By Georgine Wallace
Like many churches in Southwest, the historic Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle Church at 60 I St SW is undergoing a complete reconstruction. A modern, 17,000 square foot sanctuary will be on the ground floor of a new seven-story residential building. Over a dozen residential units will be designated as affordable housing. The building is slated for completion in 2023. Although the church’s official name remains, it has rebranded to also be known as Bethel DC360 with the “DC” referring to Disciples of Christ.
The new name will be the third in the history of the congregation. In 1921, fifteen people held a prayer service in the home of the Reverend Herbert Kline at 509 Third Street NW. The group grew to 36 and they adopted the name “Bible Hall.” Within two years, the congregation exceeded the house’s capacity and they obtained permits to hold services outside. On January 1, 1927, they became the first Pentecostal Church in Washington to become a member of the General Council of the Assemblies of God. In 1935, they adopted the name of Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle. The congregation used various facilities to hold services. When Reverend Renton Hunter became pastor in 1956, he led the effort to seek and obtain a permanent home for the congregation. In the late 1950’s, they moved to the current address in Southwest. The new church was even visited by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in March of 1968.
Currently, the church is led by Reverend Fitzgerald Carter, known as “Pastor Fitz,” and his wife Sophia. Pastor Fitz conducted his first sermon at the age of 17 at Bethel. His father, Reverend Robert Carter, led the church from 1989 to 2007. Pastor Fitz served as associate pastor under his father from 2006 until Rev. Carter retired in 2007. Married for over 30 years, the Carters have two grown children and a granddaughter. They have ministered in several countries including Sophia’s native Cayman Islands. Pastor Fitz juggles his duty to the congregation with a full-time job as a federal contractor.
They model their work on four core values: win souls, fill needs, heal hurts, and build dreams. The church provided special Christmas gifts to the Aya, the Ward 6 short-term housing facility. They even purchased a double stroller for a mother of 6. During the early stages of the pandemic, the church provided boxes of produce and protein to Southwest residents. The church’s interim location is at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, just across from the Eastern Market metro. Services are held at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday in-person and virtually on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.. They hope to move that service to in-person soon as well. For more information on Bethel DC360, including additional outreach projects, visit their web site at https://www.betheldc360.com/.