‘Friends’ gather for Old Christmas at Prince George’s Chapel

13 PRINCES maya and joy harp

As her teacher, Joy Slavens, looks on Maya Natesan of Salisbury preps for the harp performance at the Friends of Prince George’s Chapel’s Old Christmas event Sunday.

DAGSBORO – Holiday spirit was rekindled Sunday with an early January tradition in a historic Dagsboro-area landmark that dates back to the mid-18th century.

Song, music and prayer echoed off the vaulted heart-pine ceiling and timbered pine pillars of Prince George’s Chapel during this year’s Old Christmas celebration hosted by the Friends of Prince George’s Chapel.

Traditionally, Old Christmas is held the first or second Sunday of January – depending on proximity to New Year’s – at the chapel built in 1755. It garnered a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

13 PRINCE congregation singing no cut

Attendees at Old Christmas at Prince George’s Chapel in Dagsboro sing a holiday song.

The Friends of Prince George’s Chapel subleases the chapel from the town of Dagsboro, which leases it from the state of Delaware. The state purchased the property in 1967 and renovated the building.

The Friends’ mission is to maintain the chapel and perpetuate its historical significance.

“I live right behind here,” said Crystal Hudson, vice-president of the Friends organization. “It is just a passion for me; because my mother is buried here.”

So is legendary John Dagworthy, a brigadier general who commanded the Sussex County, Delaware militia during the Revolutionary War.

“General Dagworthy is buried out back here; that is his outhouse, as they called it, on the corner,” said Ms. Hudson.

About 75 people filled the chapel’s rectangular wooden pews for the Old Christmas service highlighted by performances by harpist/teacher Joy Slavens of Laurel and one of her pupils, Maya Nateson of Salisbury.

Located on Vines Creek Road, the Episcopal “chapel of ease” was built 261 years ago and in 1757 was named Prince George’s Chapel for England’s Prince George, subsequently George III of the United Kingdom.

While no longer home to a congregation, the chapel hosts tours, weddings and christenings/baptisms, and other functions.

13 PRINCE artifacts

Historical artifacts have a special place in the second-floor balcony at Prince George’s Chapel in Dagsboro.

“We are down to about maybe two weddings a year. Maybe five or six years ago we were having as many as five or six a year,” said Linda Dukes, treasurer for the Friends organization. “We’ve even had a funeral here; a longtime member and founder of the organization …”

The Friends of Prince George’s Chapel is responsible for maintenance and bills such as utilities; the state takes care of larger things, such as structural improvements.

Old Christmas is part of the Friends’ promise to the state.

“They asked, ‘How do you intend to fund this? How do you intend to maintain it?” said Ms. Dukes.

The four-pronged agreement: “an Old Christmas each year, an Easter sunrise service each year, an ice cream festival in August and a fundraiser of some kind, like a dinner,” said Ms. Dukes.

All funds raised through fundraising and annual memberships go toward maintaining the chapel.

“Our insurance on the chapel has just escalated this past year. We have to pay that and all the maintenance,” Ms. Dukes said.

Friends’ membership, several hundred in years past, has dwindled to just over 50, Ms. Dukes said.

Membership dues are $25 annually for a family of three, $10 per individual.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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