A new beginning for historic Ott’s Chapel
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.
Ott’s Chapel, built in 1871 and left vacant for the last few years, will reopen Sunday as part of the New Beginnings congregation.
Pastor Greg Halsey poses in the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship’s new location in the historic Ott’s Chapel.
New Beginnings will hold weekly services in Ott’s Chapel.