About Us Bayside Chapel Roots and History

The dream began in 1960, when the late Rev. David Baker, Sr. was appointed as an itinerant minister to the Salem Methodist Church in Selbyville. In June, Rev. Baker observed that the attendance of the congregation had fallen considerably. When he learned that a number of the members had moved to their cottages in Fenwick Island for the summer and weren't going to church at all, he decided to hold early-morning Sunday worship services at the beach.

In 1961, the first services were held in a tent north of the Maryland State Line from Memorial Day until after Labor Day. Those services proved to be so successful that Rev. Baker, members of Salem Church, and their Board of Missions investigated the possibility of purchasing land to build a more permanent place of worship for Fenwick Island summer visitors. As a result, in 1962, three lots were purchased at the corner of Dagsboro Street and Coastal Highway.

The new building was completed in 1963, with the cornerstone laid in September. The building had no running water, no rest rooms, and those who attended sat on folding chairs. They were cooled only by the breeze from open windows since the building had no electricity for air conditioning.

Then in 1989, another dream began. A survey was made to determine if there was enough interest for a year-round church in Fenwick. Little interest was shown, but God called some of us to take a step forward. In September 1989, nine people attended a meeting called by the District Superintendent, The Rev. Charles Barton. Rev. Barton said, "Let's go for it." In January 1990, Rev. Barton appointed as pastor, The Rev. Dr. Donald Clendaniel, Sr., subject to the approval of Bishop Joseph Yeakel.

Stepping out in faith on a cold and rainy Easter Sunday on April 15, 1990, St. Matthews by the Sea, Bayside's parent congregation became a full-time church. Expecting no more than 35 or 40 worshippers, 107 people attended that first worship service. The next Sunday, 20 people were received into membership. Seventeen years later, we now have 433 members.

And the dream goes on. Because of the continued growth on Route 54, with a projected 3,000 new housing units, it was suggested at the Administrative Council meeting of September 12, 2004, that a committee be formed to explore how St. Matthews could serve the needs of the new people moving into this area as well as reach out to the un-churched. Rev. Miller and the then District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Sandra Stiener Ball had informal discussions concerning the possibility of St. Matthews planting a new church.

In February 2005, The Rev. Dr. Sandra Steiner Ball addressed an open meeting at St. Matthews with a Power Point presentation concerning the need for new churches in Sussex County. Following that meeting, members were invited to form a Task Force to study the matter of starting a new church; 15 people volunteered. That summer, intercessory prayer services were held every Thursday evening. The Task Force attended services at new churches and also interviewed the pastors. John Williams and Robbin Gray attended the New Church Start "Boot Camp" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Following these events, the Task Force voted to recommend to the Administrative Council that St. Matthews inform the District Superintendent that we were willing to go ahead with birthing a new church. They further recommended that she and the Cabinet initiate a new staff position at St. Matthews By-The-Sea for someone with lead responsibility for planning and launching a new church start. These recommendations were approved by the Administrative Council.

At the Annual Peninsula-Delaware Conference held in June 2006, Bishop Marcus Matthews appointed The Rev. Rich Evans to fill that position. Rev. Evans and a small leadership team have worked diligently to fulfill this task.

After much prayer, and strategic planning, Bayside Chapel was opened for public worship in September of 2008 and has grown to seventy worshipers in two short years.

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