Thursday, March 19, 2015

Memorial stone to be placed on the grave of ex-slave Paulina Ruffin Eps

Paulina Ruffin Eps was born into slavery under the household of Richard Eppes on Eppes Island to James Madison Ruffin and Harriet Ruffin.  Paulina’s father Madison was bought in 1847 by Richard Eppes from a Dr. Lockwood and her mother Harriet was born on the Eppes Plantation in 1816 serving as personal house servant to Mrs. Mary Eppes Cocke.  Before the Civil War, Madison would be a most trusted servant to Dr. Eppes and would serve as Sexton to St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church. Mr. Eppes would require Madison to clean and make ready the church for worship on Sunday mornings or any other time the congregation might gather.

Richard Eppes wrote in his diary dated Sunday, December 21, 1856, “Quite surprised this morning to find the ground quite white with snow the first fall this season wind N. E. very cold. Madison made no fire in the church this morning, thinking it was the 4th Sunday in the month, consequently service did not commence until after 12 o. c. there being very few persons present had no sermon but only the service.” Mr. Murray [Rector at St. John’s] returned and dined with us & spent the night.” Richard Eppes relied heavily on Madison and trusted him as much as any of his acquaintances. The Vestry would give him a small cash gift for his services from time to time. In the diary, dated May 2, 1858 (Richard Eppes’ 34th birthday) the Vestry met after church, Richard Eppes writes “Mr. Batte moved that a collection be requested of the congregation by Mr. Zimmer [St. John’s Rector] next Sunday to be taken up Sunday after next Sunday for the benefit of the Sexton Madison.”

Harriet had a number of children by other fathers, Robert Moody (born 1835), George Gilliam (born 1838), Richard Gilliam (born 1840), and Patty Rud (born 1845).  Madison and Harriet had a number of children of their own. They are Paulina Ruffin (b. 1848), James Ruffin Jr. (b. 1850), Agnes Ruffin (b. Dec. 21, 1851), John Williams Ruffin (b. 1853), Samuel Welsh Ruffin (b. 1855), and Indianna Ruffin ( b. 1858).  James Madison Ruffin died on 19th of February, 1876 of pneumonia and was buried on the 21st Feb. 1876 by the Rev. Edward Valentine Jones.

Paulina (called Pau – lī ´-nə) most likely left with her family May 20, 1862, ending up in Hampton and Norfolk throughout the remainder of the Civil War. Paulina married James Henry Eps who was a sailor in the United States Navy.  Their children were Mary Elizabeth (born abt. 1871).  Harriett (Hattie) Ruffin (born abt. 1873), Robert Henry (born abt. 1875) & William Henry. Mary, Hattie, and Robert were baptized at St. John’s on 17 June, 1877 by the Rev. Edwin Valentine Jones. Paulina was baptized and confirmed at St. John’s in June of 1879 at age 31 by the Rt. Rev. F. M. Whittle, thus becoming a member of St. John’s.

Mary Nelson Neblett (now living in Chester) recalls that she and the other children called her “Aunt Paulina.” Paulina came to church every Sunday sitting on the back row near the entrance to the church. If it were a Sunday when the Holy Communion was served, Paulina would wait until everyone had taken communion and then she would proceed to go to the altar rail to receive the sacrament. Mrs. Mary Catherine Pruden (St. John’s Organist Emeritus) recalled that Paulina would come to church every Sunday until she could not walk to church anymore. Paulina is also remembered and described to have been a very kind and lovable person. Paulina and her husband lived in a small house on the top of the hill leading to the waterfront (now extinct) to the right of the house at the end of Prince Henry Street.

Paulina’s husband Henry became the church sexton after Paulina’s father Madison Ruffin died in 1876. When Henry died at the end of September 1889, Paulina appealed to the Eppes family to have him buried next to her father in the St. John’s cemetery. Richard Eppes writes in his Diary Tuesday, Oct: 1st 1889, “Henry  Eps, husband of Paulina Eps sexton of our church (P.E. St. Johns City Point) a seaman employed on the United States ironclad fleet, stationed a few miles below Richmond Va died yesterday

and his wife applied to my wife + self for permission to bury him in the churchyard of the P.E. church by the side of her father Madison the old sexton though neither my wife or my wife have any personal objection we have been forced to refuse, as the race feeling between the whites + negroes is so strong that the church would be seriously injured thereby moreover as he was a seaman in the employ of the U.S. Government his family have a right to bury him in the National Cemetery located near here, where several seaman, who died, when the fleet was stationed here, were buried…...The funeral will take place in St John's church + from there transported to the negro burying ground + there interred with Masonic honors, he being a Mason.”  After Henry’s death Paulina continued to work as a domestic servant at Appomattox Manor until her death on 5 January 1946 at age 98. She was buried on Jan 8, 1946 by the Rev. J. R. Walker. Paulina being a faithful member of St. John’s for many years was allowed to be buried next to her father in the church graveyard, but a permanent memorial was never placed.

