Rehoboth Welsh Chapel (Capel Cymraeg Rehoboth) is located in Delta, Pennsylvania, USA (in Southern York County, where the Susquehanna River crosses the Mason-Dixon Line). It is a non-denominational Christian church which specializes in conducting religious services and musical events in the Welsh tradition. It regularly conducts bi-lingual (Welsh/English) worship services.
A worship service is held at the church on Sundays. (See the schedule below.) There is also a Welsh Language Class which meets on Sundays to study conversational Welsh. Both the class and the service are open to everyone. There is no charge for the Welsh language instruction and beginners are welcome at any time.
The worship services of the Church are varied to meet the spiritual needs of a wide group of people, from the stately traditional liturgies of classical Western Christianity, to the evangelical enthusiasm of the hymn-singing festivals. The one feature that is common to all of our services is the love of singing, and that is revealed in the joy that we experience. Of course, as Celts, we also love to sing sad songs! Either way, our worship leaves us better prepared to meet whatever we might encounter in our lives.
The larger part of our services is conducted in English, and the portions that are in Welsh are clearly explained so that everyone can follow even if they know no Welsh at all. We would love to have you visit us, because we take pleasure in sharing our heritage with the community.
The Rev. Richard Price Baskwill is the Pastor of Rehoboth.
On the first Sunday in May and the second Sunday in October the church holds a Gymanfa Ganu (Singing Festival). These highly popular events draw hundreds of visitors from throughout the Eastern United States and Canada.
The regular schedule at Rehoboth, unless otherwise indicated:
The second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November:
Sunday, 5:00 p.m. - Welsh language study (Free, and beginners welcome)
Sunday, 6:00 p.m. - Evening Prayer
The first Sunday in November until the second Sunday in March:
Evening Prayer at 2:30 p.m.
Welsh Language Study at 3:30 p.m.
Our Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols is held every December 24th at 7:00 p.m.!
Click Here to check for any updates to the schedule of the current month. (On rare occasions we have to cancel a service due to extraordinary circumstances such as extreme weather conditions.)
Here is a description of a Gymanfa Ganu given by an observant first-time gymanfa attendee:
"The Welsh are a nation of singers, and whenever two or three are gathered together they perform in harmony, rarely unison. Singing is a part of the culture....Welsh emigrants to America brought their vocal traditions with them, and even now, the Gymanfa Ganu (pronounced 'gih-MAHN-vuh GAH-nee' and translated as 'gathering for song') is a regular event in any community with a significant Welsh population.
The hymns are not simply sung through at a Gymanfa. The director may pick and choose among the verses; he may designate them for men's or woman's voices; he may order the organist to drop out so that something may be performed a cappella; he may repeat verses, either because they weren't sung enthusiastically enough the first time, or because he likes them and he feels like it. He decides what will be sung in English and what in Welsh. The director works the dynamic levels and the tempi, swelling the sound here, slowing the pace there.
The numbers sung were not all originally Welsh...but they were proudly out of touch with certain trends in modern hymnody....unlike most contemporary hymnals...the music does not patronize the congregation with low-lying melody lines and missing harmonies: If you sing soprano, you'd better have an F; if you don't have an F, you'd better be ready to sing another part. This has the agreeable effect of making the alto line an actual, singable alto line instead of a growly (for a woman) extra tenor part. It challenges the congregation instead of condescending, and it eliminates the boredom of singing all melody, all the time." (By Sarah Bryan Miller)
Rehoboth enjoys close ties with several organizations in Wales. The Chapel has hosted concerts by several visiting choirs from Wales, including the Oakdale Youth Choir, the South Glamorgan Youth Choir, and Côr Meibion Brythoniaid from North Wales. The church has twice sponsored tours of the Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia-New York area by Côr Meibion Pendyrus (Pendyrus Male Choir) from the Rhondda, South Wales.
As a result of the inspiring visit of the Pendyrus Male Choir in 1984, members of Rehoboth Welsh Church formed an independent concert choir of their own named Rehoboth Welsh Choir (Côr Cymraeg Rehoboth). The choir has grown and flourished. In 1992 it conducted a concert tour of Wales and won a prize at the prestigious and highly competitive Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales. In 1998 it conducted a concert tour of Wales, England and France, culminating in a concert at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In 2000 it sang at the wedding of Michael Douglas and Katherine Zeta Jones at the Plaza Hotel in New York City .The choir continues to have an active concert schedule.
Rehoboth was also the sponsoring organization for the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu (an annual event in which about 2,000 people take part in musical and cultural events) held in Harrisburg, PA in 1995. The Church, along with Rehoboth Welsh Choir (Côr Cymraeg Rehoboth) and the Welsh North American Association, sponsored it again in 2002.
You can also see digital images of many of Rehoboth’s historical documents via the Internet at www.peoplescollection.wales, a website of the National Library of Wales. When you are on that site, enter a search term such as “Delta PA" and our collection will be displayed. Delta, along with its sister community of Cardiff, Maryland, has a strong Welsh cultural heritage. The communities celebrated the First Annual Delta-Cardiff Heritage Festival in 1997. It was a great success! The Annual Festivals continue this successful tradition.
