Bethel Lebanon purchases land for new church

bethel members

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lebanon, Ohio, completed the purchase of four lots in the 300 block of N. Cherry St. Lebanon. Closing on this property marks a key milestone as the congregation continues community ministry while preparing to rebuild.

A devastating fire critically damaged Bethel AME’s building at 111 N. Cherry St. in December 2017. After initial planning to restore the historically significant structure, the congregation faced a difficult realization that their beloved building was beyond repair. While taking down the building, we saved as many bricks as possible, and put the antique marble date stone in storage. These will be used to memorialize the generations of people for whom the church that stood from 1861 until 2017 was a central feature of spiritual and community life.

Meanwhile, with the understanding that the church resides in  the people and is not the building, the congregation has persevered. We currently worship and serve the community from a rented store space at 550 Mound Ct. Suite A. We welcome all to join them for worship any Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m.

While recovering from the fire, Bethel’s members have remained committed to serving the community. In 2018 we responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from the city of Lebanon with a proposal to obtain and develop vacant city-owned land in the Pleasant Square neighborhood near where the original church once stood. This proposal included rebuilding the church in a new location to focus on neighborhood renewal via multi-purpose spaces for worship, life-long learning, co-working and a gym/community center.

Although the property included in today’s purchase is only a portion of the land from the original RFQ, Bethel will use the land acquired in the 300 block of Cherry Street to  begin the vision described in the Pleasant Square Development proposal. This work honors the legacy of the long-time neighbors who once occupied the land. The important connection of Bethel AME Church to properties on N. Cherry Street include memories of Wilbur Singleton, Richard Singleton, and Mrs. Bertie Smith, who were lifelong active members of Bethel AME Church. It is believed that other long-time friends of Bethel AME Church, also occupied some of this property over time.

The Singleton Family can trace their membership at Bethel A.M.E. Church back to when the church was first founded. Three generations of Singleton descendants are currently active members at Bethel and are highly involved in the Lebanon community.

Wilbur and Louise Singleton owned property at 321 N. Cherry Street and raised their family of 6 children there. The house was always filled with wonderful aromas from the kitchen where Louise, a self-taught master chef, prepared meals. They entertained a huge extended family of grandchildren almost every weekend. Holidays were extra special. Wilbur worked at Armco, French Bauer Diary, the old Charles Meis Shoe Factory, GHR Foundry in Dayton, and at the Lebanon Museum.

Richard Singleton along with his wife Cora raised their family just three houses away from his Uncle Wilbur at 313 N. Cherry Street. He was a faithful member of Bethel AME Church. The Annual Fish Fry was his fundraiser for the church and he, family and friends would catch all the fish served. The ladies of the church would prepare the side dishes. Richard worked for the US Postal Service in Lebanon as a Postman and he was heavily involved it the Youth Sports Programs in Lebanon.

Miss Bertie Smith lived at 319 N. Cherry Street and was a devoted member of Bethel AME Church. Other members of the Smith family lived at 315 N. Cherry Street and were also members of Bethel AME Church.

As the congregation prepares to rebuild in the neighborhood once occupied by some of their ancestors, we celebrate the opportunity to welcome and work with diverse people in order to develop spiritual, social and physical well-being in the community as a legacy for future generations. Over the next few months we expect to break ground for the initial phase of their rebuilding process.

To learn more, or to become involved in the rebuilding effort, you can leave a message for Bethel AME Church of Lebanon at 513-932-7919 or email





From The Pastor’s Desk

December 13, 2017 my cell phone rang at 3:00 a.m., fumbling around the covers I located it and saw “Alyne Scott” in caller i.d., our Steward Emeritus, I answered….

The Christmas food drive was planned and ready to launch at Bethel AME Church in Lebanon, OH, I was in Paducah, KY with plans to be back in time for the collection and distribution. Having been unable to keep my eyes open for some unknown reason, I’d excused myself and crawled into bed at about 6:00 pm.  I look back with gratitude recognizing that I needed the sleep that I got in the early hours of that evening to prepare me for the long hours ahead.

Alyne said, “The church is on fire”. As is often the case when a truth is too distressing to process, I felt numb…shock steadied me…I steeled myself for the realities ahead.

The news media from Cincinnati called for on-air interviews. I responded while watching the footage that they were projecting online from cameras in a helicopter. I saw fire emergency squads and vehicles trying to save the building where I had served as pastor for the previous four years. My church home for more than 20 years surrounded by emergency vehicles.  I watched as plumes of water poured in and plumes of smoke poured out. I heard powerful responses from officers and members of Bethel as they were asked to speak into television cameras while seeing their historically-significant spiritual home engulfed in flames.

