ST. PETERSBURG — Many came Sun., Nov. 17, from far and near to pack the house of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church to celebrate and commemorate the 120th anniversary of this Zion.
Bethel AME, a designated historic site, was established in the month of November in the year of 1894. Since its founding, Bethel has experienced the growing stages of three buildings on the land, located at 912 3rd Ave. N., with 30 pastors contributing to its development. The Rev. Kenneth Irby is the newest pastor and along with wife Karen answered the call to come to Bethel at the most recent annual conference of the AME 11th Episcopal District.
“Without the loss of one Sunday service we continued to provide service to this community,” member Willie Felton shared as he reflected on history of Bethel. “It was common people who brought one and two bricks at a time to build our church.
It’s great that all of you would come and be with us to praise God with you.”
Three local chapters of the Links, Incorporated attended the morning worship service including the St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota chapters. The Links, Incorporated, founded in 1946, is one of the oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of women who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.
A few men escorted the women who mostly appeared adorned in full regalia of white suits of dresses, skirts and pants with assorted designer hats to match.
The speaker for the morning service was retired Bishop and college president John Hurst Adams. His history includes a seminary student assigned to the pastorate of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Lynn, Mass., and served on the seminary-teaching faculty at Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce University in Ohio.
In 1956, Adams was selected to serve as president of Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas, and in 1972 Adams was selected as the 87th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. At the time of his retirement in 2005, he had served as Bishop of five separate Episcopal Districts to include his home district of South Carolina from 1992 to 2000.
Adams was Senior Bishop of the A.M.E. Church from 1988 until his retirement. He is the husband of Dr. Dolly Deselle Adams of New Orleans, La. They have three adult children and eight grandchildren.
Adams is recovering from throat surgery that was performed in October of this year, and urged attendees to live, worship and work worthy of your history. He suggested three ways to do so: to love God with all your heart; to serve the people and to get a good attitude and everything else will fall in place.
At the evening service speaker Floyd Harold Flake brought the message that everyone is given an assignment and they should keep working until their assignment is complete.
“The scripture says that God gives you an assignment even before you were born,” Flake said. “Take the assignment seriously and use the anointing to make things happen in your life. Age doesn’t matter we all have a moral obligation and responsibility to help the people of God. Be the prophet that makes a difference in the land. Change the way you think and preach.”
Flake is the senior pastor of the 23,000 member Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, New York, and former president of Wilberforce University. He is a former member of the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1986 to 1997.
In 1976, he was asked to head the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church (now The Greater Allen Cathedral of New York). Under Flake’s leadership, the church grew from having about 1,400 members to over 23,000 parishioners. Flake is married to Margaret Elaine McCollins and has four children.