We are proud to maintain the Welsh heritage in our area. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 248, Delta, PA 17314. Our physical location is 1029 Atom Road, which is just on the northeastern edge of Delta's Main Street.
Directions to the Church:
(If driving using GPS, program your GPS to "1 Pendyrus Street Delta Pennsylvania" and it will take you exactly there.)
From York, PA - PA route 74 south. Turn left onto PA route 851 (Broad Street Extended). Travel approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left on Main Street and proceed one block to Church on left.
From Baltimore, MD - U.S. route 1 north. Turn left onto MD route 136. Proceed about 7 miles. Turn right onto MD route 165. Proceed less than one mile to next intersection and turn right onto Dooley Road (shopping mall on corner). Proceed less than one mile to stop sign and turn left onto Main Street. Proceed one mile to Church on left.
From the North part of the Baltimore Beltway, take Exit 27 to Dulaney Valley Road North, Maryland Route 146 (the next exit East of York Road). Bear left after crossing the bridge over Loch Raven Reservoir to continue on Route 146, which becomes the Jarrettsville Pike. Continue straight on 146, through Jacksonville, until reaching Madonna. Turn right at the stoplight onto Route 23. Turn left onto Route 165 at the light in Jarrettsville (Dodge car dealership on the corner). After going through the intersection with Route 136, turn right at the next road, which will be Dooley Road (supermarket in strip mall). Proceed to the stop sign and turn left onto Main Street. The red-brick church will be one mile up Main Street on the left. Ample parking at the rear of the church.
Estimated driving time from the Baltimore Beltway is 45 minutes.
Do you think that Welsh must be a difficult language to learn? Well, our Welsh language class at Rehoboth has been thinking about that question. (We are adults with English as our native language, and most of us have some knowledge of another language besides Welsh.) We have been examining other languages of the world partly to increase our familiarity with non-English languages and partly to determine patterns that are common to Welsh or English. While doing this, we have noted that some languages would be easier than Welsh for an English-speaking person to learn, some would be harder, and some would be about the same. We believe that we have laid to rest forever the old myth that "Welsh must be difficult to learn!" Of the 78 languages which we evaluated, we found 15 to be easier, 14 to be about the same, and 49 to be harder to learn than Welsh!
And now, here is a quiz for you! The Welsh hymn tunes listed below are in almost all Christian hymnals. Some of the most common words used and their authors are shown. How many of the tunes can you identify?
Aberystwyth: (Music: Joseph Parry, 1879)
1) JESUS, LOVER OF MY SOUL (Lyrics: Charles Wesley)
2) HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD
Ar Hyd Y Nos: (Traditional Welsh tune)
1) ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT
2) GOD, THAT MADEST EARTH AND HEAVEN
3) NOW TO HEAVEN OUR PRAYER ASCENDING
4) ONE IS KIND ABOVE ALL OTHERS
1) THRONED UPON THE AWFUL TREE (Lyrics: John Ellerton, 1875)
2) KEEP ME NEAR THEE, GENTLE SAVIOUR
(Music: French and Welsh melody; arranged by Hugh Davies, 1906)
Ash Grove: (Traditional Welsh tune)
1) THE MASTER HATH COME (Lyrics: Sarah Doudney, 1871)
2) ON THIS NIGHT MOST HOLY
Bangor: (Music: William Tans'ur, 1734)
1) O ZION OPEN WIDE THY GATES (Lyrics: Jean Baptiste De Santeuil, in the Paris Breviary, 1680)
2) COME SPIRIT, COME
Blaenhafren: WE ARE LIVING, WE ARE DWELLING (Lyrics: Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Athanasion, 1840) (Music: traditional Welsh melody)
Blaenwern: (Music: William P. Rowlands, 1905)
1) WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS (Lyrics: Joseph Medlicott Scriven, 1855. Scriven wrote this hymn to comfort his mother, who was across the sea from him in Ireland. It was originally published anonymously, and Scriven did not receive full credit for almost 30 years)
2) LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING (Lyrics: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788)
Bryn Calfaria: (Music: William Owen, 1852)
1) BLESSED LORD, IN THEE IS REFUGE (Lyrics: Herbert Howard Booth, 1886)
2) LOOK, YE SAINTS! THE SIGHT IS GLORIOUS (Lyrics: Thomas Kelly, 1809)
3) LORD, ENTHRONED IN HEAVENLY SPLENDOR (Lyrics: George Hugh Bourne, 1874)
4) TAKE ME AS I AM, O SAVIOUR (Lyrics: Pantycelyn, 1716-1791)
1) ABBA, FATHER! WE APPROACH THEE (Lyrics: James George Deck, Hymns for the Poor of the Flock (appendix), 1841 edition)
2) I SEEK NOT LIFE'S EASE AND PLEASURES (Lyrics: Gwyrosydd, 1847-1920)
(Music: John Hughes)
Cambria: HERE FROM THE WORLD WE TURN (Lyrics: Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby, 1876) (Music: Welsh melody, Bristol Tune Book, 1876)
Cwm Rhondda: (Music: John Hughes, Treorchy, 1873-1932)
1) GUIDE ME, O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH
2) GOD OF GRACE AND GOD OF GLORY
3) COME YE SAINTS, LOOK HERE AND WONDER
Ebenezer: (Music: Thomas John Williams, 1890 )
1) O THE DEEP, DEEP LOVE OF JESUS (Lyrics: Samuel Trevor Francis, 1875)
2) ONCE TO EVERY MAN AND NATION (Lyrics: James Russell Lowell, in the Boston Courier, December 11, 1845)
3) ROUND THE LORD IN GLORY SEATED (Lyrics: Richard Mant, Ancient Hymns, 1837; this is part of the longer hymn Bright the Vision that Delighted)
4) SEND THY SPIRIT (Lyrics: W. E. Winks)
Eifionydd: WHO IS THIS SO WEAK AND HELPLESS (Lyrics: William Walsham How, in the 1867 Supplement to Morrell and How's Psalms and Hymns) (Music: John Ambrose Lloyd, Sr. 1815-1874)
The History of Rehoboth Welsh Chapel
The earliest European settlers in the York County area of Pennsylvania arrived around 1734 and were of Scots-Irish origin. Rich deposits of slate also attracted early Welsh settlers.
