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San Diego's oldest African-American church

Posted at 7:21 PM, Feb 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-07 22:21:36-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — While the times have changed over the past 137 years, the mission of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) has not. It's the oldest black church in San Diego.

"The church is two things," said Harvey Vaughn, the church's senior pastor. "One, it's a spiritual organism created by Christ. Got the father, son, Holy Spirit. A spiritual organism but it's also a social organization. It's a place people can come together in fellowship, it's certainly a place people can worship."

Even though the church has been around since the 1800s, they didn't build their new sanctuary space until 1955. Before that, they used a building called the Fellowship Hall. It's the original church building from 1877.

Bethel AME Church started small, with just 25 people and issues paying the rent. The church moved locations several times, before pulling through and planting its roots in Logan Heights in 1955.

"I do believe AME Church was a vehicle that God created in a place point and time in history that would help black people that were coming out of slavery, that were not able to read. They could not vote," said Vaughn.

Now its congregation is about 650 people. Today the needs of the community are different, but the church continues its legacy of service on K St.

"Our original sanctuary is still intact. We use it every day. We have a daycare center in there, we do a ministry called the 'men of ministry' where we provide lunches to the sick and shut-in," said Vaughn. "Empowering, assisting people and spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's what we're gonna continue to do."

The church holds public service projects year-round, and plans to finish construction on more than a dozen low-cost housing units by the end of the year. If you want to learn more about the church or donate, you can visit their website.