Meet our Pastor
Rev. Dr. Sheiler Stokes was born in Chicago, Illinois where she lived until 1992, when she and her husband J.W. Stokes moved to Northwest Indiana.
Prior to entering the ministry she was an Executive Vice President for Jewels by Park Lane, the first woman of color to attain this position. She worked for Park Lane for 13 years starting at the entry level. In 5 years, she developed a multi-million dollar organization and had a six figure income. She covered the sales activities in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Upstate New York, Springfield, MA, Washington, DC, and the states of Indiana, Delaware, and Connecticut. Her sales force consisted of over 2000 people.
Rev. Dr. Stokes lived in Germany for nearly two years and has traveled to over 37 countries. Her two most favorite places are Hawaii, where she and her husband have visited 5 times, and Nice, France.
After leaving Park Lane, she joined her husband in their family owned business. She entered the company after it had successfully won a Department of Defense Contract for $12.9 Million. Because of the great job the company did on that contract they were invited to submit a bid proposal to feed all the troops in Bosnia. As President, she led the company to successfully being awarded this $57 million contract. This contract afforded her an opportunity to lead meetings that consisted of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, members of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), Generals, and other high ranking military officers in the European Theater.
While working with her husband she answered her Call to the Ministry. After being in a lengthy meeting with then, Presiding Elder Robert Kirk, a long time family friend he suggested she join Community AME Church in LaPorte, Indiana which was near her home. Having earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, she did not have a desire to return to school. However, under the direction and leadership of her pastor, Rev. Dr. Franklin Breckenridge and his wife Cora, she entered Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana at the age of 50. After completing the required 94 credit hours she earned a Master’s of Divinity with a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling.
In 2000, she moved her membership to St James, Elkhart and served under Rev. Dr. Breckenridge. In 2002, she was ordained an Itinerant Deacon and served as an Assistant Pastor at Bethel Michigan City under Rev. David Swarn.
She received her clinical pastoral education training in 2003 from St. Joseph Medical Center in South Bend, Indiana, and until November 29, 2007, served as an On-Call Chaplain for Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso, Indiana.
In 2004, she was ordained an Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and assigned as Pastor of Bethel Hammond, where she served for three years. While at Bethel Hammond she established a Registered Day Care Center for the church and the church became a site for the USDA Summer Feeding Program. From 2004-2008 she served as 2nd Vice President for the 4th District Women in Ministry. From 2005 – 2012, she served on the Indiana Board of Examiners. Rev. Dr. Stokes became Vice President of the Hammond Area Ministerial Alliance, the first elected female to serve in an elected position.
Rev. Dr. Sheiler Stokes has been the Pastor of Bethel AME Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana since October 27, 2007. She enjoys the position of being the church’s first female pastor in over 165 years. Under her leadership the Augustus F Hawkins Literacy Center was started in 2008 and the church became a Sponsor for the USDA Summer Feeding Program in 2009. Pastor Stokes has written grants for the church’s projector and projection screen, a fully remodeled state of the art commercial kitchen, and computers for the computer lab.
In August 2010, Pastor Stokes was asked by Rev. Dr. Cecelia Williams Bryant to serve as Chaplain for the Medical Mission Team who traveled to Lesotho, Southern Africa. Her responsibilities included coordinating daily worship and intercessory/warfare prayer for all who visited the health clinic. In 2012 she and 21 other pastors were invited by Louisville Presbyterian Seminary to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where the historical biblical sites were visited. In 2012, she was elected Indiana Coordinator for the Women in Ministry and served until 2016. She now holds the position of 2nd Vice President for the Fourth Episcopal District Women in Ministry.
In 2014, Pastor Stokes and Bethel-Jeff hosted the Prime Minister of Niger and his delegation, which included the US Ambassador of Niger. This was the first time the Prime Minister had ever attended a Christian Worship Service.
At the age of 60, she returned back to school and earned a doctorate degree in Black Church Studies from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Her dissertation is entitled, “Using Communal Power to Bridge the Gap Between the Hip Hop Culture and the Church.”
Rev. Dr. Stokes is Vice President of the Greater Clark Ministerial Alliance; in 2008 she became Representative to the Mayor of Jeffersonville on the Community Action of Southern Indiana Board and resigned in 2016. She serves as an Hospice Chaplain; is a member of the Greater Clark County School District’s College and Career Readiness Advisory Board, and is a Subscribing Life Member of the NAACP. She also serves as a member of the Indiana AME Board of Examiners for licensed ministers.
In 2020 Rev. Dr. Stokes founded Maple Leaf Academy, an outreach
ministry for Bethel Church. Maple Leaf Academy supports early childhood development and promotes STEAM education for children ages 6wks - 5yrs.
Rev. Dr. Stokes has been wonderfully married to James W. Stokes, Jr. for 40 years, and has one son, Paul, 2 handsome grandsons, Isaiah and Xavier. She enjoys golf and going on spa retreats. Rev. Stokes is a contributing author to “Even The Demons Resist” Harold Press 2006, and her doctoral dissertation is entitled “Using Communal Power to Bridge the Gap Between the Hip Hop Culture and the Black Church.”
If you are to remember anything about her, know that she is Saved, Holy Ghost filled, loves the Lord and the wonderful flock God has given.