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Happy 160th Anniversary to My Beloved Bethel AME Church-Champaign

Updated: May 2

To the Members, Family, and Friends of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church-Champaign,

1863 was a dark time and difficult time. Our nation was embroiled in a bloody civil war that would determine the physical fate of millions of Black people who were held unjustly by the system of chattel slavery. A Union victory and the end of such an evil institution was not guaranteed and no parts of this country escaped the horrors and the uncertainty of that brutal conflict.

Yet, amid this darkness, a small group of men and women would use the light of African Methodism to lay the foundation for a place that would serve not only as a hush harbor for those fleeing to the North from the Confederate South, but also those who had already found a home in a small space of land in Central Illinois. That place was Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest Black Church in Champaign County.

Beloved Bethel Family, for 160 years our church has stood at the epicenter of Champaign County in general and the Black Community specifically. Before there was the University of Illinois, before there was the NAACP, before there were Black Greek Letter Fraternities and Sororities, before there were any other Black churches or community organizations there was Bethel. These roots, our roots, run deep. From the visionary group that organized the church to the dedicated members who raised the money to purchase the original property to Albert Lee to Emma Bridgewater to Cecil D. Nelson to