah Harper, who by his zeal and benign influence, infused anew the old spirit of hope and confidence into its members, succeeded in getting re-organized, and eventually induced this congregation to build a permanent house of worship.”

Harper selected a lot in J.R. Gray’s Addition to the town of Noblesville, now known as Division Street, which was purchased for $125. His immediate successor, Elder Jason Bundy, readied the building to be occupied in 1874. The one-story frame building, 18-by-32 feet, cost nearly $700 to construct. Under the leadership of the Rev. W. R. Hutchison, the congregation multiplied its membership from 18 to 54 in the fall of 1879.

The congregation moved to Fifth and Walnut streets in 1913, which was purchased from the Wesleyans and held its first service on Easter Sunday 1913.

Sunday School - 1970

Sunday School – 1970

Mallory, a Noblesville resident since 1985, first served as minister at Bethel from 1976 to 1979. After serving in other locations across Indiana, including 17 years in Marion, Mallory returned to Bethel on an interim basis in 2008 and has been serving as its pastor ever since.

“The church’s survival has been through the dedication and steadfastness of its members. For most members, the church is their No. 1 priority, and they are willing to make great sacrifices to see it succeed,” Mallory said. “That’s what’s really gotten us to this point.”

Pastor’s Steward Teresa Granger has been involved with Bethel most of her life.

“A lot of my family members were a part of the church,” she said. “When I was married (in the early 1960s), I joined the church I visited often as a kid.”

The basicsBethel A.M.E. Church is at 17777 Little Chicago Rd. Sunday School is 10 a.m. and worship service is 11 a.m. A Bible study begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday nights. The church will host a barbecue to introduce the new building to the community starting at 11 a.m. on Aug. 24. For more information, visit www.bethelamenoblesville.org or call 776-0830.

Bethel - 1980

Bethel – 1980

Mallory said the decision to leave the church’s home of almost 100 years was “a necessary change.”

“It was time to move,” he said. “A lot of families moved out of the area. A lot of connections were no longer there.”

“When I was a little girl, people who went to that church lived in that neighborhood and walked to church,” Granger said.

For the past two years, the church has shared space at The Worship Center, ironically across from a place they planned to build a new home.

“We purchased 20 acres of land in 2003. The idea was to build a church but that didn’t happen for us,” Granger said.

Granger said the congregation has residents from Noblesville, Carmel, Westfield, Fishers, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Anderson and Muncie. The new building has 14,000 square feet – more than 10,000 square feet than its previous location.

The Rev. Tarrance Mallory gives the sermon at the annual MLK Celebration in 2005. (File photo by Robert Herrington)

The Rev. Tarrance Mallory gives the sermon at the annual MLK Celebration in 2005. (File photo by Robert Herrington)

“We’re continually growing. Four new members joined the second Sunday we were here,” Granger said.

The church’s leadership has not sat down and discussed its plan for the new building, but Mallory said options include hosting AA meetings, Vacation Bible School, weddings and funerals

“It allows us and affords us to do more in the community and for the community,” Mallory said. “There’s a whole lot more opportunities here than we had at Fifth and Walnut.”

“For youth activities we had to find facilities, go somewhere else. We really have everything we need here for our activities,” Granger said.

Mallory said the AME church branched away from the United Methodist Church in 1787; however, the doctrines and traditions of the Methodist Church were kept.

“Worship is not anything out of the norm,” Granger said.

Contrary to its title, Mallory said most of the societies were predominately white.

“The church is totally inclusive. The African is just heritage. We’re open to everyone who wants to come and worship with us,” Mallory said. “The church today is very diverse.”

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