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A Presbyterian Church in the Heart of Anglican Virginia



By David T. Myers - Posted at This Day in Presbyterian History:

There is an expression commonly heard yet misunderstood by mostly every citizen today in our land. It is “the separation of church and state.” Most commonly, it is interpreted as American government should not enter into Christian principles and practices ever! In my area, an individual running for office in the county found out that her opponent actually quoted some Scripture in a personal letter. Why, she reasoned in an open letter, this violated his political position, because of the separation of church and state. I trust that the readers of this website understand that when we talk about the separation of church and state, we simply mean, as our forefathers understood, there is no such entity as a state church. And yet while that is true, it was not recognized to be true until 1786 in Virginia, eleven years after the American Revolution.

When Presbyterians entered Virginia, “the Church of England (Anglican) was the official church of the Virginia colony. Overseen by the Bishop of London, the church in Virginia had the royal governor of the colony as its head. The General Assembly passed laws for the ‘suppression of vice’ and set ministers’ salaries, fixed parish boundaries, required attendance at Anglican churches, and restricted secular activities on Sundays. Heads of households paid mandatory church taxes levied by Anglican parish vestries to pay ministers, to build and repair church buildings, and to assist the needy. Anglican churchwardens reported violators of religious laws to country courts for prosecution. Formal services from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer were the rule in parish churches.” (Quotation from the Colonial Williamsburg Sign on the wall of the Presbyterian Meeting House)



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"Our past is an important part of our present church. Presbyterians were already part of Williamsburg before the town became the capital of Virginia in 1699. In 1764, Samuel Davies and others petitioned the government for the right to worship as religious dissenters in Virginia, a colony dominated by the established church. A Presbyterian congregation was registered in Williamsburg in 1765."

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