As travelers drive along route 1 in Delaware, they often wonder what is the significance of this iconic brick structure. Built in 1780, Barratt’s Chapel is the oldest surviving Methodist church building in the United States built by and for Methodists. Its rich history and heritage is well preserved not only in its simple yet, stately architecture but, within the museum artifacts including journals, sermons and primary documents offering a glimpse into the history of Methodism in the United States.
On November 14, 1784, Methodist pioneers Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury met at Barratt’s Chapel. On this day baptism and communion were celebrated for the first time by ordained Methodist preachers. This was a symbolic declaration that the Methodists were going to become a church independent of the Church of England. Coke and Asbury made plans for a meeting on Christmas Day in Baltimore at which the Methodist Episcopal Church was officially organized. Barratt’s Chapel thus earned the title of “Independence Hall of American Methodism.” A star is placed in the floor of the Chapel commemorates the historic meeting of Coke and Asbury.
The late Dr. William H. Williams of the University of Delaware stated, “Today Barratt’s Chapel stands as both the most important Methodist historical structure in the nation, and in terms of national history, the most significant historical building, secular or religious, on the entire Delmarva Peninsula.” As one of the featured locations on the Delaware History Trail, this site is a hidden gem filled with historical significance.
There are three special services held at Barratt’s Chapel each year. The anniversary of the meeting of Coke and Asbury is celebrated with a worship service the afternoon of the second Sunday of November. Every December Barratt’s Chapel and Museum offers a Christmas Carol Service usually on the first Sunday afternoon of December. On Christmas Eve a candlelight communion service is celebrated at 5:00.
Throughout the year, the location is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. The Chapel is also available for weddings and other special services. To schedule tours or to make an appointment with the curator, please call (302) 335-5544 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.