On Saturday March 29th, members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Petersburg, Virginia, along with representatives from the Virginia Theological Seminary, celebrated the dedication of an historical marker to remember the impact of the Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg and throughout the Episcopal Church. Bishop Payne Divinity School, founded in 1878, served African-American men preparing for ministry before merging with Virginia Seminary in 1949:
Before the dedication, a prayer service was held inside the church, which was attended by approximately 75 people. Family members of graduates from the school were present and speakers included: the Rev. Canon Lloyd Alexander Lewis Jr., who was ordained by a Bishop Payne Divinity School graduate; Christopher Pote, archivist at Virginia Theological Seminary; and Horace Mann, a board member of the department of historic resources who gave final approval for the mark.
“I can tell you that those who walked out of the doors of the Bishop Payne Divinity School and who fought for their theological education so that they could strengthen their own ability to minister effectively, to raise those they led higher and to take their place in society made of what they had more than they could have possibly imagined,” Lewis said.
Bishop Payne Divinity School, which was established in 1878, was “founded in a past time of racial separation,” Lewis said.
The school prepared black men for the ministry for 71 years, according to the historical marker. In 1949, the school merged with the Virginia Theological Seminary.
Although it no longer exists, the school’s legacy “very much is alive and well and living on in the lives of those countless generations who its graduates have touched,” Lewis said.
The full article is available here.
If you would like to learn more about the Bishop Payne Divinity School or about the history of African-Americans in the Episcopal Church, the African-American Episcopal Historical Collection at Virginia Seminary is home to an array of documents, oral histories, photographs, and institutional records of the African-American Episcopal experience in the United States and is available for research here.