The congregation wants to honor Paulina and to express their remorse to the African American community for the actions of earlier members of the congregation who did not see fit to bury Paulina’s husband in the St. John’s Cemetery because of racial prejudice, as indicated in Dr. Eppes diary. On behalf of the congregation, the vestry has ordered and will lay a permanent granite marker similar to that of her father Madison, on Paulina’s grave Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 beginning at 5:30 PM in a program and service dedicated to remembering Madison, Paulina, and all the saints who have passed through St. John’s, adding richly to its history and its mission. The service will also include the consecration of the new columbarium in the graveyard.

St. John’s, Hopewell, turns 175

As the 175th celebration of St. John’s Episcopal Church in City Point approaches, preparations have been underway for the past year to celebrate its ministry since 1840. “This is a wonderful time in the history of the Episcopal Church at City point,” says the Rev. William B. Taylor, present Rector of the church. He says, “In a hundred seventy five years a whole lot of ministry has happened at St. John’s, and through that history there has been both hope and despair. We want to celebrate the times that we as a faith community have been good and faithful as well as to reflect on and learn from the times when we as God’s people have not been as responsive to the needs of others, but concentrating on our own political and social agendas. It is in the latter that we need to especially re- center ourselves in God’s loving agenda in Christ. Our theme is ‘Remembrance and Renewal.’”

The Protestant Episcopal Church at City Point was begun with a dream in George Moody’s Tavern near Nunnelly’s Point on April 13, 1840 when a number of Subscribers were gathered to organize what would become St. John’s Episcopal Church. A vestry was formed, a building committee established and bids were to be received after placing a classified in several Petersburg papers.

A businessman, state delegate, turn seminary student, the Honorable Malcolm MacFarland from Lunenburg County read morning and evening prayers in the absence of a priest at Merchant’s Hope, Prince George County and St. Paul’s, Petersburg. By the time the Rev. Mr. MacFarland was ordained to holy orders, on his own accord financed the building of the first Episcopal Church at City Point and put in the first organ for church worship. Mr. MacFarland was to preach and officiate once a fortnight (every other week) at the new church along with other pastoral responsibilities such as baptism, marriage, and burial. On Sunday evenings Mr. MacFarland preached to the slaves from the surrounding plantations, especially those on the Eppes Plantations in and around City Point.

The church was closed at the beginning of the Civil War. Confederate troops occupied the building using it as a signal tower, a jail to hold Union Prisoners of War to be exchanged. As early as 1862, with the shelling of City Point by gunboats in the James River, the Post Office close to the wharf, used as the telegraph office was destroyed and so moved to the church vestry room. Services resumed at the end of June 1867 after the church was repaired with the help of “friends from the North.”

The church was built in a Plain Greek Revival Style and served in that style until 1894 when the roof was raised and built to reflect a Gothic Revival Style. The transepts (wings) were added between 1918 and 1919 and the Apse with memorial windows was added in 1925.  In 1933 a parish hall was added and named in honor of a beloved minister, The Rev. Fredrick Deane Gibson Ribble. For many years a bell tower was envisioned but the structure would not support the weight of the bell so finally from a variety of memorial gifts, a Celtic cross of copper was placed on the front pinnacle. A church education building was dedicated for use in the early 1960’s .

St. John’s has served the community of City Point, Hopewell, and the surrounding County offering spiritual opportunities in worship, study, pastoral counselling and service. The church has supported the youth in the area through scouting, a Girls Friendly Society, meeting spaces for community organizations such as the women’s club, historical groups, theater groups, and the neighborhood watch program. The congregation supports prayerfully and financially the James House, the Hopewell and Prince George Food Pantries, The Shepherd’s Place and various other community, provincial, and global projects .

As we take this time to celebrate so that we might remember our church history through many generations; we take time as well to renew and dedicate that continuing spirit with the same message of hope, redemption, and new life as it has since 1840. Our celebration will begin on April 12 at 10:30 A.M with the communion liturgy that would have been used in 1840. The congregation is invited wear period clothing to this service. At 3 P.M. the choir will present a choral and instrumental concert with light refreshments served afterwards.

