FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2007
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Episcopal Church Celebrates 400th Anniversary in America
VHS Exhibit Explores Four Centuries of the Church's Accomplishments, Failures, and Conflicts
Richmond, VA—The Anglican Church, or the Church of England, was established by Henry VIII in the 1530s. As English settlers came to Virginia in 1607, so did their belief in the Anglican religion. From simple beginnings at Jamestown until the coming of the Revolution, the Anglican Church served as an arm of the colony's government, and all Virginians, no matter their beliefs, paid taxes to support its operations. After the Revolution, as Americans were fighting to develop their own identity, the Anglican Church was renamed to emphasis this independence, and was called the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.
Since 1776, the Episcopal Church has served society as a balance point between cultural extremes. The Virginia Historical Society (VHS), in collaboration with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, has produced an exhibition, The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607–2007, to show the important role the church played in defining values and beliefs of Virginians.
This exhibit shows the church's dominant beginning, near collapse after the Revolution, recovery in the early 19th century, turmoil during the Civil War, gradual revival in the late 19th century, and evolution throughout the 20th century. The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607–2007 will be on display at the VHS from July 14, 2007, through January 13, 2008.
"This is the story of the Episcopal Church in all its diverse history, replete with both successes and setbacks," said Dr. James C. Kelly, Director of Museums at the VHS. "The exhibition shows how the Anglican Church shaped and was shaped by Virginia over 400 years."
Located in the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Gallery, The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607–2007 displays 100 graphics and objects, including photographs, portraits, manuscripts, postcards, rare books, colonial silver, religious jewelry, and furniture. The oldest piece in the collection is a first edition of the "Authorized Version," or "King James Bible," published in 1611.
Specific items related to women's history include: a portrait of Ann Randolph Meade Page (1781–1838), a leading female evangelical who freed all of her slaves after her husband's death; a necklace and cross worn by Miss Sallie Stuart (1835–1916), president of the Women's Auxiliary of the Diocese of Virginia; and a photograph of Alison Cheek, the first woman deacon and priest in the Diocese of Virginia.
Objects of special significance to African Americans include: an engraving of St. Philip's Church, the oldest African American Episcopal congregation in the Diocese of Virginia; a portrait of John Payne (1814–1874), the first missionary bishop sent to Africa by the Episcopal Church; and a poster from the Civil Rights Movement promoting the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity.
The VHS sought out items for this exhibit that show the life of the church and its members, asking for contributions from ecclesiastical institutions and individuals. Many of the pieces on display that are not part of the VHS collection are on loan from the Diocese of Virginia and the Virginia Theological Seminary. Dr. Patrick H. Butler, III, an independent consultant with over forty years of experience in museums, is guest curator for The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607–2007. Butler worked with the VHS eight years ago on an exhibit about Alexandria, Virginia, his home town.
"After 1776, Episcopalianism became a minority religion in Virginia," Kelly said. "But, the church's influence has been much greater than its numbers would suggest because of the prominence of its members in Virginia society."
The Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1607–2007 is part of VHS programming to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. Other VHS exhibits include: Jamestown, Québec, Santa Fe: Three North American Beginnings (March 17–September 3, 2007) and Looking Back: The Jamestown Negro Exhibit of 1907 (July 21–September 16, 2007).
In conjunction with the exhibit, the VHS's in-house publication, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, dedicated Vol. 115, No. 2 to the history of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. The magazine, featuring the work of Dr. Edward L. Bond and Dr. Joan R. Gundersen, is available for sale through the VHS Museum Shop.
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Monday–Saturday 10am – 5pm
and Sunday 1pm – 5pm (Museum Galleries only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Sundays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342–9652. For more information, please call (804) 358–4901 or visit