Remembering our Past, Committing Ourselves to God’s Intended Future

Bishop Susan Goff Offers Prayers on the 400th Anniversary of Arrival of First Africans in Virginia 

This summer history is alive in Virginia as we remember events of 400 years ago.  The Englishmen who inhabited Jamestown and nearby settlements held their first representative legislative assembly on July 30, 1619.  In August of the same year, the first English women arrived to join the men.  Late in the month, Jamestown colonist John Rolfe recorded the arrival of “20 and odd” African men and women.  Historians tells us that these persons were captured by English pirates from a Portuguese slave ship and brought to Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, on a vessel called the White Lion.  They were traded to the colonists for food and supplies. 

As we remember those 20 African people who were stolen from their homes, brought to and sold on the shores of Virginia, let us lament the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade that still haunts us today.  Let us pray for descendants of slaves and of slave owners alike, for all people of our Commonwealth and nation, and for all enslaved persons in our world today.  And let us commit ourselves to working for justice, freedom and peace for all people.

This Sunday afternoon we have the opportunity to participate in the commemoration and commitment in a particular and concrete way.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the National Park Service invite churches across the nation to ring bells for one minute at 3 p.m.  If your church doesn’t have a bell, or if you are unable to be at church at that time, ring whatever bells you have (including bell tones on your mobile device) wherever you are.  Ring bells for remembrance.  Ring bells for hope.  Ring bells for the promise of freedom.  A link to Bishop Curry’s video invitation may be found below, along with links to other resources. 

Let us pray:

God our Governor, great is your name in all the world, great is your presence in this land.  You were here when Native peoples first lived and loved and governed themselves.  You were here when the first Englishmen immigrated to these shores, and when they held their first Legislative Assembly 400 years ago.  You were here that same year when the first English women chose to come and join the men in establishing settled communities, and when the first African people were brought here, in harrowing circumstances, against their will.  You were with our ancestors, men and women of diverse races and cultures, through triumph and adversity, though hope and fear.  In the same way that you were with your people then, be with us now as we remember the relationships and legacies that have shaped us as Americans today.  Forgive us the ways that we have hurt and exploited one another. Give us the courage to do the hard work of real reconciliation.  And bless our continued efforts for justice, freedom and peace for everyone in this land - everyone, without exception. For you are a God who does wonders, and in your name we see wonders.  May it be so.  And may we be partners with you in  making it so.   Amen. 

The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff

Links:

AmericanEvolution2019. Commemorative Events for the weekend of August 23-25 at Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia.

Sermon of the Rev. Dorothy White at A Service of Lament, Reconciliation and Commitment, held at historic St. John’s Church, Richmond, on August 17. 

Call to Worship and a Litany from A Service of Lament, Reconciliation and Commitment.

Bishop Curry’s video invitation to Commemorate the 400th Anniversary . 

Resources for racial reconciliation and justice from The Episcopal Church.