Slate deposits were discovered in the 1730's. John J. Roberts was a slate prospector from Wales. It was through his funding that the West Bangor Quarry started operations. Once the word was out about the discovery of slate, Welsh people began migrating to the Delta area and settling in a town they called West Bangor, after the well-known city in North Wales. Families began arriving in 1832 to set up basic slate mining operations. The first Peach Bottom quarry opened in 1835. Many laborers came to Delta in the 1840's, including John J. Humphreys, a successful plant operator and slate producer. With John J. Roberts financial backing and John Humphreys' experience, West Bangor became a leading industrial town and trading center along the Susquehanna River, second only to Peach Bottom (Delta).
Although the Welsh found more opportunities for a better life in York County, they still longed for the language of their homeland. This prompted the community of West Bangor to form their own church in which they could worship in their language. Early church records indicate that Welsh religious services were conducted as early as 1845. Since there were no buildings available for their meetings, services were in the homes of quarrymen in Stonetown, a small settlement near Slateville Presbyterian Church. (There are no remains of Stonetown today, other than a few relics preserved by local townspeople.)
A small, narrow building was soon erected and was known as "Capel Main" (Narrow Chapel), the first Welsh chapel in West Bangor.
In 1852, the Calvinistic Methodists of "Capel Main" separated from the Congregationalists (Annibynwyr) because of a difference of doctrine and worshipped with the Slateville Presbyterian Church. Two years later, the Calvinistic Methodists established their own church with services conducted entirely in Welsh.
With a congregation of 84 members (and growing), the group of believers set out to build a chapel of their own. In the earliest church records, the following is found:
"Resolutions of the church committee: the gable end of the church to face the road and the pulpit at the other end away from the road, that is if space allows it. Its measurements: 54 ft. by 30 ft., height to the ceiling - 16 ft.; eight windows, each 7 ft. high. The building to be built of bricks unless the cost will be greater than 100 dollars more than of wood. It is to be painted whichever material will be used. Its floors to rise gradually from the pulpit end - in the cheapest possible way." July 10, 1854.
The chapel, built to these specifications, was named REHOBOTH. (This name comes from the Biblical book of Genesis, where it refers to a place of peace in the Promised Land.)
Thirty-six years later, a larger and more modern brick church was built on the corner of Hill Road and Main Street in Delta. The land was acquired from Major Thomas S. Williamson in 1890. The building was modelled after the smaller chapel in West Bangor, with its best features preserved.
The cornerstone of the new church was laid on August 18, 1891 amid much celebration. The event was noted in a newspaper article:
"On Tuesday afternoon, August 18th, the cornerstone of the new Rehoboth (Welsh) Presbyterian church on East Main Street, extended, was laid with impressive ceremonies. In the stone was placed by Mr. John Humphreys, a deacon in the church, the following articles: a Bible, Hymnbook, the 3 Catechisms of the Church, Confessions of Faith, History of Rehoboth church, and a copy of the Cambrian, Delta Herald, Delta times."
The next twenty-five years were prosperous not only for Rehoboth, but the community as well. The quarry was operating at full capacity employing hundreds of laborers. In 1850, the London Crystal Exhibition chose Peach Bottom slate as "the best in the world."
Rehoboth's highest attendance was reached in 1913 with 193 congregational members. This was achieved under the leadership of Reverend W. C. Rowlands, a full-time minister from 1905 to 1916. At the time when all children were attending schools taught in English, Rehoboth clung to their own language by teaching Sunday School in Welsh and English. Pupils memorized verses in both languages. It was through Sunday School that the children of Welsh families were exposed to their heritage and language.
After 1916, slate production began to subside. Because of the unstable conditions of the world-wide slate industry, families began to leave the area for better jobs. Church memberships declined and congregations began to consolidate. Bethesda Congregational Church (Annibynwyr) disbanded in 1916 and joined with Rehoboth. The building was sold to Federal authorities and was used as the site of the Delta Post Office for many years.