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Lewes Presbyterian Church to celebrate 325th anniversary with music Oct. 21, 22

October 17, 2017

The Lewes Presbyterian Church will present a Musical Celebration of 325 Years of Worship at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 21. The community is invited to hear the chancel choir and vocal and instrumental soloists perform hymns and other sacred music from past centuries to the present. An old-fashioned hymn sing will also be included in the program. An open house will follow the musical presentation, and docents will be available to provide information on the historic sanctuary, including details of its 2009 major restoration. Refreshments will be served. The congregation will join together in a combined service that will also include special music and guest soloists at 11 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 22. All are welcome to attend.

The Lewes church began in 1692 when a group of Scotch-Irish immigrants who had escaped the persecution of their Northern Ireland home and had come to Lewes, gathered for worship services led by Samuel Davis, who traveled lower Delmarva preaching to newly established congregations. The Lewes congregation worshiped in homes until 1707, when Thomas Fenwick granted a 100-by-100-foot plot of land on the northwest corner of his property on Lewes Creek to be used "by the Presbyterian professors as a meeting house, school, and burial ground." A small frame church was built on the property and served as a school for the children of Lewes. A more substantial brick building was erected in 1727 and continued in use until after the Civil War, even as the current sanctuary was built in 1832. Over the years, the congregation acquired land adjacent to the original 1707 parcel to expand the cemetery and provide a manse. A Sunday School addition was added in 1914.

The most recent addition is the Activities Building, completed in 2002, that has allowed the church to greatly expand its program for members, and even more importantly, to serve the community. The Lewes After School Program is now in its 14th year, funded by a partnership of the church, the Cape Henlopen School District and the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program along with other local agencies to help 30 at-risk students from Shields Elementary achieve success in school and life. The church also provides a weekly soup ministry and an annual community Thanksgiving dinner that offers meals and fellowship to anyone in the area.

The sanctuary has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, and it has been remodeled a number of times, including a major restoration in 2009 that received the Lewes Historical Society Preservation Award in 2010. The Lewes Presbyterian Church has been an integral part of the Lewes community for the past 325 years and also part of early Delaware and colonial American history. A tour through the church's graveyard is in many respects like a tour through old Lewes. Gov. David Hall (1752-1817) lived nearby on Kings Highway and was an elder of the church for many years. He was a commander in the War of Independence and was elected governor of Delaware in 1802. The Rev. Dr. Matthew Wilson, pastor of the church from 1760-90, was one of many Presbyterians in the fight for independence, and is said to have worn the word "Liberty" on his hat. Ebe Walter Tunnell, governor of Delaware from 1896-1900, is also buried in the churchyard.

Lewes Presbyterian Church is at 133 Kings Highway with parking available in the church lot off Franklin Avenue.

For more information, call 302-645-5345 or go to lewespresbyterianchurch.org.

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