MOUNT BETHEL BAPTIST INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH
“Jacob built a stone pillar at the place where God had appeared to him; and he poured wine over it as an offering to God, and then anointed the pillar with olive oil. Jacob named the spot BETHEL, meaning “House of God”, because God had spoken to him there.”
Mount Bethel Baptist Institutional Church holds the distinction of being the oldest church for African Americans in Daytona Beach. In 1885 a group of Christians, under the leadership of Reverend Joseph Brook Hankerson, recognized the need for Blacks people to have a place to worship in this small community, and on June 22, 1885, Mount Bethel was constructed on the corner of Fremont Avenue and Church Street (now Marion Street) in SILVER HILL (the south section of the Black community). Reverend Joseph Brook Hankerson was the first pastor of this great historical church and was the shepherd of the flock for eighteen years, from 1885 to 1903.
As the Black population increased in Daytona Beach and the north side of town began to flourish, a need for another church became evident. Members on the north side of town were growing tired of walking to the other side of town, especially at night. Reverend Hankerson was then asked to organize this new church that had already begun to be formed by members who lived in MIDWAY (the north section of the Black community). He and those members of Mt. Bethel who transferred their membership named the new church Mount Zion Baptist Church, making Mount Bethel Baptist Institutional Church the Mother Church to the presently known New Mount Zion Baptist Church located on the corner of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard and Walnut Street.
After a few years of growth, the need for a larger church prompted members to once again construct another building. Reverend A.L. James, the second pastor of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, is credited with erecting the first permanent structure on the corner of South Street and Church Street (now Marion Street) in WAYCROSS (the east section of the Black community); thus the location of the second site for Mt. Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.
After outgrowing the second site, Reverend E.J. Jackson, the fifth pastor of Mt. Bethel chose the current site in NEW TOWN, (the west section of the Black community). This sanctuary, located on the corner of South Street and Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard, was erected on November 1, 1921 with pastor, Reverend Joseph Brook Hankerson who returned as the sixth pastor of Mt. Bethel.
Since its inception on June 22, 1885, Mount Bethel Baptist Institutional Church has functioned under the exemplary leadership of eighteen (18) pastors.
Having the distinction of being the first spiritual experience for African Americans of any denomination in Daytona Beach, Florida, as well as the oldest Baptist church in the city, Mt. Bethel Baptist Institutional Church is currently in the process of being registered as a “historic landmark” in the National Register of Historic Places.
Mt. Bethel Baptist Institutional Church continues to abide by its motto, “A Challenging Church Serving a Challenging Christ”, and continues its practice of being a “family-oriented” church where everyone is valued.