Among the early Methodist meeting houses was the Harmony Meeting House, which was organized in Millsboro, Sussex County, Delaware. Harmony was originally organized in 1818 and is the earliest within the Nanticoke community of Millsboro, Delaware. Harmony United Methodist Church is the oldest officially organized congregation, although it was not incorporated until April 21, 1875 as Harmony Methodist Episcopal Church. A building was erected several years later on land purchased from Eli Norwood, one of the Nanticoke patriarchs, for twenty dollars; presumably near the present cemetery. Eli Norwood is the great-great-great grandfather of Rev. Dr. John R. Norwood, pastor of the Ujima Village Christian Church of Ewing, New Jersey. The Trustees, all of whom were members of the Nanticoke community were Purnal Johnson, Burton Johnson, William Hanzor, John Cornish, and Mitchell Johnson made the purchase. These individuals all have descendants among the current enrolled members of the Nanticoke tribe. According to Robert Draine, Harmony's historian, the deed for the land purchased for the construction of the original church building indicates that the trustees...."shall locate and build or cause to be erected and built a house or place of worship for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States of America avowing the rules and disciplines which from time to time may be agreed to and adopted by the ministers and preachers of the said church of the general conferences in the United States of America".
Many elders continue to say, "Har-MO-ny" while the younger generation pronounces it phonetically. Harmony is considered to be the mother congregation for the continuing churches within the extended Nanticoke tribal community including Indian Mission U.M., Israel U.M. and Friendship U.M churches.
Under the leadership of the late J. H. Johnson, the church was incorporated according the laws of Delaware and became a part of the Delaware Conference in 1875. Early records demonstrate that the membership and lay leadership of Harmony was consistently Nanticoke (Department of the Interior, 2008). Members of the first official board included: Bros. West Johnson, George Thompson, Jeremiah Thompson, Joseph Hall and John W. Morris.
A second building was erected in 1888 where the cemetery is today. Ministers that served the congregation were: Rev. Hammond, Rev. Robbins, Rev. Carson, Rev. McBride, Rev. Hayman, Rev. Clark and Rev. Molock. Under the leadership of the late Rev. Charles Molock, the officials and members were inspired to build a new church on Route #24. Land was purchased from Oscar Wright in 1939 by the Trustees: Bros. Harvey Burton, Wilbur Harmon, Charles Davis, Dorsey Johnson, Samuel H. Jackson, Albert Hall, Horace Wright, LeRoy Shelton, and John W. Thompson. The cornerstone was laid in 1940. In 1944, the congregation moved into the new church. The old one was sold and was moved away.
During Rev. C. D. Brown's tenure, a dining hall was built, new floors installed in the church and a new organ was purchased. Under the leadership of Rev. J. R. Lee, new pews and pulpit furniture was installed. Rev. Calvin Byrd oversaw the installation of the outside bulletin board and plans were made for bathrooms and a choir room. During Rev. Jacob Caulk's tenure, the new addition was completed, and renovation planning begun on the kitchen and dining area.
Under the leadership of Rev. C. Claudia Waters, a Certificate of Incorporation was granted by the State of Delaware for Harmony Cemetery Inc. on May 16, 2008. The original persons elected as Directors of the Corporation, Harmony Cemetery, Inc. were: Audrey M. Smith, Joel Welbon, Edna B. Harmon, William A. Davis, and Voyd W. Harmon. The cemetery is located at the intersection of Townsend and Harmony Cemetery Roads, in Millsboro, Sussex County, Delaware where many of the original founders are buried. The first official meeting of the Board of Directors of the Corporation was held on August 3, 2008 at the church. The following board members were in attendance: Mayola A. Clark, Virgil M. Clark, Voyd W. Harmon, F. Troy Johnson, and Audrey M. Smith (absent were Robert G. Draine and Joseph Hall). This meeting was called to order by Rev. C. Claudia Waters. The following were unanimously elected as officers - President: Mayola A. Clark; Vice President: F. Troy Johnson; Secretary: Robert G. Draine; Treasurer: Audrey M. Smith. The duties of the Secretary were handled by Earlyn Jackson.
In support of Harmony's mission, the congregation made a pledge to support the Christian Storehouse with monthly financial support. Over the years, Harmony has continued to honor its elders' vision by hosting Annual Men and Women's Day, Annual Homecoming, Harvest Home, Native American Sunday, Annual Cemetery Rally, Vacation Bible School, Soup & Word Ministry, Chicken & Dumpling dinners, Thanksgiving Luncheon, Everybody's Birthday, and Jesus' Birthday celebration. During Rev. Charlotte A. Nichols' tenure, Harmony is celebrating the melodious voices of the Harmony Male Choir and the appointment of a Minister of Music. Also, plans are underway for several improvement projects for the church. Just recently, Harmony received a donation of an organ and exterior paint from Sherwin Willliams, upgraded its electrical system in the church, and the light in the steeple is now shining for all of the community to adore.
Indeed, it was not by mistake that our elders chose the present-day location of Harmony U.M. Church on Route #24 now John J. Williams Highway. The congregation has withstood the test of time, enduring many trials and tribulations but continues to be a beacon of light to the Millsboro community and beyond. In spite of continued development in our area, Harmony stands firm and evermore committed to its mission!
As members of Harmony, we wish to express our sincere gratitude to our parents, grandparents and relatives for their giant undertaking and long suffering over 200 years ago to establish this great institution. Harmony's mission continues to be, "As a fellowship of believers, our purpose is to help people experience salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ and empower them, through the Holy Spirit, to become the best God wants them to be as they love and serve God and neighbor".
Although our location and even our buildings have changed, we have continued to "open our hearts, minds and doors to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world". Thank you for making this 200th Anniversary Celebration a tremendous success and for all you have done for God through Harmony United Methodist Church during its momentous history.
The Bible reminds us in I Corinthians 12:13 (NIV), "We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body". May we always be found faithful in our service to God!
Special thanks to the following individuals for their efforts in preserving and honoring the rich history of Harmony United Methodist Church. We honor our forefathers for their vision and preservation of our history and culture. As we continue to struggle to overcome social injustices, we pray that God will allow Harmony to be a beacon of hope allowing the gospel to spread anew on our community. Praise be to God!
Draine, Robert G., 2018. Harmony United Methodist Church Historian, Millsboro, DE.
Clark, Mayola A., 2018. Harmony United Methodist Church Member, Millsboro, DE.
Hall (Wright), Dr. Bonnie G., 2018. Harmony United Methodist Church Member, Millsboro, DE.
Norwood, Rev. Dr. John R., The Historical Impact and Current Challenges of Christian Ministry Among the Aboriginal People of the Delaware Bay Region, May 2015.