At 5:30 P.M. on April 15, a program and service to honor ex-slave Paulina Epps by the laying of a headstone on her grave. The new columbarium will be dedicated and consecrated for the disposition of ash remains. On Sunday morning we will culminate our anniversary week with a service of rededication and renewal with Bishop Hollerith. All are invited to attend all or any of the event listed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

James Solomon Russell celebration Mar. 29

Please join the James Solomon Russell Commemoration Committee at the RZUA Conference Center in Lacrosse, Virginia for the celebration of the life and legacy of Archdeacon James Solomon Russell. This festive Evening Prayer service will take place on March 29 at 3:00 pm and a reception will follow in the parish hall of Trinity, South Hill. Bishop Hollerith will officiate. The Rev. Dr. John L. Ghee, Presiding Bishop of Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Churches of America will preach. Music by Sharon Baptist Church Choir. Please invite and encourage your clergy, parishioners, and friends to attend. You may also bring your church banners and flags. (Episcopal Clergy: Full Choir Vestments) We bid your prayers for us, for this celebration and for our future endeavors. Contact: Mrs. Annie F. Walker, 434-447-4097

Praying for the churches of Southern Virginia

As part of our liturgy at Annual Council 2015, each delegation wrote a prayer for their parish. We are sharing these prayers each week in the eNews so that we all can support one another in the upcoming year.

St. Peter's, Norfolk
Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your faithfulness and for the blessings you have bestowed upon our parish family. Keep us faithful in celebrating the new life we have through faith in your Son Jesus Christ; strengthen us to proclaim that new life through word and deed; and help us be a loving and caring church family that draws people to Jesus and equips them to serve him. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

St. Aidan's, Virginia Beach
Gracious and loving God; we thank you for the abundance of gifts that you have given to St. Aidan's and the Diocese of Southern Virginia. We pray that you will lead us and help us to use those gifts to reach those who sit in darkness, those who have never known you, and those who have been hurt by the church or by those claiming to represent the Church. Help us to call those people back into a relationship with you, heal their hurts, open their minds and hearts so that they may know and love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever amen.

Survey results provide overview of Episcopal congregations

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has posted the results of the 2014 Survey of Episcopal Congregations, conducted in conjunction with the Faith Communities Today (FACT) ecumenical/interfaith survey project. Named New Facts on Episcopal Church Growth and Decline, the document is located here.
New Facts on Episcopal Church Growth and Decline examines the dynamics of growth and decline in Episcopal congregations. According to C. Kirk Hadaway, Ph.D., Officer for Congregational Research for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the findings are based on 2013 Parochial Report data and the 2014 Survey of Episcopal Congregations, "which was completed by 762 congregations of an initial sample of 1,100.  Churches were weighted by size, as measured in 2009, and represent the size distribution of all Episcopal churches in the US," he said.  

With growth measured by change in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) from 2009 to 2013, New Facts on Episcopal Church Growth and Decline examines factors associated with growth and decline, such as what makes a congregation thrive or experience loss. Among the many sources of congregational growth and decline, Hadaway said, are the location and demographics of a congregation; the congregation's identity; the congregation's worship style and number of services; the congregation's programs and activities; and the leadership of the congregation.

Hadaway pointed out New Facts on Episcopal Church Growth and Decline is an update to the 2005 FACTs report, located here. Other information for use by congregations and dioceses is available on the Research and Statistics page here. For more information contact Christine Kandic, Congregational Research Assistant for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, at

#WashDay15 - Anglican global Lenten movement

A new global movement - #washday15 - provides a means for participating in a worldwide Lenten discipline through social media postings on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook. Initiated by the Diocese of Oxford in England, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is joining with the Church of England and other provinces throughout the Anglican Communion in #washday15.

The effort was inspired by the video Laundry Love - which was viewed at Southern Virginia's 2015 Annual Council last month. The video features an Episcopal congregation in Santa Monica, CA (Diocese of Los Angeles) that meets at a laundromat once a month to do laundry with the homeless. The goal of #washday15 is to engage people in a Lenten practice, culminating on Holy Thursday, the traditional day for foot washing.

"#Washday15 is all about loving service to others, an ancient Lenten discipline like fasting and prayer that could not be more relevant to the soul of the Church today," noted Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  "In loving service to others, we experience a kind of repentance and conversion - a pivot to a new manner of being - that prepares us to walk in the abundant life of Easter."

According to the website: "#washday15 is a way of encouraging people to make a difference to their communities this Lent through some kind of washing-related activity. The washing element is a way of re-enacting Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet at the Last Supper."

"Wash something with someone and make a difference in their day-to-day life or in your  community. Then share your photos, tweets and posts." noted Anne Rudig, Director of Communication. "#washday15, like Laundry Love, is modern-day foot washing."

For more info contact Rudig at