We Are Wesley

IMG_0779 In September 1779, a group of farmers and their family gathered at a home deep in the heart of Sussex County to hear two preachers. Itinerate Delaware preacher Lewis Alfrey began the day and tehn was followed by Methodist preacher Francis Asbury who focused his energies on spreading Methodism throughout Delaware. That home later was located in the heart of what would become the town of Georgetown. The church began as Wesley Chapel on West Pine Street and stood from 1802 – 1865. The cemetery still remains on the old site. This was the first location of the Wesley Church congregation.

By 1844, the growing congregation found the brick chapel on Pine too small but it wasn’t until 1859 that the site for the new church was decided to be placed across from Cooper’s Alley on Race Street (across the street from the current sanctuary). The church was serviced by circuit riders in its early days. Georgetown continued to be a member of the Milford Circuit until 1803 when it became part of the Lewistown (Lewes) Circuit. In 1837 the Georgetown, Millsboro, and Milton area was set off from Lewes and became the Milton Circuit (consisting of 10 churches served by one itinerate pastor) . In 1842, a separate Georgetown Circuit was set up with Wesley Chapel through 1892. In 1864, the Millsboro area was set off from the Georgetown Circuit, cutting to 5 the number of churches that had to be served.

In 1865, the 2nd Wesley Church was finally build on the specified location and remained until 1920. The first parsonage was built diagonally across Race street from the church in 1878. By 1896, the church building was paid off but the congregation was in desperate need of more space. On September 10, 1986, the groundbreaking service was held with the Rev. Grise, Sally Tunnell and Mr. K. B. Wingate, the two oldest members of Wesley. On March 7, 1897, the congregation met at the old sanctuary and after a short farewell service, marched in body to the new sanctuary where the dedication service lasted into the evening. The older church on Race Street was then sold and moved to East Market Street where it served as the town opera or movie house for a number of years. The new sanctuary became the third home of Wesley Church and stands in use today.

The next century would bring many changes. In 1890, Wesley had grown to the point it no longer was part of a charge with other churches, but became a station church with its own pastor. In 1892, amidst denominational changes, Wesley became a Methodist Episcopal Church while some of its members split off to become a the First Methodist Protestant Church (now known as Grace UMC.) A new parsonage was built in 1907. A social hall, named Jones Hall for the wife of Dr. G. Frank Jones, was built in 1928. Following a baby boom of the 1950s, a new two story Education building was completed in the fall of 1957.

In 1975, a decision was made to link Wesley and the much smaller Indian Mission Church, located some 10 miles away. Wesley was again part of a circuit, but this time a multi-racial one. By the turn of the century, Wesley was back to being a station church again but, through a relationship with the United Methodist Men, kept ties to the Nanticoke Indian community.