Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 05, 2012

Jamestown’s Old Brick Church: A Study in Religious Firsts

If the failed French settlement of La Caroline constituted the birth-pangs of Protestantism in America, then the successful English settlement signaled its birth. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World and as such was the first colony to uphold Protestant doctrines. Were it not for Jamestown and subsequent English rule of America, it is very unlikely that foreign Protestants (in many cases, our ancestors) would have been allowed to settle here. 

Quite awhile ago, I visited “Olde Jamestowne,” Virginia. Being a history buff, I was enthralled even by the brick foundations and by the monuments scattered here and there. I loved the old brick church most of all. This Jamestown Church is a reconstruction, but the tall, foreboding tower, an original, dates to about 1647. (I did not even realize the tower’s history when I walked through its cavernous entrance, so I could not properly appreciate that I was passing through about 360 years of history!) I was touched by the church’s quiet and holy ambiance. 

Jamestown Church seen from the main path

The original church at “James Towne” was not a church at all but was rather a canvas tied within a clump of trees. When a church was constructed, Captain John Smith likened it to a barn and called it “homely.” Another church was built in the 1610s. It was wooden, with a stone base. Yet another church rose in the mid-1600s and was magnificently finished in brick. When it fell, many years later, a reconstruction was built. That is the church we see today.

Inside, Jamestown Church is cozy, with the wall opposite the entrance covered in lattice-glassed arched windows. Some interesting features are: (1) A glass floor cover along the edge of the church that protects the original foundation, which visitors can still see, and (2) the tomb of a knight. A real knight. Not, of course, the sort of knight that wore full medieval armor and charged along on the Crusades, but a man who died in 1627. His name was Sir George Yeardley. He had lived at Jamestown many years and had even been elected Governor of Virginia Colony at one point.

Inside the old brick church

Jamestown Church is a marvelous example of America’s Protestant history. It could easily be said that it is the first Protestant church in the nation, for it is doubtful that the Huguenots of La Caroline, whose colony was founded in June 1564 and destroyed in September 1565, would have had time to construct a permanent church building. If they did, it has been lost to time. This would be a great place for a “Protestant pilgrimage” for those whose faiths follow the Reformation. It was as a direct result of England adopting the Reform that these Protestant men and women settled at Jamestown and provided an alternative to the New World monopoly of Spanish Catholicism.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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