From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Three North Carolina dioceses celebrate contributions of historic

From John Rollins <>
Date 26 Oct 1998 20:29:33


Three North Carolina dioceses celebrate contributions of historic

by E. T. Malone Jr.
(ENS) Bishops of the three North Carolina Episcopal dioceses
and a packed congregation of 625 gathered in Chapel Hill to
celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the Chapel
of the Cross, a 20th-century leader in the arena of peace, justice,
and racial cooperation.

 "This has been a place where a clear experience of the
Christian faith was not seen in any way as being in conflict with
the rigorous search for truth," said Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee,
a former rector of the parish, who preached for the commemorative
evening prayer service.

 Located on the edge of the University of North Carolina
campus, the church served generations of North Carolina Episcopal
students during the years when the entire state was included in
one diocese. After the formation of East Carolina Diocese in 1883
and the Diocese of Western North Carolina in 1922, their bishops
continued until sometime in the 1950s to make regular visitations
to confirm the large number of their students at the university.

 "What we mark today is a heritage of breaking down barriers
in the name of Christ," said Lee. He noted that the Rev. Alfred
Lawrence, who became rector in 1921, stood against the biblical
fundamentalism of the day. A later rector, the Rev. David Yates,
was a pacifist during World War II and at the 1949 General
Convention proposed including a prayer for our enemies in the Book
of Common Prayer, a provision finally enacted in the 1979 edition.
The Rev. Thomas Thrasher, the only white clergyman in
Montgomery, Ala., to support the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. lost
his job there and was called as rector to the Chapel of the Cross
in the 1960s. In the late 1970s the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, first
black woman ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, celebrated
her first Eucharist in the old Chapel of the Cross, where her
grandmother had sat in the balcony as a slave. Murray read the
lesson that day, said Lee, from a tattered Bible given to her by
her grandmother.

Partnership with black church
Today, the church has a sister parish relationship with St.
Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, a black congregation, and
Sunday morning as part of the day-long celebration a human chain
stretched from the altar of the old chapel to the pulpit of St.
Paul's. Called "Faith on Franklin Street," the event included
members from Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, and Methodist
churches as well, who canceled their Sunday school classes and
joined hands in a chain numbering well over 1,000 people.

 Lee challenged the people of the Chapel of the Cross to move
into the future with integrity, imagination, and inclusivity.

 Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Robert C. Johnson Jr. said,
"It's a rare occasion when all three bishops of all three dioceses
in the state come together for an event. We bring you prayers and
congratulations from all the Episcopalians of North Carolina." All
of the North Carolina bishops have ties to the Chapel of the
Cross. Robert C. Johnson Jr. was ordained there to the priesthood
in 1965. Diocese of Western North Carolina Bishop Robert H.
Johnson's son received an M.B.A. degree from the University, and
Bishop Clifton Daniel 3rd of East Carolina graduated from the
University of North Carolina.

 "As a student, when I went to church, this is where I went
to church," quipped Daniel. Not to be outdone, Bishop Bob Johnson
of Raleigh (known in the House of Bishops as "Low Bob" to
distinguish him from Bishop "High Bob" Johnson of mountainous
Western North Carolina) replied, "I'm just glad to be celebrating
something older than I am."

To end the service, the congregation flowed out of the "new"
Chapel of the Cross, a large, stone building built in the 1920s
and joined to the old chapel by a cloister. Hundreds of people
held lighted candles as the bishops stood together on the steps of
the venerable Gothic church and read concluding prayers of
rededication. Then nine members of the Meyer family, parishioners
for three generations, rang the chapel bell 150 times.

-- Ted Malone is director of communications for the Diocese of
North Carolina.

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