Friday, January 31, 2014

Charleston Photo in Place of a Cocktail

Like everyone else in Charleston, I've been running around documenting Winter's rare appearance in the city that we love. As long as you keep your eyes on a building's north side, you're still in luck... Just check out the drifts at St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church on Anson Street!

Charleston Photo in Place of a Cocktail - Anson Street

Of course, this wasn't always a Reformed Episcopalian church, you know. The building started life as a Presbyterian.

Fun family story below!

John Bailey Adger was a great-great-nephew by marriage of the original James Jacks, and a Presbyterian missionary to Armenia. However! When his wife, Elizabeth Keith Shrewsbury, received slaves in an inheritance, he ran up against a policy of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions which forbade slaveowners to serve as missionaries.

Apparently J. B. felt more of a calling to be a slaveowner than a calling to the mission field, because the Adgers did not emancipate their slaves. Instead, they chose to keep their fellow human beings in chattel slavery, and J. B. decided to devote himself to establishing a Presbyterian church to preach to the slaves of Charleston.

And, no, before you ask, the slaves of Charleston were not consulted.

The Charleston Presbytery built the church at 93 Anson Street, and it was dedicated on Sunday, May 26, 1850. Of course, as J. B. noted in My Life and Times, "the congregation that assembled to take part in the dedication of the house to the worship of God by negroes, was composed exclusively of white people.

And, no, before you ask, non-white people were not consulted about this arrangement. 

Anyway! J. B. preached to enslaved Charlestonians at Anson Street for another year or so (fun fact: in 1850, six people were held in slavery by the Reverend J. B. Adger while he served as minister of the church) before moving on to his eventual professorship at Columbia Theological Seminary.

The building later became a Catholic church, and then the Reformed Episcopal church that it is today.

1 comment:

  1. These are foolish and judgmental comments about a man who risked a great deal by teaching the slaves of Charleston 150 years ago to read - a serious crime in those days. The author needs to make an effort to learn more about J. B. Adger's "Life and Times".