Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Acts of Devotion: A Religious Community in American History

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Acts of Devotion: A Religious Community in American History

Article excerpt

Acts of Devotion: A Religious Community in American History. By Jonathan C. Brown. (Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: Social Assessment Press, 2014, Pp. viii, 258. $59.99.)

Few churches in America have a history richer than Zion Episcopal Church in Charles Town, West Virginia. It produced four bishops and a presiding bishop for the ranks of the Episcopal Church. It was the parish of the great grand-nephew of George Washington, Colonel Lewis Washington, who was held prisoner by abolitionist John Brown during his raid of the United States arsenal in Harpers Ferry. It was the also parish of John Yates Beall, one of the most interesting Confederate spies of the Civil War. The pastors of Zion held great status and prominence in Virginia and West Virginia throughout the nineteenth century, and its parishioners were influential in everything from Prohibition and the preservation of slavery to the election of John F. Kennedy and the movement toward the increased involvement of women in the church.

In this tender and thoughtful account of this parish, Jonathan C. Brown weaves together the triumphs and struggles of Zion. Brown argues that Zion has survived for over two hundred years due to the several acts of devotion faithfully committed by seamless generations of Episcopalians whose earnest love of God kept the church from destruction. Zion was established in the early nineteenth century, a period widely regarded as the nadir of the Episcopal Church in America. In a generally unhospitable climate to Episcopalians, Reverend Benjamin Allen, the first rector, was able to cobble together a vibrant community in Jefferson County. The church's early work was largely missionary, and Allen had to travel widely to preach throughout the county. Due to the perseverance of Allen and his successors, Zion became one of the most successful parishes in West Virginia.

Brown emphasizes, in the beginning of his volume, that he is not simply providing a parish history. …

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