The Consecration

A report of the 1848 Consecration of the Rebuilt Church

The following article was located by Margaret Cook in the microfilm files of the Library of Virginia. Jean H. Kirkham typed the transcription. March 25, 2004.

FOR THE SOUTHERN CHURCHMAN

CONSECRATION

Rev. and Dear Sir:

 

        The absence of your correspondent from home, has prevented him from sending you before this, an account of the interesting services, which were held at Yorktown, on the 31st of October last, on the occasion of the Consecration of the Church, lately rebuilt there. For two or three years, the Rev. Chas. Minnegerode, has been holding regular services in this place of many recollections, where formerly, as in various other now "waste places" of Eastern Virginia, the Church had been established, but from the pressure of the times, and the want of laborers, been obliged to give up her hold. It may be interesting to your readers to learn, that when the Diocese of Virginia first met in Convention, after the Revolution, York County contained two Parishes, which were both represented in the Convention, until the year 1805, or thereabouts: York-Hampton Parish, with two Churches, one at Yorktown, and the other, about five miles from Williamsburg, on the road to York, which is still called by an Indian name KISKIACK; or, as it is vulgarly pronounced, Cheese-cake. The other Parish was Charles Parish, with a Church half-way between York and Hampton, called the 'Glebe-Church,' or (from the river) 'Pocosin' Church; of this, nothing but the foundation is remaining, and a few graves to remind the passer-by, what ground he is treading. Kiskiack-Church shared the fate of many Episcopal Churches, which after the Revolution, became what are called 'Free Churches;' that is to say, no one took care of it, and it went to decay; but it has been repaired lately, and is occupied by Baptists. The Church at Yorktown was burned about the time that we loose all traces of it in the Journals of the Diocesan Conventions of Virginia; and Yorktown itself has ever since then, been deprived of regular services, until the time alluded to, when the Rev. Mr. M. gave his labors to our town. The inconvenience of holding services in the Court House, the interest manifested and the blessings attendant on the newly established services, included the friends of our cause to make a strong effort for the rebuilding of the old Church. God who put it into the heart of his people to form the plan, accompanied their efforts with his favor; the interest and liberality of others were excited, and the desires of our hearts was crowned with success; during the last summer a convenient, neat and handsome Church, was built upon the old foundation, and ready for consecration at the time of the Bishop's autumnal visit to Eastern Virginia.*

*The Church which was destroyed by fire, so that nothing but the walls were left, had been built in the shape of a T. The plan was to build the new Church upon the old walls, but as that part which formed the stem of the T was much thinner than the other walls and greatly out of repair, as also, the size of the old Church, was judged to be greater that was necessary or desirable for the Congregation, and as our limited means made economy a chief consideration, it was determined to pull down that part of the old walls. The present Church therefore, is a plain oblong building.-But it was a great gratification to our older citizens, who wished to see the Church restored as originally built, to find when a foundation was to be dug to close (sic) up the wall where the wing had been taken off, that the old foundation was running in the same direction and could be actually built upon; thus showing that the part pulled down was a later addition, and proving that the present house stands exactly upon the original foundation.

       It is a plain building of modest dimensions, 55 by 28 feet; the place of worship itself is 43 by 28 feet, the rest being taken off for a Vestry-room; it accommodates from 170 to 200 persons without galleries. The intention is to surmount the building by a steeple, or add a little belfry, so as to enable to call the congregation together by the Church Bell, whose solemn sounds will be wafted up and down the beautiful river which flows beneath. It stands upon a hill overlooking of the most splendid water-prospects of our country, the glorious York river gliding along in its majestic flow till it mingles its waters with the Bay, into which it empties, and bounding the horizon with the waves of the sea.-The ground on which it stands is thick with the graves of our fore-fathers. Many sleep there, whose names are dear to the hearts of numerous friends and relatives throughout Virginia; and the fallen tombstones and neglected graves will again be guarded with care and reverential love. The stranger wandering amidst the high weeds with which the whole place was overgrown, looked in vain for the tomb of one of the greatest patriots Virginia ever produced. But few persons were able to point out the place where General Thomas Nelson was buried. Shame on thee Virginia, that thou permittest the ashes of one who sacrificed his all on the altar of his country, the mortal remains of one whose name should live immortal in the hearts of all Americans, as one of the purest and most disinterested Patriots, to lie unhonored and forgotten!-May we not hope, now, when in the erection of this Church, security is given of the care with which his grave shall be attended, that either Virginia herself will remember her illustrious son, or else the pious feelings of the descendants of the great Patriot do something to rescue that sacred spot from oblivion, and shew the veneration they feel for his name and character, by marking his burying place with a tomb or monument, grand in its simplicity as the heart that sleeps beneath.

