Bethel in the News

Below you will find past articles highlighting Bethel’s role in various Social Justice activities and other events.

Has Boston given up on God? – 2018

Boston Magazine


The church on the corner of Wachusett and Walk Hill streets is built of sandstone that lights up like the colors of dawn, but a crack runs through its old stone-carved name. Above the main doors’ archway, the letters that spell out “St. Andrew the Apostle” are broken, right through the “P” of Apostle, as if some force tore apart the old identity.

This church, now the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, used to be Catholic. Ten years ago, the Reverend Ray Hammond and the Reverend Gloria White-Hammond, a husband-and-wife pastoral team known across Boston for their social activism, bought it as their church’s first permanent home. The seller was the Archdiocese of Boston, which closed St. Andrew, the former home of Father John Geoghan, the Catholic clergy’s Predator Zero. “We redeem the legacy of God’s great work here,” White-Hammond says, “to atone for the sin and travesty.”


Bethel AME Boston’s Response to Sexual Violence in the Community – 2018

Christian Century


Gloria White-Hammond brought the issue of sexual violence before her congregation as a spiritual issue. Are you called by God, she asked, to address this? Are you called by God make healing from sexual violence and the struggle against sexual violence central to the life of this community? White-Hammond made clear in her invitation that this work is sacred work. I feel the claim of her question on me.

“We’re not going to be able to heal,” she says, “until we hear all the stories.” She knows that some survivors are ready to break their silence while others are not. But she also knows that both can be supported by communities that mourn sexual violence, rage against it, work to end it, and offer a place of healing for those who have been harmed.


Interfaith Gathering Calls for Tolerance, Respect at Roxbury Mosque – 2017


An interfaith prayer service at the Islamic Center of Boston’s Roxbury mosque drew a crowd of more than 2,600 Sunday with a message of peace and tolerance in the midst of a nationwide spike in hate crimes.

Immigrants, Muslims, Jews and others at the service described an atmosphere of heightened fear as President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters have advocated policies including a national registry of Muslims, the repeal of deferred deportations for immigrants and cuts to social policies that affect low-income people. Speakers expressed solidarity, and pledged to work across differences. 

“A lot of people in the immigrant community are at risk of being deported,” said Rodrigo Saavedra, an activist with the immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha. “This isn’t just about the immigrant community, it’s about the Muslim community and all communities.”


The Doors of the Church are Open: Bethel AME Church-Boston Shelters Undocumented Immigrants Facing Deportation – 2017



The Bethel AME Church in Boston, Massachusetts, recently opened its doors as a sanctuary church for a man from El Salvador who is facing deportation by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency. Given the theological and social connections, the decision was a simple one for the congregation. “’Take care of the foreigner among you’ is in there [the bible] so many times. Anything that God repeats a lot of times should be where the Christian church is putting their priority,” said the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, the pastor of social justice at Bethel-Boston.


“Put the Fire under Us” Church spurs Parishioners to plan for Illness and Death – 2017



“It would feel like murder to pull her life support,” a young woman tells the doctor.

The woman sits by a hospital bed where her mother, Selena, lies unresponsive, hooked up to a breathing tube. The daughter has already made one attempt to save her mother’s life; she pulled Selena out of the car and performed CPR when her heart stopped en route to the hospital — an experience she calls “beyond terrifying.”

Now the doctor tells the family Selena will never wake up in a meaningful way. But the daughter says she can’t let her mother go: “I’m always looking for another miracle.”

GBIO rally at the State House for Criminal Justice Reform – 2017



The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization leads a rally at the Massachusetts State House before a crucial vote on a criminal justice reform package by the House of Representatives. Report for BNN News. Aired November 13, 2017.


Churches Offer Sanctuary to Immigrants facing Deportation

– 2017

Boston Globe


The churches are breaking the law, but federal agents nationally have been reluctant to remove undocumented people from places of worship. Still, it takes more than a bed and a blanket to provide sanctuary for immigrants afraid to venture outside. Instead, a small army of volunteers provides for their needs. Three churches and three synagogues support Bethel AME.

At University Lutheran, help comes from the Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition, composed of eight Christian congregations, two Jewish ones, and supporters at Harvard Divinity School.

Janine Carreiro, codirector of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, which advocates for social justice, calls them “shining examples of what it means to be a person of faith in our time.”


Jamaica Plain Church Shelters

Man facing Deportation – 2017

Boston Globe


On Sunday, the Rev. Ray Hammond made an unusual announcement from the pulpit of Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain. The historically black congregation, part of a denomination with a long history of fighting for the civil rights of African-Americans, had opened its doors to an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, a father of five who is fleeing federal immigration authorities. Much to the pastor’s delight, the parishioners in the pews burst into applause.

