Barratt’s Chapel: Independence Hall of American Methodism
Barratt’s Chapel is the oldest Methodist church building in the United States still in use as a place of worship. Historical markers on the property call it the “Cradle of Methodism,” but historians here say “Independence Hall of American Methodism” is a more fitting title. Take a tour, and get a drone's eye view, in this video.
(Locator: Frederica, Delaware)
Motorists along busy Route 1 in Delaware might zoom past the simple brick buildings of Barratt’s Chapel and never realize its significance in the history of The United Methodist Church.
Philip Lawton, Peninsula-Delaware Conference Historian: “This is the place where Methodism became a church.”
Church historian Philip Lawton says not long after the Revolutionary War, Methodists formally split from the Church of England.
Phillip Lawton: “They did that here on November 14, 1784, at least symbolically, by celebrating the sacraments for the very first time in a Methodist meeting without an Anglican priest doing the celebration and that was a symbolic declaration that they were going to be a church. So this is really the Independence Hall of American Methodism."
Barb Duffin, Curator, Barratt's Chapel & Museum: “This is the place where baptisms and the Lord’s Supper were offered for the first time by an ordained Methodist minister.”
On that Sunday in 1784, newly ordained Thomas Coke was in the pulpit preaching when Francis Asbury arrived for an historic meeting. A star marks the place where the two embraced. At the time, the sanctuary had only simple furnishings.
Philip Lawton: “Originally, there would have some split log benches. Probably, a lot of people just stood or brought a stool from home. Structurally, the building is a barn. People come today and they think of this as a quaint little country church. And that’s not at all what Phillip Barratt thought he was building.”
Phillip Barratt was a wealthy Delaware politician, landowner and Methodist.
Philip Lawton: “He was building a major meeting place for the Methodists on the main highway through Delaware. This building seats about 500 people. When he built it in 1780 there were maybe 1000 Methodists on all of the Delmarva Peninsula. By building this on the main highway he was really making a statement. He had a vision that the Methodists were going to grow and were going to become something important. It’s here that a national movement began.”
Methodism became one of the largest Protestant denominations in America. That November day at Barratt’s Chapel, Asbury and Coke prepared to call all the U.S. Methodist preachers together
Philip Lawton: “Then in Baltimore on Christmas Day they organized themselves as the Methodist Episcopal Church, the first truly American-born denomination.”
(Christmas choir sings)
Joy Gordy-Stith, Wesley United Methodist Church: “I was baptized here. And I’ve just been coming here my whole life for various services. And you know, it’s not Christmas if we don’t come here and sing lessons and carols. It’s a very important part of my life.”
Today, Barratt’s Chapel is a favorite stop for confirmation classes and United Methodists who are writing the next chapter in the living history of this place.
Barratt’s Chapel has been designated a Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church.
Learn more about church history at the site for the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History.
And get ideas for sites every United Methodist should see.
This video was first posted on May 9, 2017.