Development of Methodism in Delaware, 1739-1830
Herson, Jane McClellan
University of Delaware
There were three factors which combined to make Delaware the Garden of Methodism in the years before 1830. The phenomenal success of the Methodists in the state can be traced to an exceptional leader, inspired native preachers, and waiting congregations. ☐ Francis Asbury was the leader who elected to stand by the infant societies when Wesley’s missionaries and most of the Anglican clergy returned to England on the eve of the Revolution. Asbury found influential friends in Kent County who sheltered and encouraged him during two years of forced seclusion in the Delaware State. His fame rests on his ability to organize and administer the independent church which evolved after the separation from England. By an industrious life and a holy example, Francis Asbury developed the Methodist Church not only in Delaware but through the length of the new country. ☐ Catching inspiration from such a leader, a group of native preachers developed. For the most part they were poorly educated, but their sincerity in spreading John Wesley’s doctrines could not be questioned. Delaware heard the best of these early pioneers as they rode the circuits assigned to them. ☐ Leader and preachers found, in Delaware, congregations anxious for their message. People who had rarely heard a minister gathered in great crowds at the feet of men who preached an ardent and effective evangelism. Salvation was held out to all who would follow the simple rules. Social class lines disappeared at the campmeetings, where in services noted for their freedom and warmth, Methodists worked out their own salvation and aided others in finding theirs. The success of the Methodist Church, illustrated by its thousands of converts and some sixty-seven chapels and churches built in Delaware by 1830, was the fulfillment of Bishop Asbury’s Dream.