On May 6, 2018, I was asked to preach at a church in Millsboro, Delaware, that has a special place in the history of my family. 200 years ago, the Harmony Church trustees purchased a plot of land from my paternal great-great-great grandfather, the Nanticoke tribal elder Eli Norwood, in order to build a house of worship for the Nanticoke Indians remaining in the area of the former Indian River reservation. Eli had been baptized in the Episcopal Church of his parents, the French and Indian War veteran, Nathaniel Norwood and his wife Jemima Harmon Norwood (whose sister, Eunice Harmon Pride, is my mother’s great-great-great grandmother). During the latter part of the 1700’s and early 1800’s, the Methodist movement had swept through Delaware and won many over to the fiery, soul stirring, orations of its traveling preachers. The Nanticoke people started their own Methodist meeting house, the Harmony Congregation, which became the first tribal church of the Nanticoke Indians.
Harmony (pronounced “har-MO-nee” by the old-timers, probably due to the lingering Nanticoke accent from the 1800’s) became the mother church of other Methodist congregations that were later also established by tribal people, including Israel United Methodist Church of Lewes, Delaware, the Indian Mission United Methodist Church and the Friendship United Methodist Church, both of which are also in Millsboro. The bones of many of my ancestors rest in the cemeteries of these congregations.
While the original building has long been gone, the congregation has moved locations over its 200 year history, and the membership is no longer merely Native American, one of my cousins called saying that they wanted a direct descendant of Eli Norwood to preach during their year-long bicentennial celebration. I am honored to proclaim how the Lord has been gracious through the generations. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!