Pilgrimage to Historically
Black Parishes

When studying the history of The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, it is crucial to note that for much of our history, churches were not welcoming to communities of color. 

 

Though we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being,” in our Baptismal Covenant, one look at the history of the Church paints an alternate narrative, one of separation, oppression, and discrimination. For years, communities of color were forced out of white churches, forced to find their own means of worship. Yet nevertheless, they continued forward, establishing their own churches where their communities were connected, their identities celebrated.

 

This project is a recognition and a celebration of the Historically Black Churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. While some buildings are still standing and others not, this project aims to focus on the people that occupied them and the stories they have to share. 

 

Oral storytelling has long been an important part of African-American culture. Long before slaves were brought to the New World, oral storytelling was a part of common life in many parts of Africa. Stories were often sung together, repeated over and over again by the community from memory. This generational memory continues on today, as many African-American communities are centered on oral storytelling, often accompanied by music. One only has to step foot in a historically black parish to hear the complexities of oral storytelling as it continues to exist today. 

 

In keeping with this tradition, our intention with this project is to not only give space to the stories of these parishes too long overlooked by the wider church, but also to promote listening and understanding amongst all communities. For each historically black parish in the diocese, you will find a listening section sharing not only the background of the parish, but also the voices of those who called it home. Whether you are experiencing this pilgrimage out in the world or in the comfort of your own space, we invite you to sit and truly listen to the voices sharing their stories and resonate on the significance of their experiences.

 

As a diocese, we acknowledge the ways in which we have fallen short, but we also aim to continue moving forward. As we continue to develop this project we are dedicated to the work of Becoming Beloved Community through listening and sharing with one another.