Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Eastern Shore Chapel, Virginia Beach, celebrates 1689 founding

By Donna Hudgins, Eastern Shore Chapel, Virginia Beach

Friday, September 12, 7pm, Eastern Shore Chapel Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach will open its 325th anniversary celebration weekend with Under Five Prayer Books and Four Flags. The original music/dramatic readings performance recognizes the centuries and forces of history through which the church survived from Colonial times to the present: Revolution, Wars, Civil Rights, Women’s Ordination, and Societal Shifts. The program features well-known historic readings and music performed by choir, clergy, parishioners and guests. The performance will be held in the church, 2020 Laskin Road. Saturday, September 13, 11:30-3pm, the church will rejoice with families on the church lawn: featuring live music, BBQ, oysters from the Lynnhaven River, local rockfish, and games for the entire family.   Sunday, September 14, 10:15am, the church will conclude its celebration with a worship service of thanksgiving and prayers highlighting historic prayer books and American sacred music. All events are free and open to the public.

Said Rector Reverend Thomas Deppe, “ We have this singular opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy, dedication and community outreach ministries of generations of parishioners who kept this church alive through revolutions, separation from the Church of England, wars, social justice changes, and the destruction and moving of worship spaces. Through it all, they continued to worship and serve our community."

The church is interlaced in the story of Colonial Virginia and the City of Virginia Beach, tracing its founding to Adam Thoroughgood and the Anglican services he held on his land grant plantation. While the church is believed to date back to the 1660s, it is first mentioned in public records in 1689. The first Chapel was built as a "Chapell of Ease" on the eastern shore of the Lynnhaven River to more easily allow rural colonial parishioners to reach the chapel by water to attend services.

Three colonial structures and a fourth 20th century chapel built in the 1950s have served the churches growing congregations continuously with worship services for over three centuries. The design of the first chapel is lost in history; the second chapel (circa 1730-1754) and the third chapel (circa 1754-1952) were built on what was then the Salisbury Plains plantation of Joel Cornick and is now N.A.S. Oceana. In the 1950s with the expansion of the runways at Oceana, the 200- year old third chapel was dismantled and in 1954 a new chapel incorporating elements from the earlier chapels was built at its present Laskin Road location. The current location is less than a mile from the original 17th century Chapel of Ease.

Eastern Shore Chapel is often recognized in Virginia Beach for its expansive Food Pantry, its prison ministry, its Parish Day School and as the church of the 1,000 flags which are planted on the front lawn each Memorial Day to honor fallen military.