Avenues of Faith
Shaping the Urban Religious Culture of Richmond, Virginia, 1900-1929
Publication Year: 2001
Avenues of Faith documents how religion flourished in southern cities after the turn of the century and how a cadre of clergy and laity created a notably progressive religious culture in Richmond, the bastion of the Old South. Famous as the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond emerges as a dynamic and growing industrial city invigorated by the social activism of its Protestants.
By examining six mainline white denominations-Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, and Lutherans-Samuel C. Shepherd Jr. emphasizes the extent to which the city fostered religious diversity, even as "blind spots" remained in regard to Catholics, African Americans, Mormons, and Jews. Shepherd explores such topics as evangelism, interdenominational cooperation, the temperance campaign, the Sunday school movement, the international peace initiatives, and the expanding role of lay people of both sexes. He also notes the community's widespread rejection of fundamentalism, a religious phenomenon almost automatically associated with the South, and shows how it nurtured social reform to combat a host of urban problems associated with public health, education, housing, women's suffrage, prohibition, children, and prisons.
In lucid prose and with excellent use of primary sources, Shepherd delivers a fresh portrait of Richmond Protestants who embraced change and transformed their community, making it an active, progressive religious center of the New South.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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My initial visits to Richmond occurred during boyhood trips to my aunt’s house on the city’s Southside and during family treks through town en route to my grandparents’ farm in North Carolina. A native of Northern Virginia, I was fascinated by Richmond. As our car traversed the narrow “nickel bridge,” I gazed downward, impressed by the surging currents...
1. The Urban Challenge
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Dotting the landscape of modern Richmond, Virginia, venerable churches stand as monuments to the city’s past. Less conspicuous than the numerous Civil War statues, these gentle edifices make an equally emphatic claim on the city’s heritage and reflect a significant, continuing stream of community and regional culture. Yet only two Richmond churches have...
2. Restless Richmond
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In 1900 a Richmond journalist lamented the loss of the city’s minor league baseball team and traced the cause to falling attendance during the previous three years. “The fact is,” he explained, “that people are too busy to lose one or two afternoons a week, even to devote themselves to the exhilaration that...
3. City Sounds and Joyful Noises
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In 1914 the vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church expressed concerns about “sundry disturbing noises” around the church during services. The vestrymen asked the manager of the nearby Richmond Hotel to suspend playing music during Sunday evening worship services or to relocate such entertainment “to...
4. Mighty Engines of Evangelism
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In 1911 Baptist minister James W. Durham suggested that some congregations expected to attract new members merely by offering “the vocal gymnastics of an operatic choir and the homiletic pyrotechnics of a sky-scraping preacher.” By contrast he praised members of other churches, who “are pulling off their coats, rolling up their sleeves, adapting...
5. Paths of Grace
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In 1909 a Methodist layman lamented, “It is a struggle in the city to keep from moral and spiritual bankruptcy.” For Richmond Protestants that struggle was important. As local churches added members through evangelistic activities, ministers emphasized that becoming a Christian meant more than subscribing to a set of beliefs—it meant...
6. Disarming Dangers [Includes Image Plates]
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On 1 March 1901, eight Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers gathered to create the Richmond Anti-Saloon League. Following another meeting in the home of a Methodist pastor, the group organized the Virginia Anti- Saloon League at a session held in the basement of Second Baptist Church. In January 1902 more than two hundred...
7. “A New Pentecost”
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At the annual meeting of the Virginia Conference of Charities and Correction in December 1913, Richmond’s H. D. C. Maclachlan addressed the gathering about “the church at work in social service.” With striking phrases he advised his listeners “that the Church of the twentieth century stands at the crossroads of a new Pentecost and is...
8. A “Divine Discontent”
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In a 1913 pamphlet The Divine Discontent, Episcopal laywoman Lucy Randolph Mason described discontent as “a real and purifying influence” in religion and referred to “conscientious and deeply spiritual ministers” who called for social reforms. In another pamphlet she expounded on a “spiritual awakening” that impelled people to be...
9. Not Brothers or Sisters
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Speaking to the women’s missionary societies of two large Baptist churches, a laywoman active in the Equal Suffrage League described “the spiritual motive for social service.” “The only lasting reforms must come through religion,” she declared, “a religion which feels that enthusiasm for humanity which makes of us all brothers and sisters of one...
10. “A World Made New”
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Ten days after the United States entered World War I, Walter Russell Bowie spoke from the pulpit at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where Robert E . Lee and Jefferson Davis had worshiped during the Civil War. In a prescient and hopeful sermon titled “A World Made New,” Bowie warned his congregation of the wartime perils of spiritual...
11. The Wrong Place for a Row
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In 1924 Douglas Southall Freeman told a group of laymen that “the Baptists of the South have no Fundamentalist-Modernist row. And the first man who tries to start one ought to be run North of the Potomac River and kept there.” Freeman’s hope proved in vain. Even while Richmond Protestant leaders championed the cause of international...
12 Avenues of Faith
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“Jesus was a city man,” insisted Richmond minister John A. MacLean in November 1929. Observing that people often thought of Jesus “as a man of the country,” MacLean countered that “the fact is He lived and worked largely in the city.” As pastor of Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, MacLean believed that Jesus “is wanted among the bright...
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Publication Year: 2001