Salem United Methodist Church is one of the oldest congregations on the Delmarva Peninsula and also one of the oldest churches in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of The United Methodist Church. In 1772, prior to the independence of the United States and before there was a Methodist denomination, a Salem Meeting was established in the homes of William Wright and Abraham Keagy.
The United States of America was formally recognized as an independent nation in 1783, as the result of the Treaty of Paris. The next year, leaders of the various Methodist societies met in Baltimore, establishing the Methodist Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve, 1784. Salem continued as a Methodist Episcopal congregation throughout this period, meeting in the homes of its members.
On May 12, 1807, the Salem congregation elected trustees, including Abraham Keagy as President and Robert McFarlin as Secretary. McFarlin and another trustee—Neal McNeal—are buried in the Salem Cemetery in front of the old church. On October 15, 1807, Secretary McFarlin, who was a local schoolmaster, sold the trustees two lots consisting of slightly more than an acre for $20. The next day, the trustees incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware.
A building was begun; however, the congregation met even in the unfinished building. In 1811, the floor and ceiling were finished and a stove was installed. The construction debt was retired and, according to Methodist custom, the building was officially dedicated.
Bishop Francis Asbury, who had been consecrated at the Christmas Eve Conference in 1784 and who is regarded as the first Methodist Bishop, preached at Salem in 1810, 1811, and 1813. As the congregation grew and thrived, Salem became the “Mother Church” for this part of Delaware. Christiana, Ebenezer, Newark, Pencader (now closed) and Red Lion congregations all trace their beginnings to missions begun by Salem.
By 1904, the congregation of Salem Methodist Episcopal Church had outgrown its original building. The building was extended by 12 feet and a second story was added. A new space for worship was created in that second story. More recently, a fellowship hall was built in 1958. It was enlarged just two years later to create classroom and office space. The present church was built in 1985.
In the meantime, two mergers, one in 1939 and one in 1968, had transformed the Methodist Episcopal Church into The United Methodist Church. The congregation is now part of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, led by the Resident Bishop of the Philadelphia Area.
Salem United Methodist Church has served Christ and His People in this place for over 200 years. We are a mainstream congregation, grounded in the Holy Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition. We reject the corrupting of the Gospel by those who would use it for nationalistic or materialistic agendas that do not glorify God and uplift His people. We are glad to welcome everyone to His church and His table. And we are committed to making disciples for the transformation of the world.