Setting record straight on first Methodist church

May 15, 2014

Regarding the article:Lewes Historical Society to honor four, Cape Gazette, April 11:

We are very happy that 214 Mulberry St., AKA Old Bethel Church has passed into the good hands of Amy and Craig Felker. Their recent Stewardship Award from The Lewes Historical Society was great news. We are breathing easier about a building and a town, both center stage in our lives for the last 35 years. Thanks to everyone who helped along the way to reach this nice conclusion.

Before our final sign off as caretakers for 214 Mulberry, we offer a correction to the statement that our place was “the first building in Delaware specifically built as a Methodist church.” Not true. It wasn't even the first in Lewes.

Aside from the ghost of Bishop Francis Asbury or that of John Wesley, what difference, who cares? The answer, two words: Hazel Brittingham. We want to correct the facts knowing our good friend will notice. She taught us much about getting things right.

For the record: The earliest Methodist church in the Lewes area was Ebenezer Church, built 1788 out on Savannah Road on land provided by Rhoads Shankland - a good old Lewes name to tip your hat to.

Our building, Old Bethel Church, was built in 1790, two years later. For several years the two churches alternated services. Ebenezer (the building) disappeared long ago – date uncertain, but the cemetery remains at the site and can be seen from Savannah Road heading out toward Quakertown. I believe Rhoads Shankland himself is buried there. Bethel of course still stands.

While both Ebenezer and Bethel were very early Methodist chapels from the first decade of organized Methodism, the prize for first in Delaware goes to Barratt's Chapel at Frederica, built 1780, and now the oldest surviving Methodist church in the United States.

Drumroll please . . . 214 Mulberry St./Old Bethel Church: was the second Methodist chapel built at Lewes; is the oldest in town still standing; is one of only two Methodist chapels in Delaware surviving from the 18th century.

Hoping we have it correct, Hazel. Thanks for everything.

Bayard and Nancy Allmond
Berkeley, Calif.

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