Cokesbury Memorial United Methodist's History
Cokesbury Memorial United Methodist Church is a caring and welcoming congregation with a storied past. The church grounds are the site of the first Methodist college in the world, and Cokesbury is the oldest on-going Methodist congregation in Harford County still worshipping in its original location.
Abingdon Methodist Chapel
Cokesbury was first called the Abingdon Methodist Chapel. It was built on land purchased in 1782 from John Paca, the brother of the Governor of Maryland. The Chapel opened for worship in 1784. This Methodist Church has served the community faithfully for over 230 years and is the oldest Methodist church in Harford County that rests on its original foundation with an on-going service to its parishioners.
The original church of 1784, constructed partially brick, but was a mostly wooden structure, burned in 1896. The present little brick church was erected immediately upon its original foundation. Services were once again held in the autumn of 1896. Concern for the community was never interrupted during this time, and today the church still serves the needs of the extended Abingdon community.
The first Methodist college in the world was built on land now occupied by Cokesbury's cemetery. Two of John Wesley's hardest-working ministers in America, Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, had dreamed of establishing a college for the training of Methodist ministers in America. They were given permission to do so and chose Abingdon for this honor. On June 5, 1785, the cornerstone was laid, and Asbury, the newly appointed bishop at the famous Christmas Conference of 1784 at Lovely Lane Church in Baltimore, delivered the Foundation Stone sermon.
Abingdon was chosen as the site of the college for a number of reasons. The community was on the main post road between Baltimore and Philadelphia and Maryland was in the center of the thirteen original colonies. An established and working church was on the premises. The chosen site was "on a grassy knoll overlooking the Bay (on the arm now known as Bush River) was a most pleasant and pleasing place."
However, the college had a very short life, for it burned to the ground in December of 1795. Only the brick foundation of the college and the tower bell were left intact among the ruins. There was no attempt to rebuild the college in Abingdon. A smaller college was built on Pratt Street in Baltimore but it too burned in 1797 and no further plans for a college in America were made. It is worthy to note and indeed is almost miraculous, that the little Abingdon chapel -- only 40 feet from the college -- did not burn when the college did.
Abingdon is proud of its place in the history of Methodism. Cokesbury Memorial UMC is living testimony to the dreams of Asbury and Coke in proclaiming and spreading the Methodist faith as a part of God's plan for us.