Bethel AME is the second church in Massachusetts to provide “sanctuary” to an immigrant facing deportation and, church leaders believe, the first African-American church to do so nationwide. The action comes amid President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration and his harsh rhetoric accusing immigrants of taking away jobs from minority workers.

“It is important for us, as a historically black church, to send a very clear message that, as black people, we will not participate in this anti-immigrant sentiment,” said the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, who is Ray Hammond’s daughter and Bethel AME’s pastor for social justice.


In Boston some Churches are Providing Sanctuary to Undocumented Immigrants – 2017



First-time visitors to Sunday morning services at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston are met with smiles, handshakes, and even hugs. To call it a warm welcome would be an understatement.

Bethel AME is no stranger to political activism. But the mostly African-American congregation has taken up a new mission. In late September, the parish decided to give shelter to a man from El Salvador facing deportation. Church officials turned down a request for a face-to-face interview with the man, a father of five, who’s now living at Bethel AME. But Rev. Ray Hammond explained the church’s thinking behind becoming a sanctuary church.

“This is not a political issue. Ultimately it’s a human issue,” says Hammond, who co-founded Bethel AME with his wife, Gloria White-Hammond, a fellow physician and pastor herself. The couple started the church in 1989. It has done work on various social justice issues, including with youth, prisoners, and the impoverished.


Breaking Down the Barriers Between Medicine and Spirituality – 2017 Conversation Project


Reverend Gloria White-Hammond wasn’t sure what to expect.

How many members of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Jamaica Plain (a neighborhood of Boston) would want to spend their evening talking about their end-of-life care wishes?

White-Hammond recalls, “I anticipated that we might get 10, maybe 20 people” for the first Conversation Project workshop. To her surprise, over 40 people attended. Even now, after two years, “people who didn’t join the first go around are starting to come as they’ve heard about it or as circumstances in their lives have changed.”

Senate President supports Criminal Justice Reforms -2017

Bay State Banner

Last December, activists briefly disrupted a meeting of legislative leaders in protest of a criminal justice reform push they said wouldn’t go far enough to ameliorate racial disparities in sentencing and reduce the number of non-violent offenders serving hard time.
In January, Second Suffolk District Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz called out legislative leadership during a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial breakfast in which she made a forceful plea for action on substantive reforms.

At Church, Confronting an Ugly Election – 2016 Boston Globe


The Sunday service at Bethel A.M.E. Church, in Jamaica Plain, began with a bright surge of gospel music that seemed to push away the anxiety of this election season for a time. But just for a time.

“I can’t remember the last time I was so anxious for an event — in this case the election — to be over,” said the Rev. Ray Hammond, shortly after taking the pulpit, to a sprinkling of “mm-hmms.”

All the scandal, deception, and sexual impropriety had left him with a feeling of nausea, he said. All the racial stereotypes, high-priced speeches, and innuendo had left the country with a nasty stench.

“The country of which I am a part,” he said, “smells awful.”

After DNC Speech, Pastor leads hundreds in Local Social Justice Service – 2016 Boston Globe


On the heels of his rousing speech last week at the Democratic National Convention, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II led hundreds of people Monday evening at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in a wide-ranging service focused on inequality in America.

“The first word of the constitution is ‘We,’ ” said Barber to cheers and laughter. “It is a suggestion that you can’t have a country with just one person.”

A North Carolina political leader and NAACP national board member, Barber was part of a slate of faith-based speakers that painted a portrait of a troubled nation with a political climate that is dividing the country. During the program, several local residents delivered emotional accounts on income inequity, environmentalism, access to education, and criminal justice.

“You and I will not be able to go away from this place and do business as usual,” said Barber, who emceed the program.

Interfaith Jamaica Plain gathering Decries Violence,

Prays for Healing -2016 Boston Globe


More than 100 people gathered at a Jamaica Plain church Wednesday night for an interfaith prayer vigil, asking for healing and unity following tragic gun violence in Orlando, Boston, and elsewhere.

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy led the crowd at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in prayer for the victims of last weekend’s rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, this year’s homicide victims in Boston, and the nine worshippers killed last June at a church in Charleston, S.C.

“We extended our deepest condolences” to the families of the 49 Orlando victims, said Sheik Yasir Fahmy of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

Boston AME Churchgoers

Mourn Charleston Shooting -2015 WBUR


“Let’s go back to Wednesday,” she said to the crowd. A reference, of course, to the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine people dead — from a 26-year-old man up to an 87-year-old woman.

Gray opened the service, but it was the Rev. Ray Hammond who delivered the sermon, also wasting little time addressing what everyone was thinking about.

“You see our door is open? You see our door is open? Our door is not closed! Our door is open!” he said.

He opened by saying the sermon he was about to deliver was one of the most difficult he’d ever had to write. On Father’s Day, he likes to be uplifting, to praise men he says have taken up the “incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding” path of fatherhood.