The Presbyterian Church in Dover will hold a street fair June 7 as part of its 300th anniversary celebration.
It’s a congregation that began more than 60 years before a group of loosely associated colonies came together to form the United States.
The Presbyterian Church in Dover is in the midst of its 300th anniversary celebration, an observance that will continue with a street fair this weekend, said Bob Frazier, chairman of the church’s Tercentennial Task Force.
But even the church’s 1714 charter isn’t the beginning of the story.
“Our congregation was meeting even before then,” Frazier said referring to the church’s first house of worship: a log cabin that served until the early 1790s.
That rustic building stood on the grounds of the church’s previous home on South Governors Avenue. Its replacement, now part of the Delaware museum system, still stands, surrounded by a cemetery holding the remains of numerous Delaware luminaries.
The church’s street fair on Saturday will be a community-wide celebration of that history, featuring crafts, artisans and music of the 1700s, Frazier said. There also will be food and giveaway items.
Part of Reed Street, next to the church, will be closed off to accommodate the celebration. Everything is open to the public, he said, and a shuttle service will take people to the South Governors Avenue cemetery and other events taking place that day at First State Heritage Park.
Although Presbyterianism originated in Scotland, many adherents moved to what is now Northern Ireland in the 17th century, and their descendants later came to the British colonies in America, Frazier said.
“Folks came to the colonies to find a new life, a new start and the chance to own property,” Frazier said. “They also brought their beliefs with them. They were a body of believers that met to learn and to support one another and to worship God.”
As with many churches, the Presbyterian Church’s fortunes have risen and fallen with the times.
“There were periods of time when we didn’t even have a pastor,” Frazier said. “But the church has always been there and folks would come along and rejuvenate things and get it going again.”
The current building was dedicated in April 1924 as a gift from Sanford G. Murphey, whose father, the Rev. Thomas G. Murphey, was pastor from 1844 until he resigned in 1861 to serve as a chaplain in the Union Army.
Now under the tutelage of the Rev. Mary Reed, the Presbyterian Church of Dover continues to look to the future as well as its past.
Major upgrades are planned to the current building, including replacing its electrical systems, installing a new sound and lighting system in the sanctuary, and replacement of kitchen appliances and refurbishing the social hall.
The culmination of the tercentenary will come during the Sept. 6 and 7 Homecoming Weekend, which celebrates the date of the original church charter, Frazier said.
The church bell choir will perform a newly commissioned piece, he added, with similar concerts taking place throughout the Christmas season.
Invitations have gone out to past members of the congregation, former pastors and local dignitaries to join in Homecoming service, which will focus on the 300-year history of the church.
“There’s a tremendous amount of history in Dover and the community has very deep roots,” Frazier said. “We like to think the Presbyterian Church is part of that long history of service to the community.”