Leaders of a historic Episcopal church in Alexandria have determined to take away a pair of plaques from its sanctuary that memorialize two of their most distinguished parishioners: George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
In a letter despatched Thursday to members of the Christ Church congregation, church leaders defined that the choice got here after a lot deliberation.
“This was not a dialogue we entered into evenly, however slightly a honest try and have a household dialog about our worship house, our bigger historical past and our future,” they wrote.
The destiny of the 2 plaques, which have held on both aspect of the altar on the historic church since 1870, had been talked about for years, in line with the Rev. Noelle York-Simmons, the church’s rector. However the matter took on added urgency following occasions in Charlottesville.
One particular person was killed and several other injured throughout protests Aug. 12 after a rally by white nationalists protesting the deliberate removing of a statue of Lee.
Whereas recognizing the essential roles each Washington and Lee performed within the nation’s historical past, church leaders wrote that the choice was made that it could be finest to take away them as a result of they “create a distraction in our worship house and should create an impediment to our identification as a welcoming church and an obstacle to our progress and to full neighborhood with our neighbors.”
Information of the church’s resolution was first reported by the Republican Commonplace web site.
York-Simmons and different church leaders spent a lot of September discussing the matter with members of the 1,800-person congregation.
[One dead in Charlottesville following white nationalist rally]
York-Simmons characterised the conferences and listening clbades as “heartening.”
“Folks responded fantastically and faithfully, listening in quite a lot of ways in which confirmed our church at its finest,” she stated.
York-Simmons wouldn’t talk about whether or not there have been parishioners who advocated for protecting the plaques. “I’m not going to talk for my parishioners. We’ve got been by an intense technique of listening to our neighborhood’s ideas on all sides of the sophisticated subject,” she stated.
The nation’s first president and the commander of the Accomplice military each performed vital roles within the early historical past of Christ Church.
Washington was a daily worshiper. Lee and his household had been additionally parishioners. Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee’s spouse, gifted the church $10,000 to badist start its endowment.
Despite the fact that a lot of the latest nationwide debate has centered round Civil Conflict memorials, church leaders stated they thought that it was essential for the plaques to be thought-about collectively. They famous that each had been positioned on the identical time and visually stability one another in a means that “maintains the symmetry of the church’s sanctuary.”
“We perceive that each Washington and Lee lived in instances a lot totally different than our personal, and that every man, along with his public persona, was an advanced human being, and like all of us, a baby of God,” church leaders wrote.
Christ Church, based in 1773, shouldn’t be the one congregation to wrestle with how you can stability their legacy with shifting views about historic figures. After two years of tense debate, an Episcopal parish in Lexington, Va., named for Lee, who was as soon as a distinguished member, voted to alter its title.
York-Simmons stated the plaques will stay in place till a brand new location for them is recognized a while subsequent yr. A committee will probably be shaped to deliberate on a brand new place of “respectful prominence.”
Whereas some might criticize the church’s resolution, York-Simmons emphasised that this isn’t about altering the previous however about discovering a solution to place the church’s historical past within the correct context.
“We’re deeply dedicated to our historical past, however much more we’re deeply dedicated to the worship of Jesus Christ,” she stated. “The query is, how can we replicate each?”