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CHICO, Calif. - The historic 150-year-old Bethel AME Church in Chico was restored during the pandemic. The church has been in three Chico locations but has been on 9th and Linden since 1957.
Bettye Graves says she used to come to the church with her mother. "I have been coming to this church for over 50 years," she told Action News Now reporter Amy Lanski on Saturday.
Reverend Loretta Dickerson Smith
Chico community celebrates
Graves said her mother would have loved the renovations. "In fact, anyone would have," she said, "because I don't know the last time it was painted," said Graves.
Graves says that her favorite part about the church is the new pews. She said, "Everything matches now, which is nice."
"We had the structure of the floor done, strengthened... new roof... new steeple. The bell was repaired and returned," Reverend Loretta Dickerson-Smith told Lanski.
Reverend Dickerson-Smith said they also updated the bathrooms, added carpeting -- and put in new windows and new pulpit furniture.
She says she has been the Reverend there for about five and a half years and had imagined renovating the historic church.
"And it was through an adversity that restoration began," she explained.
"Like I said in the program this morning, all things work for the good for those who are called according to God's purpose," the Reverend explained.
Another part of the renovation that made parishioner Bettye Graves happy was the bell.
"After they moved the church they promised to give the bell back to us because it sat on the ground for years," she explained, expressing appreciation for its beauty.
Reverend Dickerson-Smith said right now they are still doing virtual services.
The church is registered with the state of California as a historical point of interest.
The North Valley Community Foundation set up a charitable project to raise money for the restoration of the church bell, tower, and steeple. The project involved more than $100,000 in repair costs. Much of the work was taken on by community members, who also provided the funds needed to restore the 150-year-old community icon on the corner of 9th and Linden in Chico.