Barratt's Chapel and Museums
Backstory and Context
The Chapel was built in 1780 on land that was donated by a prominent politician named Philip Barratt. Philip had recently become a Methodist and wanted to build a center for the growing Methodist movement in Delaware. Between 1768 and 1774, a man named John Wesley sent Francis Asbury and seven other Methodist preachers to the colonies to minister to the developing societies. When the Revolutionary War broke out, only Francis Asbury and James Dempster chose to stay in America. James moved to a farm in the Mohawk Valley of New York, and he remained there for the rest of his life; he occasionally preached in the area. Francis became an active leader for American Methodists.
Philip Barratt passed away on October the 28th in 1784. As a result, John Wesley sent his friend Thomas Coke to America with orders to find Francis Asbury and to discuss the future of American Methodism. Thomas went to Barratt's Chapel on Sunday, November 14, 1784 in an attempt to find Francis Asbury. Thomas was John Wesley’s personal representative and was invited to preach. While John was preaching, Francis Asbury arrived and Thomas came down from the pulpit and welcomed him. There is now a star in the floor of the Chapel that commemorates this historic meeting.
After the service, Thomas and Francis returned to the home of Philip Barratt's widow, which was across the field from the Chapel. That evening they formulated plans to call all the Methodist preachers together for a meeting in Baltimore on Christmas Day. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at the Christmas Conference of 1784.
The Chapel today looks much like it did when Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury met there. It is a designated Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church. Today it is owned and operated by the Commission on Archives and History of the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Several thousand people visit the Chapel each year. The Commission sponsors two major services each year at the Chapel: the Anniversary Service on the second Sunday of November commemorating the meeting of Coke and Asbury, and a Christmas Carol Service on a Sunday in December. The Chapel is also used for many weddings, baptisms, funerals, and other special services.
Barratt’s Chapel is the oldest surviving church building in the United States built by and for Methodists. It earns its title as the "Cradle of Methodism" because of what happened there in 1784. Methodism began in England as a movement within the Church of England led by John and Charles Wesley. As members of the Methodist Societies immigrated to the American colonies, Methodism took root in the New World.
Barratt’s Chapel is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. It is open for visits at other times as well, as long as arrangements are made with the curator ahead of time. Groups of six or more need to contact the curator before visiting the Chapel, and there is no charge for admission. Tour guides show the visitors a short video on the history of Barratt’s chapel. Then tour guides give the visitors a tour around the Chapel and show them the displays of the history of Methodism.