Rich his­tory bonds two St. An­drew’s churches – one black, one white

South Florida Times - - PRAYERFUL LIVING - St An­drew's Cathe­dral ADAM PARKER The Post and Courier of Charleston


CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - The arms of con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers at two West Ash­ley churches have got­ten longer in re­cent years. They now reach as far as a half-mile along Ash­ley River Road and into the sanc­tu­ar­ies of their sis­ter churches.

As a con­se­quence of this out­reach, the two groups, which share a pa­tron saint and a trou­bled his­tory, even­tu­ally could forge ties that bind.

This trou­bled past has been known for a long time, but a re­cent dis­cov­ery by Paul Por­woll, the of­fi­cial his­to­rian of Old St. An­drew's Parish Church, has shed new light on the in­juries per­pe­trated by slav­ery and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and it has prompted Por­woll to pen a book that cor­rects the record, con­fronts some of the demons of racism and cel­e­brates the po­ten­tial for a bet­ter fu­ture.

That book, “In My Tri­als, Lord, Walk with Me': What an An­te­bel­lum Parish Reg­is­ter Re­veals about Race and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,'” rec­og­nizes hundreds of slaves whose names were omit­ted from copies of the church reg­istry.

Por­woll's dis­cov­ery of the orig­i­nal hand­writ­ten reg­istry two years ago - a book dat­ing to 1830-1859 whose cover is torn off, bind­ing dam­aged and pages yel­lowed and chip­ping away - re­vealed a dis­turb­ing dis­crep­ancy. The his­to­rian's obli­ga­tion to reckon with the truth has not only re­sulted in this new vol­ume but a de­ter­mi­na­tion by mem­bers of both Old St. An­drews and St. An­drew's Mis­sion to em­brace one an­other.

“The re­la­tion­ship that has been built be­tween th­ese two churches is in­ten­tional,'' Por­woll said.

He thought he knew ev­ery­thing there was to know about his church, and that he had recorded most of it in his 2014 book “Against All Odds: His­tory of St. An­drew's Parish Church, Charleston, 1706-2013.'' But the South is a com­pli­cated place that hasn't re­vealed all its se­crets or come to terms with its racist past, Por­woll was forced to ad­mit.

Old St. An­drew's was erected af­ter the South Carolina Colo­nial Assem­bly, seek­ing to mimic the Church of Eng­land's Angli­can struc­ture and hi­er­ar­chy, es­tab­lished 10 Low­coun­try parishes, such as St. An­drew's, St. Paul's, St. Bartholomew's, St. Philip's and St. James' - essen­tially swaths of ter­ri­tory each with a parish church at its heart.

Be­tween its founding in 1706 and the start of the Civil War in 1860, the sanc­tu­ary of the parish church was shared by blacks and whites, though they re­mained seg­re­gated within. The church reg­istry recorded wed­dings, fu­ner­als and bap­tisms, and it in­cluded ev­ery­one, slave and free, black and white.

In 1845, Mag­wood's Chapel was founded to ac­com­mo­date slaves. In the 1890s, at the start of the Jim Crow pe­riod of in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized seg­re­ga­tion, the chapel be­came St. An­drew's Mis­sion. To­day, it re­mains pre­dom­i­nantly black.

The Rev. John Grimke Dray­ton, who was as­so­ci­ated with Old St. An­drew's from 1851 un­til his death in 1891, and served as rec­tor twice, was no fan of slav­ery and led an ef­fort to min­is­ter to blacks be­fore and af­ter the war.

Af­ter eman­ci­pa­tion in 1865, churches through­out the South aban­doned any rem­nants of in­te­grated ser­vices. Blacks af­fil­i­ated with new church in­sti­tu­tions, started their own con­gre­ga­tions and built their own sanc­tu­ar­ies, often just up the road from their white coun­ter­parts.

Old St. An­drew's, lo­cated in the midst of post-war dev­as­ta­tion, was an odd ex­cep­tion; it did not lose its black wor­ship­pers al­to­gether, but the build­ing was un­in­hab­it­able and re­mained dor­mant for 11 years.

