RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia church known as the “Cathedral of the Confederacy” has removed needlepoint kneelers and retired its coat of arms, as it sheds some images from the sanctuary that reflect its historic ties to the Confederacy.
Leaders of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located in Richmond in the shadow of the Virginia state Capitol, announced the changes Sunday to worshippers after months of discussion, the Richmond Times-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1XnSppV) reported Tuesday.
In response to those conversations, the church “voted overwhelmingly to embark on a new journey of racial reconciliation,” church leaders said in a statement.
Besides the removal of many remnants of its Confederate past, church leaders said they also hope to erect a memorial to honor slaves in Richmond, once a center for the South’s slave trade.
The changes are coming five months after the killing of nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, which has sparked a Southern discussion about the symbols of the Confederacy. Following the shootings, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution urging its churches nationwide to remove any Confederate battle flags.
St. Paul’s has not flown the Confederate flag since the 1960s.
But elsewhere — from its stained-glass windows to plaques — reminders of the church’s ties to the Confederacy abound. Two plaques on opposite walls honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate President Jefferson Davis will be removed and placed in an exhibit.
Windows depicting Lee and Davis as biblical characters will remain untouched.
Lee and his wife attended services throughout the Civil War at St. Paul’s, which was founded in the early 1800s. Davis became a member in 1862.
It was at St. Paul’s that Davis received the message that Lee was forced to withdraw from Petersburg and could no longer defend Richmond, sparking an evacuation of the city — the Confederate capital. A small plaque marks where Davis sat that day, and it will remain.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: http://www.stpaulsrva.org/
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com