Our History

According to authentic historical documents, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church had its incipiency one year after the close of the Civil War. 

Where Bethel Began

The newly emancipated founders organized Bethel Society in 1866 in an old sword factory on Wayne Street in Columbia, S.C. Worshiping there for a short while, the Church was moved to Lincoln and Hampton streets. Records indicate that this property, owned by the Bethel Society, was later donated to the City of Columbia for educational purposes. 

The Sumter Street Location

In 1921, the Bethel Society moved to a blacksmith’s shop on the corner of Sumter and Hampton Streets where a larger framework was built to house its growing congregation. The structure was designed by John Anderson Lankford, one of the first black registered architects in the United States. 

Over many years, Bethel continued to flourish and the congregation expanded even more. 

The Move to Woodrow Street


Bethel A.M.E. Church, Columbia, SCBy 1995, due to being landlocked and a need to accommodate a growing membership, under the leadership of Bishop John Hurst Adams and the pastor, Rev. Dr. Ronnie E. Brailsford, the church moved again to its current location, 819 Woodrow Street, a historic site built in 1939. The relocation provided additional resources to do ministry: the acquisition of additional land, a larger sanctuary, administrative buildings, a gymnasium, increased parking spaces, etc.

Bethel Learning Center Founded

Shortly after the move, the Bethel Learning Center, currently accredited by the SCISA, was started.

Formulation of the Renaissance Foundation

And, with a goal to restore the Sumter Street property and to establish a cultural arts center at the Sumter Street site, the Renaissance Foundation was also formed.

Rev. Brailsford continued to serve as the pastor of Bethel until November 2016.

Richburg Assigned as Pastor

Then, on November 12, 2016, Bishop Samuel Green, Sr. assigned Rev. Dr. Caesar R. Richburg to the pastorate of Bethel A.M.E. Church. 

Under Richburg’s leadership, several significant initiatives designed to move the church and ministries forward have either been completed and/or in progress. Among the initiatives include major renovating, resurfacing and face lifting to the edifice and grounds (painting, resurfacing, roof repairs, carpet and pew replacements or repairs, restroom tile work, etc.); upgrading the technology infrastructure to include a high-tech monitors in both the sanctuary and chapel for overflow); up fitting and renovating the gymnasium as a viable venue for community use and other programs offered by the church; community outreaching and evangelizing through Operations Andrew designed to grow the church by helping believers impact the city through family, friends, and co-workers with the “good news” (inviting others to Christ); and strengthening church ministries at all levels.