By the time it was open again in March 1876, the con­gre­ga­tion was se­verely di­min­ished. A new era of re­build­ing com­menced.

The frag­ile reg­is­ter be­came avail­able to Por­woll in 2016 when the South Carolina His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety re­leased a col­lec­tion of ma­te­ri­als on Old St. An­drew's.

“I doubted I'd find any­thing new,'' he wrote in an email. “Was I wrong.''

Sit­ting with the reg­is­ter be­fore him, Por­woll nat­u­rally com­pared the orig­i­nal with the copy, dated circa 1897. Scan­ning the typed copy, he came across a strange en­try: “Mary Cather­ine daugh­ter.'' It was crossed out with typed dashes.

In the orig­i­nal hand­writ­ten ver­sion, the line reads: “(Mary Cather­ine) daugh­ter of Lindey & Cato, ne­groes, both be­long­ing to...” The en­try goes on to note a bap­tism. Por­woll con­cluded that the reg­is­ter's tran­scriber, when he came upon the word “ne­gro,'' re­fused to con­tinue with the en­try and there­after paid closer at­ten­tion to the doc­u­ment to avoid fur­ther ref­er­ences to black peo­ple in the copy.

And this raised a ques­tion: How many African Amer­i­cans have been left out?

“As I care­fully turned the pages of the frag­ile orig­i­nal, I saw en­try af­ter en­try of slave bap­tisms, slave mar­riages, slave con­fir­ma­tions, and slave buri­als,'' Por­woll wrote in his email. “In­stead of the reg­is­ter be­ing 100 per­cent white-fo­cused, it was al­most 83 per­cent black.''

The value of the reg­is­ter ex­tends be­yond the parish church; it could be a boon to ge­neal­o­gists seek­ing to ex­tend the branches of their fam­ily tree, ac­cord­ing to Wevoneeda Minis, a Low­coun­try-based fam­ily re­searcher.

“It's im­por­tant be­cause in a pe­riod of time where there's a dearth of records for blacks who do want to trace back that far, it's an­other kind of record,'' Minis said. “You'll prob­a­bly find in­for­ma­tion that you won't find any­where else.''

The Rev. Jimmy Gal­lant has been vicar of St. An­drew's Mis­sion Church for five years, and he has wel­comed the chance to forge stronger bonds with the mostly white con­gre­ga­tion up the street, an op­por­tu­nity Por­woll's re­search has en­hanced, he said.

“This church,'' he said, re­fer­ring to Old St. An­drew's, “has em­braced me.''

Gal­lant and his coun­ter­part at the parish church, the Rev. Mar­shall Huey, often bring their con­gre­ga­tions to­gether for Wed­nes­day ser­vices, es­pe­cially dur­ing the Len­ten sea­son. Wor­ship­pers black and white gather for sup­per, for teach­ings, for fel­low­ship. And they con­vene each year for a sun­rise Easter ser­vice on the grounds of Mag­no­lia Plan­ta­tion, an event that draws hundreds from the area.

Huey said the two churches now are plan­ning to cel­e­brate St. An­drew's Day to­gether at the end of Novem­ber, mark­ing the mo­ment in 1706 when the 10 early South Carolina parishes were es­tab­lished.

An­other idea is to start a joint Watch­night ser­vice, per­haps at Mag­no­lia Plan­ta­tion (which once was part of the Dray­ton fam­ily hold­ings). Watch­night is an AfricanAmer­i­can rit­ual that marks the turn of the New Year.

The con­gre­ga­tion of Old St. An­drew's in­creas­ingly is learn­ing about the cul­tural tra­di­tions of their black broth­ers and sis­ters. When Huey was mar­ried on Dec. 29 last year, he and his wife Bar­bara “jumped the broom.''

This prac­tice was com­mon among slaves, who were for­bid­den law­ful civil mar­riages. Jump­ing the broom at the end of a makeshift wed­ding cer­e­mony helped for­mal­ize the union within the com­mu­nity.

The Hueys' broom was hand-dec­o­rated by a mem­ber of St. An­drew's Mis­sion Church.

“It's im­por­tant to me that (Bar­bara) knows and em­braces not only my min­istry but all that it en­com­passes,'' he said.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.