Church celebrates 325 years

Brandywine Baptist Church on Route 1 in Chadds Ford is celebrating its 325th anniversary.

Brandywine Baptist Church is celebrating it's 325th anniversary this year with two special events, one including Victoria Wyeth next Sunday, Sept. 24.

Wyeth will give an oral history of her famous artistic family's life in Chadds Ford at 10:30 a.m. One of the topics will be an N.C. Wyeth painting, "In Naaman's House" that N.C.'s wife Carolyn gave to the church in 1964. According to the story, Carolyn Bockius Wyeth said giving the painting to the only church in Chadds Ford is what her late husband would have wanted.

After her presentation, Pastor Marcos O. Almonte will explain the biblical story behind the painting.

Drawings depict the original church building that started as a Quaker meeting.

There will be two special services on Oct. 8. The first, at 10:30 a.m. will include Terry Wolver, a nationally known Baptist historian as a guest speaker, and a music program including a-cappella hymns. Mezzo-soprano Charlotte Daw Paulsen will also perform Vivaldi's "Gloria in D Major."

That same afternoon, at 2 p.m., Larry Denver, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition Pennsylvania, will speak on the future of religious liberty in America and Paulsen is scheduled to give a second performance following Denver.

The church will hold a luncheon, open to the public, between the two services. Visitors will be able to see a visual timeline of the church featuring the land deed from 1719, and early drawings depicting the original stone building constructed in 1718. One photo shows the church used as a hospital for WWI soldiers.

Brandywine Baptist Church began as a Quaker meeting in 1692. The meeting became a Baptist congregation in the 1800s after the Keithians — followers of George Keith — had a falling out with the Friends.

In a 2002 interview, the former pastor, the Rev. William Scott said the split was due to the Keithian claim that the Quakers were moving toward "heterodoxy as opposed to orthodoxy." He explained that the Keithians were saying the Quakers preached that salvation was possible through the human soul, rather than through Jesus, as is the orthodox Baptist belief.

Scott also said at the time that there was no disruption after that, though there was some controversy. There was a time in the mid-1800s when members of the church accused the pastor of performing baptisms in private as opposed to doing so publicly. The pastor was confronted, and he promised not to do it again. Scott said.

An early photograph of the stone building.

The current stone building was erected in 1808 and renovated in 1869. The exterior has remained the same since then, but there have been modifications to the interior, according to Almonte, who took over as pastor from Scott in 2013.

During the 2002 interview, Scott reflected on the changing attitudes toward religion and worship, saying people felt less secure after the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and were more willing to explore their faith. He also said religion was becoming less formal and more personal.

Almonte, too, has seen changes, but the relevance of faith remains.

"The church continues to be historic and relevant," he said. "We don't want to forget our history, but we need to continue being relevant while providing a place for Christian fellowship and where the truth can be told unapologetically."

Brandywine Baptist Church is on Route 1 adjacent to the Brandywine Battlefield Park at 1463 Baltimore Pike, in Chadds Ford.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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