 

        But we digress. Yet who, standing amidst these little hills of earth, with here and there a tombstone, now cleared of the symptoms of unfilial neglect, and soon (it is purposed) to be shaded by the spreading roof of trees; before him the broad bosom of York river, once the frequent resort of vessels of the largest class, behind him the breastworks of the patriot army, who here decided the fate of our Republic: who can restrain himself from looking into the past and feeling him heart contracted at the painful thought of an ungrateful posterity. What claim has Bunkerhill above Yorktown! or Plymouth above Jamestown!

 

        The day was fair, and brought a large number of visitors to witness the services at the Church, and also, to patronize a sale which was held by the Ladies of Yorktown in behalf of the Church. We are happy to say, that the patronage was liberal, and with the aid of friends from other places, ensured such a success, as to justify us in the belief, that all or partly all of the expenses incurred in building the Church, and rearing up again the walls around the graveyard are now covered. We have been greatly aided from abroad, and we must ever feel thankful to those liberal minds, whose help, under God, enabled us to accomplish the work. I expect , that an acknowledgement of all the donations will soon be sent to you, to be published in your paper.

 

        The day was fair as we have said, but fairer was the glow of benevolence, which lighted every cheek, the heartfelt joy, the mutual good will which beamed from every countenance, and which struck us as peculiarly suited to the words of the text from which the consecration-sermon was preached: "In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts."

 

        Bishop Meade who arrived the day before, proceeded to consecrate the Church at 11 o'clock, on Friday morning, the 31st of October, accompanied by the Messars. Good of Hampton, Mann of Gloucester, Carraway of Matthews, Wm. J. Jackson of Norfolk, Denison of Williamsburg, and Minnegerode, the Rector of the Parish. There was, perhaps on one in the whole audience, which thronged the Church in such a manner, that benches were required to put in the aisle, and yet many were excluded from want of room, who had ever seen a Church consecrated. What solemn and grateful feelings must have moved every breast, when the venerable Bishop, proceeding his Clergy, began the 24th Psalm, and having entered the Chancel, performed the impressive service of the Consecration. The morning service was read by Rev. Mr. Good, then Ante-Communion service, according to the Rubric, by the Bishop, and the sermon was preached by the Rector, from Hagg. 2, 9: 'In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts.' The sermon was followed by an address from Bishop Meade, who touchingly dwelt upon the recollections of the past, as connected with the place where he stood, and pointed to the advantages to be derived for the town and the whole county, from the erection of this Church. An house has been built by the goodness of Go, where a respectable congregation assembles regularly for Divine service. Let us pray the Lord that many souls worshipping here may be added to the number of those that shall be saved.

 

        In the Evening, the Bishop and most of the Clergy present left York for Williamsburg, where he had an appointment for the following day. But services continued that night in the new Church, which is brilliantly lighted with solar lamps. The Rev. Mr. Jackson preached from Mark 14, ult. 'and when he though theron, he wept:' The Rev. Mr. Minnegrode reading the service. Services have been held there since then, and in spite of the bad weather, they were well attended both morning and night. It is calculated that a regular congregation of from 60 to 70 persons will worship here, not counting the colored persons, for whom, seats are provided. Truly the hearts of those who were engaged in this holy work, ought to swell with gratitude towards the giver of all these blessings; and we may indulge the hope, that He who began and so far aided the good work, will carry it on to His praise, and grant, that His Church may be established not merely as a house built with man's hands, but in the hearts of those who are called there to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Amen! so be it, is the fervent prayer for Christ sake-of

 

Your Correspondent

Yorktown, November, 1848

Last Published: March 5, 2010 11:00 AM
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