Mom still had to be driven to her eye doctor for her cataract procedure. I forced myself through that morning appointment as if all was as it had been. I knew that if I told my parents about the church they would insist I shift away from care that mom needed in order to return to Ohio.

Having gotten mom back to the house, I asked my parents and my brother to pray with me explaining that I had to get on the road immediately. My brother, who was born with congenital disabilities resulting in his need for assistance with all aspects of daily life, said, “the church burned didn’t it”…How could he have known? I had not shared this with any of them. We prayed together and I started my six hour non-stop drive toward Lebanon, OH.

I had called my Presiding Elder, Rev. Dr. Melonie A. Valentine as soon as I heard the news to alert her I was out of town during this emergency. She and her husband Richard immediately made the hour and a half drive to be with the members of Bethel Lebanon. Later I learned that Lebanon United Methodist Church set up a warm room and that donations of food and drinks for the church members and emergency workers rolled in from the community.

Our journey from ashes to beauty had begun. From the day of the fire until now, the officers and members of Bethel have kept up ongoing efforts toward rebuilding. Our ecumenical and connectional church community have continued to encourage and support our progress.

We invite you to join us as we continue this journey of recovery and hope this newsletter will bring you up to date regarding how God is continually blessing us as we carry out our unique assignment toward healing, equipping, empowering and serving in community.


Bethel’s commitment to partnering and collaborating with other churches and community organizations in order to help create a flourishing community both virtually and in physical space is evident in our current efforts.  We define Beloved Community as described in Isaiah 65

For I am about to create new heavens
    and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
    or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
    and its people as a delight.
                        Isaiah 65: 17-18

We pray as Jesus taught us to pray “thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s Beloved Community is our neighborhood in God’s Kingdom. A community where the overarching principles to be applied in our daily lives are grounded in Kingdom Principles as summed up in Jesus instruction during his Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-7).

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Bethel serves as lead agency for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Coaltion of Lebanon, OH and has formed Pleasant Square Development, LLC in order to work toward the Beloved Community. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described the Beloved Community as a society within which justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings becomes the norm.

The Empowering Connections House project was launched this spring as a collaborative effort between Bethel, Pleasant Square Development, LLC, Brown Remodeling and Empowering Connections. This project resulted in a renovated home within the Pleasant Square community where a family is now able to live comfortably.

Spiritual Development

As we engage in local, connectional and ecumenical ministries, we are intentional about supporting one another, and making individual commitments to spiritual growth. We focus on spiritual development through worship, serving, praying, studying scripture, encouraging one another, loving God and each other, using our spiritual gifts in community, putting on spiritual armor, resisting evil, being faithful in stewardship and sharing the gospel.

Physical Development

Our physical development applies to our devotion to self-care through daily habits likely to improve our physical and mental health. We also focus on creating and maintaining physical spaces that support spiritual, social and physical well-being.

Tawawa Virtual Choir


I trust this email finds you well.
I am absolutely elated by your participation in the first Virtual Freedom Tawawa Choir! This is musical history in the making. Below you will find the instructions of how to record your video and submit it so that it can be included in the project. We are asking everyone to wear a solid Red, YPD Green, or Black top.

When recording the video please:     

1. Make sure your camera is placed at eye level and not under your face or nose. Look into the eye of the camera and sing.

2.  Lighting: Make sure you are in a well-lit room, or even turn all the lights on if you do not have a special light to video with.

3.  Sound: Please ensure the volume is all the way up when using your camera or laptop, so that when you are singing, we can hear you clearly.

4. Please be mindful of what is in the frame of your camera while you are on camera presenting. Clear your background of any clutter or other objects that you would not want on camera. You may choose to use the appropriate virtual background.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


1. Download the necessary track that corresponds to the part that you will be singing. The tracks are separated by section (soprano, alto, tenor)

 2. Record your video. This part is a little tricky. You will need 2 devices to do this. One device to listen to the music with headphones  and one device to record the video. Only sing the parts that you hear! If there is a gap in the song, that means someone else is going to sing that part. If you don’t have two devices then a bluetooth speaker or similar item is fine but the volume must be kept as low as possible since we don’t want to re-record the music. We only want to capture your voice. Record your video in a quiet room that doesn’t have an echo if possible. Avoid doing recordings in the car. Make sure that you listen to the song before you record so that you are familiar with the arrangement. 

 3. Submit your video no later than July 23rd. Being that we are on a tight schedule, late submissions may not be included.

