In April 2018, Bethel AME Church submitted a proposal in response to the city’s Pleasant Square Request for Qualifications (RFQ). This proposal is part of the church’s long-term strategic plan. Members of the church saw the RFQ as an opportunity to acquire land for growing its ministries while revitalizing the surrounding community.
Bethel AME Church started a process of long-term strategic planning in 2013. Between 2013 and 2016 the church focused on landscaping, painting, replacing windows, restoring floors and updating the contents of our building that had been dedicated in 1861. In January of 2017 a new plan to be implemented between 2017 and 2020 was initiated. This plan called for continued renovations of the antique building as well as expanding to new spaces in order to add community ministries such as the multi-purpose facility and business incubator that are included in the RFQ proposal.
Meanwhile, two of Bethel’s officers attended city meetings and contributed to The Lebanon Master Plan. When RFQs aligned with the Master Plan were announced, even though we were blindsided by a devastating fire on Dec. 13, 2017, Bethel decided to continue implementing our strategic plan by submitting a proposal for Pleasant Square Development. The fire destroyed the renovations that were in progress in the old building, but has not discouraged us from continuing to worship and serve in the community.
Bethel AME Church proposed to build our new worship and fellowship space. This building would include gathering spaces for community dialog and lifelong learning with a multipurpose room and a suite of offices for a business incubator. A central feature of the original proposal for development over time was high quality family owned homes as well as outdoor green space connected to downtown walking routes, and off street parking. [READ MORE]
Honoring the legacy of the church elders
The important connection of Bethel AME Church to properties on N. Cherry Street include our memories of Wilbur Singleton, Richard Singleton, and Mrs. Birdie Smith, who were lifelong active members of Bethel AME Church. It is our understanding that others, including the Offord family and other long-time friends of Bethel AME Church, also occupied some of this property. Even the corner lot, not currently owned by the city, is owned by a family with cross-generational ties to Bethel AME Church. [READ MORE]