Epworth’s 120th Anniversary
    & Epworth Preschool’s 30th Anniversary
   Picture this: the year is 1873 – William McKinley is inaugurated as the 25th President. Thomas Edison is awarded a patent on his Kinetographic® Camera, the forerunner to the motion picture camera, locally the Delaware State Legislature approves the incorporation of “The Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of The Methodist Episcopal Church”. Rehoboth Beach is born. A small town setting with a single railroad track and a dirt road into the Camp Meeting town. The idea of a Camp Meeting place on the DelMarVa Peninsula came from the Reverend Robert W. Todd who spent years traveling to Ocean Grove Camp Meeting on the Jersey Shore. While the Camp Meeting land was large, the early development was a mere 3 blocks wide and 1 block deep from Rehoboth Avenue southward. Mostly it was tents (small wooden – one-room structures) with a few houses scattered among them. Remnants of these Camp Meeting houses can still be found today in downtown Rehoboth. They basically came in two styles – small and large. Being a Methodist Episcopal Camp Meeting, there was, of course, a place for worship, an open air tabernacle as well as a small nonsectarian chapel, approved by the Methodist Episcopal Charge, at 20 Baltimore Avenue that was named Scott’s Chapel.

   The new town quickly grew. A church building was built in 1897, but not in the area of the tents and homes. It was built almost 3 blocks away – “out of town”, so to say, at Rehoboth and Lake Avenues. Today, The Rehoboth Hotel occupies that ground, across from Lingo Real Estate. That church was Epworth, a year-round Methodist church. It all began on September 2, 1897 when nine newly elected Trustees along with the Reverend J. D. Reece voted to “erect a place of worship” at a cost of $1,200. Epworth received its name by suggestion of member Commodore William H. Schoch, USN. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had been born and raised in the Parish of Epworth in England.

   In 1913 Scott’s Chapel, along with most of the block, including the original Carlton Hotel, was destroyed by fire. It was decided to move Epworth “into town”. In 1914 Epworth was literally picked up and moved to 20 Baltimore Avenue where it remained for almost 100 years. Over the years, the old buildings were replaced with modern structures as the church grew. In the early 2000s Epworth had outgrown their space and needed to expand; 23,000 square feet was simply not enough space. With no real estate on Baltimore Avenue on which to expand, the church decided to build a new and modern facility. In 2008 a brand new 48,000 square foot church on Holland Glade Road was dedicated. The old Epworth church building on Baltimore Avenue still stands and is the home of Clear Space Theatre and Celebration Mall, a center for the Arts.

   During the time on Baltimore Avenue, Epworth opened a Preschool. That was 30-years ago. Hundreds of students have crossed the threshold to get their early-learning skills kick-started with a Christian-based curriculum. Epworth Preschool began as a “Mom’s Morning Out” in 1987, which basically offered babysitting to busy parents.  As the demand changed, it evolved into a preschool after a few months, offering a more academic program. As word got out that there was a preschool program in the Rehoboth area, it quickly became a popular choice for parents looking for a safe and nurturing environment in a local church setting.  Thirty years later, it is a thriving and evolving program, offering aftercare, extended days, summer camps and Kid’s Night Out, as well as numerous opportunities for preschool options.  The curriculum includes, but is not limited to, Spanish, gross motor play, science, math, alphabet and numbers, name writing and recognition and music. Over 1,800 children have been a part of Epworth Preschool since 1987 and we look forward to having a strong, educational impact on many more in the years to come. As Betsy Plowman puts it, “I have been involved with Epworth Preschool, first as a teacher and then as the Director for the past 25 years.  It has been amazing to see what our alumni have achieved within our community and beyond.  I often feel like a ‘proud mom’ when I go to sporting events, assemblies, school concerts and plays, or read our local paper, and see names of former students who have accomplished so much and are well on their way to changing the world. I look forward to many more years as the Director of such a reputable and highly regarded preschool in our community.”

   Over its history, Epworth has been served by 35 Clergy with two of them serving twice, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Baker served as Senior Pastor twice while his father, David, served as a Senior Pastor and then as a semi-retired Associate Pastor. Epworth has been blessed by another father/child connection among its clergy. The current Senior Pastor, Rev. Vicky Starnes, is the daughter of Rev. Tom Starnes who served as Senior Pastor during the 1990s.

   A celebration of the 120-years of worship and service to the community by the church and the 30-years of service by the Preschool will be held on September 24 at the church campus on Holland Glade Road. All are invited to come and worship and recall the memories of Epworth’s rich history. A collection of photographs will be on display. The morning will begin with a traditional worship service at 7:45 and the contemporary worship service at 9:15, both in the Sanctuary. Then at 10:30 the celebration will move outside for fellowship and to celebrate in a “camp meeting” style. The outdoor celebration will be led by Rev. Robert W. Todd, as portrayed by longtime Epworth member and Methodist Historian, Roger Truitt. In addition to worship, there will be Food trucks and plenty of activities for the kids.

   For more information, please call (302)227-7743.
Join us for the celebration on Sunday, September 24, 2017
 
Schedule of Events:
7:45am    Traditional Worship
                 in the Sanctuary
 
9:15am     Contemporary Worship
                  in the Sanctuary
 
10:15am    Fellowship Gathering & Camp                       Meeting Sing-A-Long
                  on the Bayside Lawn &
                  Parking Lot
 
11:00am    Celebration of the 30th
                  Anniversary of the
                  Epworth Preschool
 
11:15am    Camp Meeting Worship
                  the Tabernacle Bayside Lawn
 
Included in the celebration will be the Rev. Robert W. Todd welcoming you to the Tabernacle, a Camp Meeting Sing-A-Long, Camp Meeting-style Worship. We will be joined by several of our popular Food Trucks who will be selling their specialty foods – corned beef sandwiches, cheese steaks, meatball subs, hot dogs, funnel cakes & deep fried everything, Italian water ice and much, much more.
 
And, for our kids, we have a moon bounce and lot of games.
 
Roger Truitt portrays
Rev. Robert W. Todd
 
 
Scott’s Chapel, circa 1910,
20 Baltimore Avenue
 
 
Epworth, circa 1910,
on Rehoboth Avenue at Lake Avenue
 
 
 
Epworth, circa 1958,
at 20 Baltimore Avenue
 
 
 
Epworth, today,
on Holland Glade Road