 4. The links are listed below for retrieval and submission.

Retrieval Link:

Submission Link:

Please feel free to forward this email to those who may have an interest in being a part of the choir.

Love, Peace, and Blessings   
Beverly A. Cofield, Third District Music Director/MCAM Chair, African Methodist Episcopal Church, 440-223-7453

Statement To Lebanon City Council

Presented at Lebanon City Council Meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I am The Rev. Dr. Karen Ruth Schaeffer, Pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and board member of Pleasant Square Development, LLC

During the recent Lebanon High School graduation ceremony Superintendent Yohey pointed out the motto of Lebanon City Schools, Lebanon Warriors Build Community! Today, we Lebanon Warriors have a unique opportunity for community building!I trust we will not miss this moment of opportunity.

Bethel, African Methodist Episcopal Church was irreparably damaged by fire in Dec. 2017… Nevertheless, Bethel has persevered with our strategic plan to BUILD UP GOD’S BELOVED COMMUNITY. We submitted the only unsolicited proposal in response to the city’s request for qualifications to build in the Pleasant Square neighborhood in April 2018.

Our proposal in response to RFQ#18-1821 included intergenerational space for worship, learning and empowerment  on the Cherry St. and Pleasant Square property… also a junior high sized gym/multipurpose room and classrooms as well as co-working space and… a business incubator. We proposed to build homes at the corner of New and Mechanic St.; along with outdoor green space and a community garden.

Our first “Think Pleasant Square” community input session in Oct. 2018 was attended by people who live, own homes, work or worship in the neighborhood and was also attended by city staff. As you may recall, participants expressed excitement about our plans to maximize economic vitality. Our commitment to restore homes, (owned or rented), to former beauty, and to build new high quality homes with costs defrayed by sweat equity if necessary, was welcomed and supported by neighbors…

We were told that the church could not acquire the land as proposed due to separation of church and state, (which we support), so, we formed a separate business, Pleasant Square Development, LLC. (PSD) made agreements with builders who were equipped and prepared to build homes that addressed the city’s desire to have upscale homes while maintaining alignment with the value of existing homes. We were then told that our builders, though highly qualified and experienced, were not acceptable, and that home buyers could not be given tax abatement, nor could PSD purchase the land at a reduced price …so…

We revised our plan again to meet the criteria we were told would be necessary. Then we were told our plan was too complex and we were advised to talk with a Warren County official about tax implications.

So…we had that talk with the Warren County official. City staff called the next week to say that Bethel AME Church could buy the N. Cherry St. lots at their full assessed value and the city would release the larger Mechanic and New St. property for city development through a new (now the current) RFQ process. We were told this was our only option to acquire any of the land.

So, Bethel paid $48,000.00 to acquire less than an acre of  land, and told city staff, that we remain committed to the community building restorative work described in our proposal.

In a nutshell Lebanon Warriors, to Pleasant Square Development, LLC the answer was no when it came to..

  1. our suggestion of multi-family homes;
  2. to a cost break on land;
  3. to tax abatement for builders or home buyers, and
  4. to homes in a cost range accessible to first time buyers or people who earn moderate incomes.

Now we read news that current plans include access and opportunity that was clearly denied to Pleasant Square Development, LLC and our building collaborators. We do not know this to be true, so we have come to find out whether,

  1. $300,000.00-$400,000.00  multifamily homes are to be built.
  2. Whether 1.5 acres is to be sold for $1.00.
  3. Whether there is to be a 10 year tax abatement plan…

Regardless of what builder is chosen by you, our duly elected officials, as Lebanon Warriors we are committed to building community together. We are committed to helping with the plan to revitalize the Pleasant Square neighborhood. We are here to help make sure the needs and desires of the Lebanon Warriors in Pleasant Square are front and center; to make sure that existing homes, families and organizations are included! We are excited about helping to make sure that whoever builds on the land (that, ironically, some of the families lost due to needing tax relief), will bring job opportunities to the neighborhood residents through hiring, apprenticeships, mentoring etc. We are here to help communicate in and with the neighborhood to make sure that decisions are enriched by the viewpoints of diverse Lebanon Warriors. We are here to help shape the decisions that will shape our everyday lives, …Most importantly…we are Lebanon Warriors who live or serve in the Pleasant Square neighborhood and we will continue to be present and to speak as we build up our community together.

As Bethel’s pastor, and member of Pleasant Square Development. I contend that our current context is, embedded in and inextricably shaped by our historic struggle to live up to the values expressed in our Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of the USA. This situation provides us a unique opportunity for community building.

