Menu

Diverse Faith Communities

After the founding of Ezion in 1805 and the African Union Methodist denomination in 1813, Black churches gradually spread throughout Delaware. Each new church represented a community coming together to express its faith and build an institution that strengthened its freedom. In many places, churches were the only place where Blacks could gather freely, so they served many functions.

For 70 years, all of Delaware’s known African American churches were Methodist, reflecting Methodism’s strength in the state. Indeed, in 1839, The Colored American said of Wilmington, “One thing I cannot but find fault with—they have three Methodist churches. They need but one, for the greater good of the whole.”

Denominational diversity arrived with the founding of Shiloh Baptist Church in Wilmington in the mid-1870s. Since then, the number and variety of Black houses of worship has grown. The state had over 200 by the mid-1940s, and others have been founded since then, including some non-Christian groups. Black Muslims joined the faith community in the late 1950s.This section presents only a small sampling of Delaware’s many diverse African American congregations.

African American Churches in Delaware Founded by 1850

Nearly 30 Black churches in Delaware, some no longer active, trace their founding to 1850 or before. They represent the first generations of Delaware’s Africans using their freedom to develop independent faith communities where they could worship God in their own way.

Corrections or additions to this list are welcome.

New Castle County
Ezion-Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, Wilmington, 1805
Mother African Union Church, Wilmington, 1813
Mt. Pisgah U.A.M.E. Church, Middletown, 1813
Bethany U.A.M.E. Church, New Castle, 1818
Old Fort U.A.M.E. Church, Christiana, 1819
St. Thomas A.U.M.P. Church, Glasgow, 1827
Zion A.M.E. Church, Port Penn, 1834
Wesleyan Union African Church, Wilmington, 1838
St. Daniel’s A.M.E. Church, Newark/Iron Hill, 1838
Simpson United Methodist Church, Newport, 1842
Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church, Odessa, 1845
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilmington, 1846
Bethel A.M.E. Church, Wilmington, 1846
Mt. Salem U.A.M.E. Church, Delaware City, 1846
St. John’s A.U.M.P. Church, Newark, 1850

 

Kent County
Manship A.M.E. Church, Bishop’s Corner, 1830
Lockwood A.M.E. Church, 6 mi. southwest of Kenton, ca. 1830
John Wesley A.M.E. Church, near Thompsonville, 1847
Bethel A.M.E. Church, Smyrna, 1849
Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Blanco, 1849
Carlisle Methodist Episcopal Church, west of Dover, 1849
Little Union Church, DuPont Station, 1850

 

Sussex County
Harmony Methodist Episcopal Church, Sussex, 1818(2 ½ miles west of Friendship Church, which was 2 ½ miles southwest of Fairmount)
Siloam A.M.E. Church, Slaughter Neck, 1827
Bethel A.M.E. Church, Milton, 1827
St. James Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgetown, 1840
Old Forge A.M.E. Church, Sussex, 1848(beside James’ Branch a short distance southwest of the old Broad Creek Bridge)

Wilmington

Bethel A.M.E. Church

Bethel A.M. E. Church in Wilmington, founded in 1846, first worshipped at 12th and Elizabeth streets. After a few years, the congregation was forced to seek a new home. In 1853, the church erected a new building on Penn Street above Sixth, where it remained until 1865.The congregation then bought the former German Lutheran church on Walnut Street above Sixth. After several years, a new church was built on the site in1878.This church was destroyed by fire on January 1, 1935.A new church was completed in 1936.Since then, the church has added to the building and continues an active ministry.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington began a Sunday school for Blacks in 1846 that grew into a mission church by 1891.A church site at 1201 Chippey Street was purchased that year and the church building opened in 1900.By 1915 the congregation had run into difficulties.The church building was closed and services were held sporadically at other locations for a number of years. In 1926 a house at 706 French Street was adapted into a church.In the late 1940s, the church acquired land at 700 Walnut Street and a new church was completed in 1950.In 1996, St. Matthew’s formally joined with St. Andrew’s Church to form the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew.

Shiloh Baptist Church

In 1874, First Baptist Church in Wilmington (now Immanuel Church), a white congregation, began a Sunday school for Blacks that grew into Shiloh Baptist Church, the first African American Baptist church in Delaware. Shiloh first met in the former Masonic hall on Twelfth Street between Market and Orange.In 1877 the church purchased a lot at Twelfth and Orange where it gradually built its first church during the next decade.This building served until the mid 1940s, when Shiloh purchased and renovated the former East Baptist Church at Fifth and Walnut streets and sold its former building to the DuPont Company.Wilmington’s redevelopment needs forced the church to move again in the 1970s, and its current building opened at 23rd and Washington streets in 1972.Several other Baptist churches throughout Delaware are outgrowths of Shiloh, and the church plays a vital role in the community.

