[Diocese of Maryland] The Episcopal Churches of Maryland commemorated the 150th anniversary of the official abolishment of chattel slavery in Maryland on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1 with the Trail of Souls: Truth and Reconciliation Pilgrimage. This day-long journey visited five Maryland sites with strong ties to both slavery and the Episcopal Church. But this was just the beginning.
An online pilgrimage of 23 churches and diocesan sites found at trailofsouls.org is a virtual tour and living legacy that is destined to grow in scope and participation. The Trail of Souls offers a chance to visit the Episcopal Churches of Maryland and witness them in a new light – looking at the legacy of slavery and the impact it still bears witness to today. As more churches discover and write their history they will be added to the web portal.
It was estimated that more than 500 people took part in the pilgrimage, including those who attended planned programs at each of the sites. More than 200 pilgrims traveled the Trail of Souls on All Saints’ Day.
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, said in his letter welcoming pilgrims on the journey, “we journey together both to remember a painful period in our history and to envision a future free of racism and injustice.”
After a brief service commissioning the pilgrims, two tour buses and a caravan of cars and small vans departed from the Diocesan Center/Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore, and then proceeded to three historic parishes: All Hallows’ Church, Davidsonville; All Saints’ Church, Sunderland; Grace Church, Silver Spring (Episcopal Diocese of Washington); ending at the Claggett Center and Hasselbach Family Cemetery, Buckeystown, Md.
Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton participated in this Day of Repentance and Reconciliation along with Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook, and Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Diocese of Washington.
“The feeling that the Spirit entered into this in ways none of us could have expected — with powerful Truth-telling at our sister parishes and at one moment symbolized in the unforgettable vision of the Bishop with his crozier in his flowing red and white robes with the little band of pilgrims following him up the hill to the gravesite … all caught in a shaft of sunlight with the beautiful russet, gold, and gray tones of the hills in the background. God’s beauty surrounded us,” said Pamela Charshee, a member of the Research and Pilgrimage Working Group for Trail of Souls.
In 2006 General Convention resolution A-123 explicitly acknowledged and regretted the Episcopal Church’s support of the inhuman system of chattel slavery and Bible abuse that was used to justify a sin that dehumanized a people created in the image of God. All dioceses were urged to research ties to the institution of chattel slavery and its impact on congregations then and now. In 2007 this resolution led to the 223rd annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland apologizing “for the Anglican Church in Colonial Maryland and of the Episcopal Church in the state of Maryland for their role in the slavery of African Americans and in the subsequent racial injustice,” via resolution 2007-5.
“We have continued to explore ways in which we can honor the past in ways that restore the dignity of nameless souls who toiled as persons perceived as less than human. Their free labor instituted a way of life that still haunts us in the 21st century. [The Trail of Souls] pilgrimage reconciles us with a painful past, yet we are able to thank God for changes that have occurred as we work for an even brighter tomorrow,” said the Rev. Dr. Angela Shepherd, canon for mission in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Read about the second stop on the tour, All Hallows’ Church, Davidsonville, in this Capital Gazette article.