In closing, We are Lebanon Warriors, we have the opportunity to fearlessly challenge the historic reputation of our city as a place where racism, classism and sexism divides us… and to engage together in economic, social, spiritual, and physical revitalization-We have a unique opportunity to unify.…We have a unique opportunity to put to rest historic divisions in order to demonstrate how diverse groups of people come together in a representative democracy- such as the one we are blessed to live in- in order to build “a more perfect union”…We are here to participate in a community where “liberty and justice for all” truly means “all.”  Let’s make true what we say when we recite our pledge of allegiance, let’s make it true that Lebanon Warriors believe in liberty and justice for all!  Let’s make it be true that Lebanon Warriors Build Community together!!  Thank you.

COVID-19 Center

Stay informed about the latest information from about about COVID-19 from trusted sources. Make sure your information comes from reliable sources — your local or national public health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO) website, or your local health professional

Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others, particularly older people and those with underlying medical conditions. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your health and the health of other people. Everyone can follow these recommendations. They are particularly important if you are in an area where people are known to have COVID-19.

1.  Wash your hands frequently
2.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
3.  Cover your cough
4.  Avoid crowded places and close contact with anyone that has fever or cough
5.  Stay at home if you feel unwell
6.  If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early — but call first
7.  Get information from trusted sources


Church Preparation and Response to Potential Pandemics

Coronavirus Awareness bulletin inserts

This explores influence of underlying conditions, age and overall health in context of people who have died or recovered from COVID-19. Helpful read and scatter data graphs. Prevention and supportive care, if infected, assist in avoiding fatalities.

You may be overwhelmed w/ info. READ and DO these consistently PLEASE to reduce risk of infection to get sick, or your being a vector to take virus to others who are vulnerable. ️—11-march-2020

Guidance for NJ DCF-Linked Programs in Response to COVID-19


  1. What We Need to Know and Do: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) AMEC Webinar
  2. Webinar #2: What We Need to Know and Do: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    1. Webinar Powerpoint Presentation:  Download Here


CDC Coronavirus Response 

Subject Matter Experts Contact Information

A . Oveta Fuller, PhD
African Studies Center, International Institute 
Microbiology and Immunology, Medical School
5618 Medical Sciences 2
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5620
734 647-3830 office;  734 276-1548 international cell

Rev. Miriam J. Burnett, MD, MDiv, MPH 
Pastor, Historic Jones Tabernacle AME Church
Medical Director, AMEC International Health Commission
Tel:  770-328-2002 

Transition of Bishop McKinley Young


“Servant of God well done!
Rest from thy loved employ;
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Master’s joy.”

The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church acknowledging and surrendering to the will of God, announce that Bishop McKinley Young, the Senior Bishop and the 109th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, made his transition to the church triumphant on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.

The Council of Bishops asks that the connectional church, join with us in prayer for Supervisor Dr. Dorothy Young, children, grandchildren, siblings and family that God will comfort them in their loss, and give them His peace. We also ask you to lift in prayer the Third Episcopal District as they have lost their Episcopal Leader.

Decommissioning Service

On this day, Dec. 16, 2018, as we gather to decommission the church building at 111 North Cherry Street, we give honor to God with gratitude for all those who have served at Bethel AME Church of Lebanon in the past, those who are serving now,  and those who will serve as we continue the ministries into which we are called.

Newsfeed from Dec. 13, 2017 reads as follows:

Firefighters had to battle bitter cold, an icy parking lot and flames as the 156-year-old Bethel A.M.E. Church at 111 N. Cherry St. caught fire overnight. The two-alarm fire sparked off at about 3:40 a.m. Wednesday when a patrol officer noticed smoke and fire coming from the building's second floor, according to Lebanon Fire Chief Steve Johnson. With temperatures hovering around 17 degrees, water froze almost instantly on the church parking lot, making a tricky job even more treacherous. Five additional departments lent extra manpower, and salt trucks were called in to treat the pavement. The flames were out in an hour. They were met with heavy fire conditions as soon as they opened the door, Johnson said. They were pushed back by fire. With nobody inside the building, there were no injuries. Firefighters have not yet determined a cause for the fire. Fire investigators said the building will be saved even though the second floor collapsed. [We have since learned that this last statement is not correct.]

Over time we have learned that the structural damage to the building is beyond our means to repair. Therefore, it is with great sadness and resolve that we say goodbye to the historically significant building that served as a sacred gathering place for worship, fellowship and ministry for a century and a half. Nevertheless, on this Third Sunday of Advent one year after the fire, we thank God for the capacity for joy as we praise God for bringing us through this experience stronger and better prepared to build up God’s Beloved Community in a new sanctuary that by faith we will build as we continue to serve in Jesus’ Holy name.

The mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the social, spiritual, and physical development of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed.

Bethel AME Church
Temporarily Located at
550 Mound Ct.
Lebanon, Ohio
(513) 932-7919

Update from Bethel

Dear Friends,

We hope this letter finds you and your family doing well. We are so excited to share with you the amazing things happening at Bethel AME Church.

As we approach the 6 month anniversary of the church fire, Bethel has persevered. We have landed on our feet and have maintained our worship services despite the fire. The Lebanon United Methodist Church assisted us the day of the fire by letting officers of the church meet with First Responders and contractors to secure our church. They also hosted a prayer service the evening of the fire with Bethel members and community. The Lebanon Theater Company (LTC) extended their facility during the weeks just after the fire. We were able, with the help of the community, to hold our Christmas Food Drive. We had worship services, celebrated Christmas with our Children’s play and held important meetings at LTC. We celebrated the New Year with our sister church, Bethel AME Church of Middletown, for communion. We held our own Bethel AME worship services every week at various locations including Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Resurrection Lutheran Church and the Black Barn greenhouse while we searched for a rental property for our temporary church home. We would like to thank all the churches who extended invitations for us to worship with them during this challenging time.

We were blessed to find a location next to Hair-N-Now on Mound Ct. near Colony Square, not too far from our neighborhood. We have worshiped at 550 Mound Ct. for over 2 months with our first service held on Easter Sunday.

Updates from our church officers


Our trustees have worked tirelessly with our insurance company and contractors during the abatement and demolition process. Due to the severely high levels of asbestos found in various materials and fibers in the building, the contents inside of the church were not able to be salvaged. It is truly sad and tragic to have lost the use of the building and to no longer have the items that we treasured is extremely heart breaking.

Although we have suffered many losses, Bethel was blessed to have a faith-based insurance company that has held our hand, prayed with us and assisted us at every point of this process. We are happy to report that our insurance was current at the time of the fire.


The finance committee continues to manage the day to day business of Bethel’s church operations by taking care of monthly bills and expenses. The committee is also overseeing the fire fund account as well as sending out thank you cards to all of our donors. In addition, the committee has created a number of events to help raise money for the rebuilding of Bethel including the Applebee’s Flapjack Fundraiser and Acapulco fundraisers. We have several more fundraising events scheduled for this year at Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Village Parlor and LMM Railroad.


Our stewards have kept the missions of Bethel running during our displacement. We continue to support the Prodigal Son Ministries community meal on the 4th Tuesday evening of each month. Bethel and a team of volunteers serve the meals to our neighbors and friends at the temporary location of Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Although the Blessing Box was removed during the abatement and demolition project, it will return to Bethel once the renovation is complete. Removal was necessary to prevent anyone from entering the hard hat area and becoming injured. We do encourage everyone to support the Lebanon Food Pantry Blessing Box sponsored by the Girl Scouts located at New Street. Bethel has been blessed during this time to retain its membership. We also welcomed a new member to our church.

Community Support

From providing a space for worship service, to donating food during our holiday food drive, to providing needed items to help with our ministries, our local and regional friends and churches have extended tremendous assistance during this crisis. Recently, Bethany United Church of Christ organized a city wide fundraiser to raise money for our fire fund. The spaghetti dinner was held at the new Lebanon Junior High school where over 500 people attended. Funds from the dinner along with offerings and donations generated that evening brought in $7,000 for Bethel’s fire fund. We are so grateful for the support of local churches and the community. We can’t thank Bethany United Church of Christ enough for their hard work. God has truly blessed us with a great community here in Lebanon.

In the coming months…

Bethel is at a point of making decisions about our historic church. We are so blessed to have friends like you during this challenging time and request your continued prayers. We welcome you to worship with us anytime. Sunday worship begins at 11:00 at 550 Mound Ct. Lebanon Ohio. We have also enclosed a RightNow Media Card were you can access over 15,000 Bible studies libraries with content from over 250 top Christian publishers and ministries for you to use freely. Click here to access RightNow Media.

We thank you for your prayers, generosity and continued support.


The officers and members of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Lebanon, Ohio, extend perpetual gratitude to the first responders of our city and neighboring communities for outstanding professionalism. We are thankful to our connectional AME Church, our town, the ecumenical and interfaith community, our business organizations and civic groups. The many caring individuals and organizations that have donated of time, talent and resources are bringing the potential for restoration and growth into reality! We thank you!