Cokesbury United Methodist Church
307 Market Street
Marcus Hook, PA 19061
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference
The town of Marcus Hook is situated on the Delaware River and was originally settled in 1640 by the Swedes. Methodism in Marcus Hook actually predates the birth of the nation due to the efforts of Captain Webb, a well known officer in the British Army. Captain Webb was one of John Wesley's converts in England and Wesley said of him, ?He is a man of fire and the power of God attends his words.
In 1833, Rev. Brooke Eyer led the first Methodist class meeting in town. A second class was formed and both classes met in various locations including local taverns, homes, and front lawns. The meeting places of the classes became part of the old Chester Circuit.
As the classes increased in size it became necessary to consider building an official meeting place. In 1837, at the Quarterly Conference of the Chester Circuit it was decided that a church should be built in Marcus Hook. A committee was appointed to oversee the project and before long a one story building with a simple platform, plain wooden pulpit, and wooden benches was built on Second Street (Discord Lane) for a cost of $200. The name chosen for the church was Cokesbury in honor of the first American Bishops, Coke and Asbury. A charter was granted in 1869. The corner stone of the present building, at Market and Plum Streets, was laid July 6, 1871. The parsonage was built in 1885. Between 1888 and 1892 members residing in Trainer withdrew their membership and organized the Trainer Church.
Some of the difficulties the church has encountered include the 1975 explosion of the Corinthos, a Greek oil tanker docked (1-1/2 blocks from the church) at the BP refinery. Another oil tanker was turning in the river and struck the Corinthos at the dock. The collision caused a huge explosion and fireball and resulted in some physical damage to the church and many of the homes surrounding the riverfront.
In the 1980?s the Conference decided to create a Co-operative parish in the area by appointing a clergy couple to serve Cokesbury and three other small churches in the area - Feltonville, Price Street, and Trainer. Prior to this time Cokesbury had always had their own pastor. The transition to shared pastors was a difficult one as was the combining of many worship and fellowship events. However, Cokesbury, always willing to give it their best shot, accepted and eventually embraced the arrangement. By the late 1980's each church again had its own pastor, but the co-operative relationship remained in place until the 1990's. Due to some loss of membership and overall decline in the community, Cokesbury could no longer support a full-time pastor and has since been served by retired pastors, student pastors, and licensed local pastors.
The 1990's brought another time of difficulty and uncommon dissension. For a time the church was served by a pastor who created division and animosity between members and families to such an extent that the conference called in the Conflict Resolution Team to try to help mend the rifts. Unfortunately, they were unable to bring about resolution, but the pastor left and Cokesbury began to heal.
Over the years the town has changed dramatically. Once a bustling seaport, Marcus Hook has seen a demographic shift. At its peak, the population of Marcus Hook was over 5,000, due in part to the local industries including The American Viscose Company which built a model village of Tudor style row homes in the 1920's for its employees. The company closed in the 1970's and their office buildings remain, for the most part, vacant.
Surrounded on two sides by oil refineries, many families chose to move out of town when they were able. Consequently, Marcus Hook has become a more transient community with a higher poverty level. Over the years Marcus Hook has been home to pirates, including Blackbeard, and in the 1970's was home base for the Pagans motorcycle club. For many years Marcus Hook had a bar on every corner. However, efforts have been made to improve the community. A riverfront rehabilitation project has resulted in a beautiful riverfront park and new housing. Borough ordinances have resulted in far fewer bars and no more motorcycle gangs.
In spite of the changes in the community, Cokesbury has remained active and involved in the life of the community. Many who are active in the life of the church are also active in the firehouse, local politics, and the community in general. The church has always had a heart for ministry and has opened its doors to embrace and include the community. Over the years Cokesbury has hosted Head Start, Girl Scouts, a Tutoring and Homework program, a lunch time Bible Study for local industry, and currently, a recovery group. We have also always been a polling place. For many years we have run an Emergency Food Pantry which provides non-perishable groceries to families in need. Cokesbury has also responded to needs outside of our immediate community in various ways such as: making emergency kits for victims of hurricane Katrina, donating to the tsunami relief efforts, providing Christmas gifts to a local nursing home, and participating in Operation Christmas Child's shoe box ministry.
Ministering to the children of the community has always been a particular passion for Cokesbury. The church runs a Vacation Bible School each summer which is extremely active, engaging, and greatly anticipated in the community. We have also had an active Youth Program over the years.
The story that most represents our church is found in Matthew 7: 24-27. Because we are hearers and doers of God's Word, we envision ourselves as a house built on the rock. Although times have changed, difficulties have come our way and we have been hit with literal and figurative rains and floods and winds, we are still here and able to offer God?s love to our community and to the world.
Sandy Cislo, Pastor
231 Market Street
Marcus Hook, PA 19061