The history of the Episcopal church and the capital “C” Church is long and varied. From the Episcopal Church’s history of being the Anglican church and containing many of the wealthy and elite members of society, to the same thing being replicated in the new world of the time, to now, where Church members represent a cross section of many classes, races and gender categories. The Episcopal Church has seen a ton of history made in its own halls in the evolution and Revolutions that bring us the churches we have today.
While much progress has been made socially, the results and hangovers of the past still remain in place for the most part. Not only do I know this as an anecdotal tale that is told from person to person, I know it from my own personal research into the wealthy and elite members of the Episcopal Church that enslaved my own ancestors. Their names are Wigfall, Baker, Sinclair, Hines and Blow. Yes, Blow. The same Blow family that helped start this church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, also had relatives that enslaved both Dred Scott and my own ancestors; given the names August, Jenny, Phillis, Limbrick, Flora and Nanny.
Now it is known that Henry T. Blow did not receive an inheritance of land and enslaved people. In fact, having grown up with Dred Scott, Henry and one of his brothers paid for the legal fees for Dred Scott to sue for his freedom. The fact is that Henry would not have had to do this, had his parents not enslaved Dred Scott and others in the first place.
I believe that this church in particular follows Henry’s story: divorced from the slave trading past of our ancestors but still directly tied to the systems those ancestors created in the time of slave trading which started over 500 years ago. The Church is putting funds behind reversing these effects but even after a decade of that effort, it is still a drop in the bucket when we think of reversing over five hundred years of effectively following the same systems.
Our church and the Episcopal Church will continue to do the work of God and support our brothers and sisters in Christ, however we have to realize the scale and magnitude of the work we intend to undertake. It will take generations and a lot of hard and smart work, but we have in no way reversed any of the effects our ancestors have had on us to this day. That day, when Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream is realized and no one is judged or has their life outcome determined by the color of their skin or any other ways we marginalize people are gone, we may never see for ourselves. To me, that makes exploring our history and seeking restorative justice in all of its manifestations that much more important, so that future generations are not stuck with the bill yet again.
-- Darian Wigfall, Executive Director
Most of the blog articles are written by our Rector, The Rev. Rebecca Ragland