St. Paul’s, Richmond, supported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board strongly supports St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond as they come to terms with their Confederate past.

… Confederate imagery filled the sanctuary at St. Paul’s. Whether by design or through blindness of deeper meanings, St. Paul’s helped to perpetuate a myth. Its congregations and priests became known for progressive attitudes and actions, but its walls displayed protections of a hateful heritage.

St. Paul’s has decided to liberate itself. Various items with Confederate connotations will disappear. Some will go to historic displays, their proper place. Likenesses of the Confederate flag do not belong in a church for all people. Prayer cushions with Confederate references insult the memories of those held in bondage. They border on blasphemy. St. Paul’s is not trying to erase history. Indeed, it recognizes history’s presence, its persistent power to enthrall. The church does not intend to forget. Those who refuse to recognize the pain inflicted by gestures celebrating the Confederacy would purge history from the collective consciousness and the collective conscience. In her story about Confederate symbols at St. Paul’s, The Times-Dispatch’s Laura Kebede describes a process [of conversation] that was serious and measured. Participants listened for the Holy Spirit. They acted when they heard. Our confidence in rector Wallace Adams-Riley is absolute.

When the church announced it would address its Confederate connections, observers trusted it to do the right thing in the right way. Its will has been done. St. Paul’s bears the name of Christianity’s most consequential convert. Truly, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Richmond sees. My Lord, what a morning!

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2 Responses to "St. Paul’s, Richmond, supported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch"
  1. These largely symbolic gestures are a good starting point. We understand how important deeply-held symbols become in the life of a community. These symbols and effigies, viewed in the light of God, 150 years after the war to end slavery, are nothing more now than sign posts in the history of the march towards greater social justice.

    That St. Paul's, Richmond, has made this a public, and concerted, effort to essentially 'de-sanctify' these symbols and effigies and remove from the church, sends a powerful message of hope for democracy.

    When breakthroughs like this occur in the public sphere, I tend to conjure a wish list for its participants. My wish list for St. Paul's goes something like this: This decision represents evidence of partial reparations (i.e., making whole) for the church building and sanctuary; a faithful effort to redeem a sin. Along those lines, I would cherish seeing evidence of..."a 'transfiguration' which spells out God's dire extremity in getting a footing in human hearts and brains for His plans." S.D. Gordon.

    In keeping with the resources of this parish, this 'transfiguration' might look like mounting a new mission in an African American community or beefing-up an existing one; it might look like partnering with one, or more, African American churches in Richmond on a shared mission. Or---and I think this is my favorite---that St. Paul's might establish linkages with other white parishes who are now considering making similar changes to their parish church. St. Paul's can become a faithfilled beacon of how to begin to repair a historically broken relationship with God.

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  2. I fully support retiring items to "museum/history" space but they should not be totally erased lest we forget the truth about our heritage. Celebrate the "repentance" (turning around) that has taking place while remembering how God has worked among you to bring your community from the evil past into an ongoing liberation.

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