Plantations and Historic Church Leaders

Plantations and Historic Church Leaders

by Anne Clarke, Co-Leader, 2015 Freedom Ride; Lifelong Christian Faith Formation Coordinator, The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California

Freedom Ride pilgrims visited historic Stagville Plantation on Wednesday, July 15th. Built in 1851, it was one of the largest plantations in the pre-Civil War South. It was also home to hundreds of slaves who lived in four room houses on the property, with one family living in each room. Our tour was led by one of our pilgrimage leaders, who is also a descendant of slaves who actually lived here at Stagville. Pilgrims marveled at the buildings where the slaves lived, and were especially taken by the brickwork in the chimneys that were made by the slaves. Many of their fingerprints could still be seen in the bricks..

After visiting Stagville plantation, pilgrims enjoyed an afternoon workshop with Mike Wiley (the playwright from the Blood Done Signed My Name production they saw the night before). Pilgrims participated in writing exercises (pictured at left) around social change, using drama and the spoken word. A special treat was a visit by the former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, James A. Joseph. He spoke of his experience in the Civil Rights movement in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and our South African friends and fellow pilgrims gathered around and sang their national anthem with him. It was a very special moment. Please click here to watch an interview with James Joseph, as he talks about his work with Nelson Mandela.

On Wednesday evening, pilgrims traveled to Chapel Hill for a special worship service in Chapel of the Cross. This Episcopal church is where the Rev Pauli Murray, the first African American woman ordained as a priest in The Episcopal Church, celebrated her first Eucharist (and her enslaved grandmother was also baptized here). The Rev. Murray was also a lawyer, activist, feminist and poet. Please click here to learn more about her life and work for equality and civil rights.

This special service included an amazing sermon by Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry. And together, the three bishops (Bishop Barry Beisner, Bishop Doug Fisher and Bishop Curry) led pilgrims in renewing their baptismal covenant. Bishop Curry also led the gathered congregation in blessing a quilt (pictured at right) made during the 2014 Province IV Youth Event (PYE). This quilt will be gifted to the PYE host congregation, Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia.‪

Click here to learn more about another prominent leader from North Carolina, our new Presiding Bishop-Elect!

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