Greetings, history lover!
I’ve shared some stories of some of my favorite icons of history – now I’d like to share one of my own.
I love history. That’s probably no surprise to you – but it was a surprise to me.
History and I had a pretty average relationship: social studies classes, family trip to colonial Williamsburg, watched a community theatre production of 1776. I liked what I saw, but history was more acquaintance than BFF.
And then I went to Philadelphia.
I went for work, but unlike most places I lived, I also got to be a tourist there.
Independence Hall, Elfreth’s Alley, City Tavern – all the landmarks, original or reconstructed, create their own pockets of early Philadelphia. It’s awesome.
And then I went to church.
Christ Church, the epicenter for the Anglican faith in Philadelphia, stood as it did centuries ago. (Even though the current building is the second building, it does date back to 1738, so, you know, that’ll do.) It has stood for more of Philadelphia’s history than Independence Hall, and can boast about as many impressive facts:
But it also made history very quietly – in what was essentially a board meeting. I had the privilege of reading about it on their microfilm records – dating back over 250 years.
The church Vestry met regularly to discuss matters from money owed for a crypt to building a new satellite church on the south side of town. And in 1776, as matters of Independence were bubbling to the surface, this group of everyday Philadelphians was worried. They worried that their congregants were made up of people for and against independence. And their Book of Common Prayer included prayers for the King. If they kept using those prayers in worship, they could possibly ostracize many of their members.
And in a spirit of inclusion, the Vestry chose to stop including prayers for the King in worship.
Christ Church still has the Book of Common Prayer where the Reverend Jacob Duché crossed out the Prayers to the King! Mind you, Duché would later panic over American independence, write General Washington requesting him to surrender, and then leave the country filled with regret, but still!
And this is what did and still does impress me. Everyday people just trying to get by, working, caring for their families, putting food on the table – amidst handling debts and new buildings –
They made a difference.
In small and large ways. In tangible and intangible amounts.
And much like John Adams stepped aside to let George Washington gain glory as the General of the Continental Army, or guided Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration, I too, try to step aside and let these icons of history stand out for who they are. Imperfect yet impressive.
I hope they bring hope to you and yours, as they have for me. And I hope they show you that differences can be made at any time, by any one.