About Our Church


The Bethel Story

Richard Allen. Founder of the A.M.E. Church

Upon the death of Rev. Watley in 1987, Rev. Milton Green became the pastor.  He initiated two bible study classes, the church’s President’s Council, and a fraternal organization, the Sons of Allen. Church records were computerized and the church edifice underwent renovation.  The Bethel Economic Development Fund was created to promote economic development in the surrounding area that was increasingly affected by urban deterioration.

In 1991, two years after the church’s centennial, Bishop Vinton R. Anderson appointed Rev. Dorsey McCullough as pastor of Bethel. Under Rev. McCullough’s leadership, the church became increasingly involved in community outreach. Bethel became active in the Walnut Park Neighborhood Association.  It also became a sponsor of an educational facility for the Oregon Outreach program, which is an alternative educational program for youth at risk. The Bethel Busy Bees Auxiliary spearheaded the stained glass window project designed to preserve and in some instances replace all of the windows in the church.

Since 1998 Bethel has placed a strong emphasis on youth ministries. It increased the number of young people participating in Sunday morning worship and Wednesday night Bible Study. By reaching out to these young people, Bethel ensured the support of the next generation that would become the heart of its present congregation.  At the other end of the age spectrum, it created “Singles over Sixty” which focuses on the activities of the oldest members of the church. In 2000 a prison ministry was established in the Oregon State Penitentiary. Special worship services were created in the prison and incarcerated men and women became church members in a program called “Bethel on the Inside.”

In November 2009 Bethel AME Church welcomed its first woman pastor, Rev. Donna Davis, followed by Rev. Arthur B. Carter in 2012.

Today our Pastor is Rev. Terry Mcray Hill.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is the oldest continuously operating black church in Portland, Oregon. It was founded by 20 people in 1889 in the home of Phillip Jenkins and organized under its current name.  Its first pastor was Reverend S.S. Freeman who was appointed later that year. The original church site was a building at the corner of Southwest 6th Avenue and Stark in Portland. Bethelites worshiped there for nearly 24 years.

In 1912 Bethel moved to a site on Larrabee Street in the Albina District of Northeast Portland. The first meeting place was a basement at that site but in 1922 the main floor of the building was used and a second story sanctuary was eventually added.

In 1958, the Larrabee site was purchased by the city of Portland to build the Memorial Coliseum. One year later in 1959, the edifice at the present location, 5828 Northeast 8th Avenue, was completed under the leadership of Rev. Harley Akers who served as pastor from 1959 to 1962. Akers was one of 37 pastors of the church over its 125 year history.AME Bishop H. Hartford Brookins appointed Rev. Matthew A. Watley in 1981. With his appointment Bethel began a period of activism.  Under Rev. Watley the church sponsored the Bethel Community Care Food Program and the Matthew Watley Scholarship Fund. The Community Care Food Program, which continues to this day, serves food to impoverished people in the surrounding community three times a week.

Meet our Pastor Rev. Terry McCray Hill

From bedroom communities to urban centers; from the kitchen table to the corporate boardroom; from a university setting to a makeshift classroom in a church basement; from the development of taskforces to address quality of life issues to the toils of engaging blueprints for restoration projects and new construction: fulfilling the visions of local congregants and communities has been the backdrop from which Reverend Terry McCray Hill has preached, pastored, taught, researched and administrated for over thirty years.  In November 2004 after having served seven years as Pastor of Wright Chapel AMEC in San Francisco, CA she was appointed Pastor of Bethel AMEC in Sparks, NV, the oldest African American church in the State of Nevada, in its centennial celebration and renovation of its historical landmark property in Reno, NV.  In November 2009 she was appointed pastor of the historic Payne Chapel AME Church in Colorado Springs, CO as its first female pastor since the church’s inception in 1872.  In November 2014 she was assigned to her current to Bethel AME Church in Portland, OR where she continues to be at the helm of leadership to this day of one of the oldest African American congregation with over 130 years of ministry and considered to be a citadel among numerous landmarks with a diverse populace of members from neighborhoods around the city.  To God be the glory!

Pastor Terry Mccray Hill

Academically prepared, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bioresource Sciences from the University of California at Berkeley; a Master of Public Administration Degree in Health Services Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco; and a Master of Divinity Degree from the Pacific School of Religion (Graduate Theology Union) in Berkeley.  Initially beginning her professional career as a licensed technician with SmithKline Clinical Laboratories, since then Reverend Terry has held management level positions in both the academic setting and public sector including the University of California system as Management Services Officer for the Statewide 4-H Youth Development Program; Director of Financial Services for the Statewide Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Program; Division Administrator for the Occupational & Environmental Medicine Division in the School of Medicine (UC San Francisco) and consultancies for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. 

She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a public service organization of over 100,000 women founded in 1913 at Howard University in Washington, DC as well as of The Links, Inc., one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organization of extraordinary professional women.  She is certified by The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., as a Hospital Chaplain/Spiritual Care Unit.  Her area of theological interest is in the role of the local parish in community transformation and preaching is her passion.  She has received numerous community service awards, citations and honors for her work in community development and social justice.  Reverend Terry is an avid reader and a champion for continuing education.  A provocative and insightful writer, she was a recurring featured columnist, Faith Matters in a daily news journal, The Reno Gazette Journal.  She has the distinction of being the 5th District of the AME Church Lay Organization’s first female Pastor of the Year Award Recipient in 2007 and again in 2011 and the 5th District WMS and YPD Pastor of the year in 2011. The Rev. Terry McCray Hill was one of 132 pastors and the first AME pastor in the United States selected by the Lilly Endowment, to participate in the 2008 National Clergy Renewal Program.  The grant allowed Terry and Arthur, to travel across the country to explore black tradition, history and culture and the churches where she has served as pastor since are still reaping the benefit.  She is wonderfully married to Mr. Arthur Hill, a retired Certified Community Health/ Social Services Worker, together they have traveled extensively around the globe.