Barratt’s Chapel and a Methodist Meeting with Mr. Simon Blessing

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Barratt’s Chapel

We left Philadelphia this morning and began making our way south, with Baltimore being our day’s final destination. However, on the way, we stopped at Barratt’s Chapel, located to the north of Frederica in Kent County, Delaware. It was built in 1780 on land donated by Philip Barratt, a prominent local landowner and political figure. Barratt, who had recently become a Methodist, wanted to build a center for the growing Methodist movement in Delaware. Consequently, to make a statement that “the Methodists are here,” he built a chapel large enough to sit all the Methodists in Delaware despite the local community being rather small. It was in Delaware that Francis Asbury hid during the Revolutionary War, at the home of a Methodist judge. The judge was later arrested and jailed for six weeks for harboring the suspected “Tory” Asbury. And it was at a quarterly conference of Delaware Methodists at Barratt’s Chapel that Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke first met in November, 1784. The day they met, they began to plan for “the Christmas Conference.”

While our hosts were telling us the story of Barratt’s Chapel, we were surprised by the arrival of Mr. Simon Blessing, an

Methodist preacher, Simon Blessing (portrayed by Peyton Dixon)
Methodist preacher, Simon Blessing (portrayed by Peyton Dixon)

itinerant Methodist preacher who rode in on his horse all the way from Philadelphia! Simon led us in a Methodist meeting, teaching us to sing typical Methodist songs in the “sung and response” format. Mr. Blessing was surprised by our use of hymnals and the tunes to which we sang our songs! He also shared his personal testimony of faith. The son of a Philadelphia bookbinder who did a lot of business with Benjamin Franklin in his publishing business, Mr. Blessing’s dad lost the business — and Simon lost his chance to attend college in England — when there was a serious disagreement with Benjamin Franklin over the issue of independence for the colonies.

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Simon Blessing warning us to avoid use of “the Devil’s instrument,” the organ

Something most of us did not know is that the organ is, as he called it, “the Devil’s instrument.” He warned us to stay away from ALL instrumental music and sing only with the instrument God, the Creator, gave us — our voices. He did acknowledge that not all are equally gifted to use this instrument, but he encouraged us to abide by Mr. Wesley’s admonition to “sing lustily.” He seemed proud of our efforts!

After our Methodist meeting, several of us had a chance to visit with Mr. Blessing (who always stayed in character despite our

Carl Sandlin speaks with Simon Blessing, itinerant Methodist preacher
Carl Sandlin speaks with Simon Blessing, itinerant Methodist preacher

efforts to speak with Peyton). He told us how St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Philadelphia, which was an offshoot of St. Peter’s, itself an offshoot of Christ Church, is the only Anglican church in the city that will still serve Holy Communion to Methodists. It is hard for those in the Methodist Societies to receive the sacraments. After our discussions, Mr. Blessing mounted his horse and rode off, and we mounted ours (the bus) and drove to lunch.

Methodist Heritage Tour_Thursday-33We were fortunate that while Mr. Blessing was with us, he posed with our group for a “portrait” as he called it.

After lunch, we drove on to the Sheraton Hotel, Inner Harbor, in Baltimore. Tomorrow, we visit Old Otterbein and Lovely Lane Churches as we recall the Christmas Conference of 1784, which created the Methodist Episcopal Church.

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