St. Joseph Catholic Church

The Society of Saint Joseph (Josephite order) founded St. Joseph’s Colored Mission in 1889 and erected a church on French Street near Eleventh in 1890. From 1893 until 1928 the Josephites ran an orphanage, the first such facility for African American boys in the United States. It closed in 1928.A parochial school operated from 1928 until 1956.The church was renovated in 1934 but burned in 1945.This photograph shows the church that burned. A new building was erected. The Josephites ran the parish until 1993, when it was transferred to the Franciscans. St. Joseph’s is the only African American church still on French Street, the historic main street of the East Side community.

Eighth Street Baptist Church

A Sunday school started in 1892 grew into Eighth Street Baptist Church, Delaware’s second oldest Black Baptist congregation. In 1893, the church erected a small building at Eighth and Scott streets, replaced by a larger sanctuary in 1911.Many of the church’s early members came from King William County, Virginia. A fire destroyed the church in 1975.The rebuilt church was completed in 1977.Eighth Street hosted the first Alcoholics Anonymous group at a Black church in Delaware beginning in 1983.In 1998, the church moved to 3301 North Market Street where it has experienced great growth. The church became nondenominational during the 1990s. Eighth Street formally changed its name to The Resurrection Center in 2005. A second church opened recently in Middletown.

The Church of God and Saints of Christ

The Church of Good and Saints of Christ is an African American Jewish group founded in William Crowdy in Kansas in 1896.Its worship and beliefs combine Jewish and Christian elements. The Wilmington congregation was founded in 1905 and worshiped at 841 Walnut Street from 1912 until the mid-1950s.After a few years on Apple Street in the 1960s, it has been at 717 East Seventh Street since 1969.

Masjid Muhammad American Muslim Center of Wilmington

The Nation of Islam began in the 1930s and came to Wilmington in the late 1950s.The first meetings were held at the black Odd Fellows Hall at 12th and Orange streets, then at 511A East Fourth Street.Muhammad’s Mosque of Islam No. 35 was located at Sixth and Tatnall in the 1970s and 1980s.Now called Masjid Al Kauthar, it is located on Northeast Boulevard in Wilmington.

New Destiny Fellowship, Wilmington

Apostle Thomas Wesley Weeks, Sr., founded Greater Bethel Apostolic Temple, now New Destiny Fellowship, in Wilmington in 1980. The church met at several locations before settling at 504 East. 11th Street late that year.In 1982, the church moved to larger facilities at 29th and Van Buren streets and enjoyed rapid growth.The church moved to its present location at 906 East.16th Street in the 2000s.New Destiny Fellowship was originally affiliated with Pentecostal Assemblies of the World but left that denomination in 2000.Apostle Weeks started New Destiny Fellowship International, which has several hundred affiliated churches in the U.S. and around the world.

NEW CASTLE COUNTY

Chippey African Union Methodist Church, Hockessin

Founded in rural Hockessin in 1886, the church built a frame building that was used for ten years until the church shown here was built. The church was named for Edward Chippey, a leading A.U.M.P. clergyman, in 1897. Chippey erected a new building in the early 1970s.Although the church belonged to the A.U.M.P. denomination for many years, it is now independent. Chippey Chapel remains a vital part of a community that has transitioned from rural to suburban in recent years.

Pilgrim Baptist Church, Newark

Organized in 1913 as an outgrowth of Shiloh Baptist in Wilmington, Pilgrim held its first services in a tent on Church Street in Newark, followed by a rented room. In 1919, the church purchased a building that had been used as a movie theater for Blacks on New London Avenue in the heart of Newark’s Black community. In 1994, Pilgrim moved to a new church on Barksdale Road

Mt. Pisgah U.A.M.E. Church, Middletown

This church organized in 1813 as the Union African Church of Welsh Tract. Members of the church helped to dig the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. In 1868, the church joined the U.A.M.E. denomination. It built a new church in 1870 that was remodeled in 1914.In 1933 the church took the name Mt. Pisgah. Widening of the C&D Canal in the 1930s claimed the church and a new building, shown here, was erected on a new site. The church’s cemetery was moved to the new location.

Simpson United Methodist Church, Newport

In 1842, Black Methodists in Newport founded the First United Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church of America as an independent church. In 1877, the church joined the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was named for Bishop Matthew Simpson, a friend of Abraham Lincoln. The church’s first building burned in 1931 and was replaced by a new structure. The church’s current building was completed in 1975 and expanded in 2007.

KENT COUNTY

Byrd’s A.M.E. Church, Clayton

Founded in 1894, Byrd’s A.M.E. Church built a frame building 28 x 40 feet with a belfry 40 feet high. All of the construction was done by African Americans. In 1901, Byrd’s joined with Mt. Friendship to purchase a camp meeting site. A kitchen wing was added to the church in 1958.The church is still active.

