Confessions of a Southern Church
On April 27, 2023, writer Christopher Graham delivered a lecture about his book, Faith, Race, and the Lost Cause: Confessions of a Southern Church.
When a young man enamored with Confederate iconography murdered worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond called his congregation to examine its own racial history and former identity as the “Church of the Confederacy.” St. Paul’s, in downtown Richmond, had been the home to wealthy and influential Virginians, and during the Civil War had hosted Confederate leaders, including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. The people of St. Paul’s reveled in the notoriety and built its postwar identity around its Confederate connections. This book is a result of a congregational self-study, and chronicles how this church understood Christian teachings and practice regarding race relations from the 1840s to our present moment. Along the way, it reveals a few unexpected moments in the evolution of a Lost Cause institution, while contemplating the ways that people change over time and use historical imagination to manifest a present reality. In the end, we learn reasons for hope and sobering lessons for those who wish to do the right thing.
Christopher Graham is a historian, museum curator, and member of St. Paul’s. He is the author of Faith, Race, and the Lost Cause: Confessions of a Southern Church.
The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
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