The celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. George’s Chapel, Harbeson, will kick off at 9:30 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 13. The service will be the traditional Heritage Sunday with reading of the Holy Communion service from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. A leather-bound copy of the book printed in 1718 may be found at the chapel.
Services at the church date back to 1719. The chapel was originally built for the convenience of country families who could not easily travel into Lewes, the nearest town, for services. It was simpler for the minister to come out to the chapel, and its location on a branch of Herring Creek allowed many of the families to arrive by boat.
The original St. George’s Chapel was completed in 1719, and it was destroyed by fire in 1792. The present chapel was completed in 1794 on the same spot. The new church is made of brick, which is unusual for this period, and the brick was fired on location. It is still referred to by locals as the Brick Chapel. The style of the building’s interior is of the early Federal period. The hourglass pulpit is in its original position, described as being as high as the gallery. It is of the single liturgical center plan, with pulpit, reading desk and altar together, which was an experimental design of the 1700s. The chapel’s windows are bubbled hand-blown glass. The oldest marked grave in the churchyard is dated 1732, and many local heroes and historical figures are buried there.
St. George’s Chapel is a treasure that has been lovingly maintained and restored over the years. In 1950, All Saints’ Church took over ownership, and the two became the Episcopal Parish of All Saints’ Church and St. George’s Chapel. In the 1960s, planning and research began for a complete and authentic restoration. The Rehoboth Beach and Harbeson congregations officially merged as one parish in 1980, and they share extensive community outreach and music programs throughout the year.
St. George’s Chapel was considered to be a chapel ‘at ease’ since it was much easier to get to from the many farms in the area. Services were held at 2:30 p.m. because the preacher, being from one of the local churches – St. Peter’s or All Saints’ -- had morning services to give there.
The Jan. 13 service will mark the opening of the chapel’s 300th year and include music appropriate to the period as the congregation pays tribute to its long and colorful history. The chapel will hold monthly activities throughout the year to mark the anniversary. Everyone is welcome to attend and receive Holy Communion.
For more information, call the parish office at 302-227-7202 or go to www.allsaintsandstgeorges.org.