Church Steps Back in Time to 1789, the Year of U.S. Constitution

1789 worship

By Paul Edelman

On this coming Sunday July 2nd at 10:30 a.m., St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Belton on Holmes and 168th St. will be holding a truly unique throwback service.  Father Evan Ash will preside over a service hearkening back to 1789 in remembrance of America’s early days and the upcoming 4th of July. All interested parties are welcome to catch a glimpse into how Founding Fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, would have worshiped in their time.  With  music and décor from the period, St. Mary Magdalene and Fr. Ash aim to bring attendees to the inaugural year of the U.S. Constitution.  

 prayer bookThe reenactment and service will be specifically focused on early Episcopalian practices.  Fr. Ash explained that, especially at the time, the Episcopalian Church reigned supreme among American sects, boasting most of the Founding Fathers among its adherents.  Noting the Episcopalian Church’s origin in the ‘Church of England’ or Anglicanism, he explained that the American Revolution caused quite the schism between the American and British branches of Anglicanism, thus creating Episcopalism.  

With a background in historical reenactment, Fr. Ash hatched the idea for this 18th Century service to absorb churchgoers into this period of the nascent American church.   He had specifically drawn inspiration from American general and president George Washington’s congregation at Fairfax Parish in Alexandria, Virginia.  Event attendees will learn the manner Episcopalians specifically, and Christians generally, worshiped in early America.  

St. Mary Magdalene
St. Mary Magdalene’s, 163rd & Holmes 

As church services in every American sect were quite different in the republic’s early days compared to modern churches, much will change for those mainly familiar with current liturgical traditions.  Of his role, Fr. Ash said, “I will be donning a contemporary raiment,” while taking a predominant role in the reenactment. He explained that in older times, the priest even more so controlled the direction of the service.  

Also, aided by their church organ, St. Mary Magdalene will solely play music pieces from the period or before.  With composers like Georg Handel sounding through the church, the atmosphere will feel like one is transported back to 1789.  Along with the music and clothing, Fr. Ash said the church’s décor and organization will also recall early American traditions.  

When asked what he hopes people learn and understand from coming to the July 2nd event, Fr. E Ash said “I hope they get the message that the way we Americans worship has changed, but not the spirit. And that spirit connects us to our Founding Fathers.”

For any looking to celebrate the 4th of July by gaining a sense of how the US Founding Fathers would have celebrated their own Episcopalian services, come to St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church on July 2nd at 10:30 a.m. for a Sunday observance of Independence Day.

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