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History and Reconciliation Initiative

After the horrific shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and the resolution of the Episcopal Church regarding the Confederate Battle Flag in June of 2015, St. Paul's set aside two Sunday afternoons in August of 2015 for prayerful conversations about the historic Confederate imagery and symbols in the church. These sessions were a time to share, listen, and pray together as an act of community discernment. St. Paul's invited Justice & Sustainability Associates to help set the framework for the discussions and train St. Paul's volunteers on how to be effective small group discussion leaders.

From these prayerful conversations came the History & Reconciliation Initiative,  a commitment to understand the past role of race, slavery, and segregation in the history of our church and city, as well as the legacies of ongoing discrimination and racial inequities, we may better the pressing issues of the present and future.

All parishioners are invited to take part! HRI is working to build a board of community partners for support and accountability.


In light of our Christian faith we will trace and acknowledge the racial history of St Paul's Episcopal Church in order to repair, restore, and seek reconciliation with God each other and the broader community.

Our guiding Scripture is Isaiah 58:12: Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.  


This summer, the HRI working groups and committees have hosted Prayerful Conversations to share their work and to ask for ideas as we move forward:

  • On Sunday, June 11, people gathered for a potluck dinner and heard from the History Working Committee as they told stories and revealed findings of the work on St. Paul's history up to 1940.
  • On Sundays, June 18 and June 25, the Memorials Working Group and the Music and Liturgy Working Group asked for opinions and ideas for ways to express acknowledgement of our history and seek reconciliation "with God, each other and the broader community."   

HRI Committees

  • History working group: researching aspects of racial history and the church, from 1840 to the present.
  • Liturgy and music working group: developing liturgical and musical expressions of acknowledgment and reconciliation.
  • Memorial working group: seeking a physical or living/legacy/ expression of acknowledgment, commemoration, and reconciliation.

Helpful resources

We will be updating this soon with resources on public history and theological reflections from participants.

  • " ‘Cathedral of the Confederacy’ reckons with its history and charts future," an article by Heather Beasley Doyle for Episcopal News Service, published June 19, 2017. | Follow this link
  • "What Richmond Has Gotten Right About Interpreting Its Confederate History," a feature in Smithsonian Magazine by Kevin M. Levin, published May 18, 2017. | Follow this link
  • "Robert E. Lee Worshipped Here," Sojourners video featuring interviews with parishioners and committee members: Follow this link
  • "Robert E. Lee Worshipped Here," Sojorners article, published in the April 2017 issue: Follow this link
  • "Closing the loop on racial reconciliation," Episcopal News Service article, published March 16, 2017: Follow this link 
  • A Prayerful Conversation: Who, What, When, Where, Why? Follow this link
  • Catalog of Confederate References and Symbols (please note that due to its size, this file may take a few minutes to download): View the PDF
  • The Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley's sermon from June 28, 2015: Text version (PDF)Audio version (link)
  • The Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley's sermon from July 26, 2015: Text version (PDF)Audio version (link)
  • Resolution of The Episcopal Church regarding the Confederate Battle Flag: Follow this link
  • Justice & Sustainability Associates (JSA): Link to their website 
  • A Word from Grace Street: A Holy Place, A Holy Message, August 18, 2015: Follow this link
  • A Word from Grace Street: A Future Not Our Own, August 11, 2015: Follow this link
  • A Word from Grace Street: Honor All People, August 4, 2015: Follow this link
  • A Word from Grace Street: Whole Stories, Whole People, July 29, 2015: Follow this link
  • A Word from Grace Street: Knowing Our Story, July 22, 2015: Follow this link

Media Inquiries

Please direct all media inquiries to Gail Goldsmith, Director of Communications, at