A new be­gin­ning for his­toric Ott’s Chapel

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

For sev­eral years, the quaint church on the out­skirts of Ne­wark has sat va­cant.

As traf­fic speeds past on Otts Chapel Road, the small gable-framed build­ing blends into the back­ground, with few driv­ers likely re­al­iz­ing they are pass­ing the road’s name­sake.

But start­ing Sun­day, the his­toric Ott’s Chapel will show signs of life once again as a new con­gre­ga­tion makes a home there.

“That build­ing was meant to be a house of God,” Phil Meekins, pas­tor

of New Be­gin­nings Chris­tian Fel­low­ship, said. “If Rev. Ott was here to see it, he’d be ver y proud.”

New Be­gin­nings was founded in 2011 in North East, Md., and has a con­gre­ga­tion of ap­prox­i­mately 100. Meekins said he hopes open­ing a sec­ond lo­ca­tion at Ott’s Chapel will al­low the church to at­tract new mem­bers from the Ne­wark area.

“There are a lot of hurt­ing folks in the world,” Meekins said. “We want to reach out to the lost, the bro­ken, the hurt­ing and the down­trod­den.”

While any­one is wel­come, the non-de­nom­i­na­tional church spe­cial­izes in serv­ing those re­cov­er­ing from drug or al­co­hol ad­dic­tion. Both Meekins and his as­so­ciate pas­tor, Greg Halsey, are in re­cov­ery them­selves.

In North East, New Be­gin­nings runs three res­i­den­tial re­cov­ery homes for men and women with 21 days of ver­i­fi­able so­bri­ety, raises money to send peo­ple to long-term re­cov­ery pro­grams and holds weekly Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery ser­vices.

The fact that a re­cov­ery­based church would take over Ott’s Chapel is fit­ting, said Martha Har­ris, the great­great-great grand­daugh­ter of founder Stephen Ott, who was a lo­cal leader in the tem­per­ance move­ment against al­co­hol abuse.

“That was the scourge 140 years ago,” Har­ris said. “Now it’s drugs and al­co­hol.”

A stone ma­son and fruit farmer, Ott dis­cov­ered his call­ing for preach­ing and built the one-story, gable-roofed struc­ture in 1871, ac­cord­ing to the Pen­cader Her­itage Area As­so­ci­a­tion. He held non-de­nom­i­na­tional ser­vices there un­til his death in 1875, and his wife, Jane, car­ried them on un­til her death six years later.

In the en­su­ing decades, the chapel hosted reg­u­lar Sun­day school ses­sions and oc­ca­sional ser­vices con­ducted by vis­it­ing preach­ers, said Har­ris, who re­called at­tend­ing Sun­day school there in the 1970s with her grand­mother. As the re­main­ing mem­bers aged and passed away, the group stopped meet­ing sev­eral years ago and the church went un­used.

Har­ris be­came in­volved with the church again when she drove past one day last year and no­ticed that a tree had fallen on the roof. Look­ing to en­sure any dam­age was taken care of, she tracked down the church’s last re­main­ing trustee, Ne­wark res­i­dent Ethel Koloff.

To Har­ris’ sur­prise, the tree did lit­tle dam­age, and the in­side of the church was in re­mark­ably good shape, with oil paint­ings adorn­ing its or­nate pressed-tin in­te­rior walls and the orig­i­nal 19th-cen­tury Bible still there. The prop­erty also con­tains a small ceme­tery and a twostall out­house.

Har­ris cred­its Koloff with keep­ing the chapel main­tained.

“She did an ab­so­lutely amaz­ing job,” she said. “I was in tears that some­body loved it so much to keep it so beau­ti­ful.”

With Koloff ready to pass on the re­spon­si­bil­ity to some­one else, Har­ris and a fam­ily mem­ber agreed to be­come trustees of the chapel and de­cided to look for a con­gre­ga­tion to oc­cupy it.

“That’s what it was built for, not to sit there empty,” Har­ris said.

She reached out to Meekins, a long­time friend, and of­fered him use of the chapel.

New Be­gin­nings will hold weekly ser­vices at 10:30 a.m. Sun­day and also host Sun­day school ses­sions. Meekins said he is hop­ing for 30 to 40 con­gre­gants to start.

“It’s our prayer that it will fill up fast and stay that way,” he said.

Halsey will be­come the main pas­tor at Ott’s Chapel.

“It’s an honor,” Halsey said. “We’re al­ways look­ing for more places to es­tab­lish the king­dom of God.”

Ott’s Chapel is lo­cated at 1645 Otts Chapel Road, just south of Welsh Tract Road. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit new­be­gin­ningschris­tian­fel­low­ship.com or call 443-4668681.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Ott’s Chapel, built in 1871 and left va­cant for the last few years, will re­open Sun­day as part of the New Be­gin­nings con­gre­ga­tion.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Pas­tor Greg Halsey poses in the New Be­gin­nings Chris­tian Fel­low­ship’s new lo­ca­tion in the his­toric Ott’s Chapel.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

New Be­gin­nings will hold weekly ser­vices in Ott’s Chapel.

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