The 295th Homecoming for Coolspring Presbyterian Church is set for 9:30 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 17, in the historic meetinghouse with its freshly painted and repaired exterior, at 28843 Log Cabin Hill Road west of Lewes.
This rural Presbyterian Church has been in continuous use since its beginning around 1726, 50 years before the birth of this nation. Families, friends and neighbors have gathered for almost three centuries on this quiet spot just feet from the cool spring which flows behind the property, to worship God and minister to members, friends and the surrounding community. The church, along with its historic cemetery, is listed as a National Historic Site as well as an American Presbyterian and Reformed Historical Site. The current church, dating from 1854, is the third church structure built on this site.
The Rev. Dr. Jay Bunting will be the guest preacher, with the Rev. Charles Gilmore as the liturgist and Louise Foster the music director. Bunting grew up in the Cool Spring community just a mile and a half from the church. The son of Harvey and Louise Bunting and grandson of Alberta Waples Wagamon, he has many fond memories of his grandmother’s and parents’ involvement in the life of Coolspring Presbyterian Church. Currently, Bunting serves in the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church where he pastors four churches.
Following worship, the celebration will continue in the community hall behind the church. A potluck luncheon will be served, and a silent auction will be held to support the mission and work of the church. The silent auction will include a homemade quilt by Jay Bunting and donated to Coolspring Church. Also in the auction will be six framed etchings showing scenes of the church and cemetery, painted and donated by members of the Urban Sketchers of Delaware, as well as pieces by other artists.
Sussex County residents and visitors to the historic cemetery will recognize the family names on many of the monuments and tombstones: Coulter, Copes, Virden, Joseph, Martin, Fisher, Hopkins, Warrington, Hudson, Wagamon, Waples, Mustard, Peery, Burton, Pepper, as well as others that are now names of streets, sites and parks in Sussex County.
The Rev. James Martin was the first called pastor who served Coolspring, from 1726 to 1743. The Martins settled in Cool Spring and were one of the founding colonial families connected with Coolspring Presbyterian Church. Martin purchased land and lived in the first manse, a house built by Joshua Fisher which was just off Cool Spring Road. The Fisher-Martin House, which serves today as the Lewes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, was moved in 1980 from Coolspring in an effort to preserve it and to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the first European settlement on Delaware soil at Lewes. John Martin, a descendant of the early Martins, is a member of Coolspring Church today and lives off Cool Spring Road.
The Rev. Matthew Wilson, the third minister of Coolspring, served from 1756 to 1790. He was also a physician and served as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War. He was a pioneer, patriot, and preacher. He died after serving as a practitioner of medicine and a preacher of the gospel for 35 years.
The Rev. James Mays, pastor of Coolspring 1970-77, wrote, “I believe the history of Coolspring tells us why the church is unusual. Their traditions prepare them for their present openness and good spirit. In the years before the American Revolution and during the conflict, in an area divided by loyalties, the congregation was Patriot to the man. One such person will underline the attitude which would divide the congregation from many of its neighbors. I think I am justified in claiming for Dr. Wilson that he was a main spoke in establishing the church in which we are assembled today, and in maintaining this as a substantial Presbyterian Community.”
For further information about Coolspring and/or Homecoming, go to Facebook at Coolspring Presbyterian Church PCUSA, email Coolspringpreschurch@gmail.com or call 302-703-2545.