Bethel A.M.E. Church, Smyrna

In 1845, black Methodists in Smyrna who belonged to Asbury Methodist Church began holding their own meetings but remained under the control of the white church. In 1849, they organized an A.M.E. congregation, worshipping first in the outlying areas of Wapping and Smyrna Landing before building a church in Smyrna in 1851.In 1867 they built a new church that was 33 x 48 feet and seated 400.Major remodeling in 1886 transformed the sanctuary from a very plain space into a colorful array of shades of blue, salmon and terra cotta. A new pulpit, pews, and organ were installed. Beneath it was a room for meetings and Sunday school, as well as a library. The church is still active.

Whatcoat Methodist Church, Dover

Whatcoat, the oldest African American church in Dover, dedicated its first church in 1854. A new building was erected in 1870 and remodeled in 1935. The church currently worships in a modern building.

Forest Grove Seventh Day Adventist Church, Dinah’s Corner

Members of the group of Delawareans known as Moors started the church in 1896. Because Seventh Day Adventists observe Saturday as their sabbath and work on Sunday, two members were arrested for desecration of the sabbath in 1897. Their first building was destroyed by fire in 1906 and replaced by a new structure. The church opened a school in 1941 and built a new church in 1943. The church is still active.

Bethel A.M.E. Church, Milford

Bethel A.M.E., founded in 1870, built its church on Church Street. In 1892 the building was moved to Fourth Street, where it was remodeled and expanded by 12 feet. In the 1930s, the congregation built a new church, shown here. The church is still active.

Mt. Enon Baptist Church, Milford

Mt. Enon was founded in 1918 when Emma Deputy of Union Baptist Church in Dover began holding services in her home. The congregation purchased the former St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church (African American) in 1922.The congregation now worships in a modern building.

SUSSEX COUNTY

St. George’s A.M.E. Church, Lewes

St. George’s A.M.E. built a church and established a cemetery in 1861. In 1882, the church was destroyed by arson. Services had been held that evening, “but no fire had been left in the church. A bottle that had contained coal oil and a lot of kindling wood was found near where the fire was started” (Christian Recorder, April 6, 1882). Despite the fire, the church continued the revival meetings that were in progress. The new church was completed in 1884 and rebuilt in 1891 and 1930.The church is still active.

First Congregational Church, Milton

A group that left Bethel A.M.E. Church in Milton started this church in 1927. Little more is known of its history, and it is no longer active.

Clarence Street Church of God, Seaford

In 1933, Rev. Allan Stanley started the Church of God in Seaford so that worshipers would not have to travel to his New Market Church of God in Maryland. The original sanctuary, shown here, burned down in 1938 and was rebuilt in 1940.Women of the church held chicken and dumpling dinners to raise money for the new building. Since then, the church has been expanded. About 30 churches and over 50 ministers have come forth from Clarence Street Church of God, which continues to serve Seaford.

Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, Ellendale

Mt. Zion A.M.E. built its frame church in 1906.A new brick building was dedicated in 1970.According to a newspaper story, funds for the new church came from members and “a challenge gift from an interested Pennsylvania family.”As is so often the case in Delaware, personal connections led to the “interested Pennsylvania family” getting involved. When church members George and Annie Whaley retired from working for the McNeil family, inventors of Tylenol, they were asked what they would like as a retirement gift. George Whaley’s response was “a new church.” The McNeils honored his request. In gratitude for the help it received, Mt. Zion donated its frame building to St. John’s Pentecostal Church.

Mt. Calvary A.M.E. Church, Concord

Beginning in early 1800s, Blacks and whites both worshipped in the Methodist church at Concord, although the Blacks had to sit in the gallery or hold their service at a different time. In 1866, however, the whites expelled the African Americans from the church. The Black congregation first worshipped in an old log cabin, then in a building called the Granary. A new church was built in 1872 and called Mt. Calvary. That church burned in 1921 and was replaced by a new building. Mt. Calvary currently worships in a modern building.

Mt. Calvary A.M.E. Church, Concord

Beginning in early 1800s, Blacks and whites both worshipped in the Methodist church at Concord, although the Blacks had to sit in the gallery or hold their service at a different time. In 1866, however, the whites expelled the African Americans from the church. The Black congregation first worshipped in an old log cabin, then in a building called the Granary. A new church was built in 1872 and called Mt. Calvary. That church burned in 1921 and was replaced by a new building. Mt. Calvary currently worships in a modern building.

The Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.)

The Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I. C.), an African American Holiness or Pentecostal denomination founded in 1897, came to Delaware in 1925.The first church, Mother Church of God in Christ, was initially located at Second and Walnut streets. It moved to 506 Poplar Street, shown here, in 1926, and is currently located at 27th and Market. For many years, C.O.G.I.C. had only three churches in Delaware. Under the leadership of Bishop L.T. Blackshear, appointed in 1960, C.O.G.I.C. began to grow rapidly. Today, Delaware has over 20 C.O.G.I.C. churches.