History of New Bethel AME Church
Church Beyond The Walls
New Bethel emerged in 1891 in a community dubbed the “Promised Land” amid a backdrop of plantations and cotton fields. The DeKalb County congregation first began meeting in a little house perched alongside the Yellow River, where early members were baptized. “When the river would rise,” the story is told, “the water would come right on into the church and congregants would arrive early, because they knew they would have to sweep out water.”
Records show members from the Anderson, Everson and Livsey families were some of the earliest and most faithful parishioners who helped establish the church. Since her early years, New Bethel has been known as a spiritual home for all those who sought to be healed, delivered, and to have a new beginning in life. Over the years New Bethel has modeled its name, “New Bethel- meaning House of God”. New Bethel seeks to be a “House of God” for any person who comes in.
During the late 1950’s, Georgia Department of Transportation relocated the church to a nearby hilltop to accommodate construction of highway GA 124. The church went literally from the mouth of the river to the top of the hill. In 1958, The Rev. C.H. Adams was the pastor who led the congregation into the little church on the hill.
Since New Bethel moved to the hill, it has been a stronghold for the community which grew around her. She has provided hope, healing and new beginnings for all who have called her home down through the years. There is a long list of ministers who have served this amazing family of faith; each pastor providing the spiritual nutrition that the family of New Bethel needed to get her through good and challenging times. Under the leadership of Rev. Mark Thompson New Bethel experienced a renewed commitment to discipleship and ministry. Consequently, the congregation grew to need a larger place to worship and serve the growing area of Lithonia. In 2001, New Bethel built its current worship and ministry center. When you build it, people will come! There was a shift in New Bethel pastoral leadership and The Rev. Keith D.D. Lawrence came to New Bethel in 2004. Rev. Lawrence’s unique preaching gifts helped to bring over 200 new families to New Bethel! Following the pastoral leadership of Rev. Keith D.D. Lawrence, in 2006, Rev. Ronald Owens was sent by Bishop William P. DeVeaux to New Bethel. Rev. Owens served with passion, giving pastoral care and counsel to the many families of New Bethel. He faithfully served the families of New Bethel. In June of 2013, Bishop Preston W. Williams II, after much prayer, sent The Rev. Richard A. Washington, Sr. to serve as the pastor of New Bethel. Rev. Washington has come with a God led vision to become the “Church Beyond the Walls!” We are currently watching God add to our family of faithful daily! The best is yet to come!