Land-blessing vigil to be held by church members, archaeologists before excavation begins at historic Williamsburg church site

Posted at 7:43 AM, Sep 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-06 07:49:21-04

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Archaeologists and church members from the First Baptist Church are getting ready to find answers surrounding the original church that stood on a piece of land starting roughly 200 years ago.

Archaeologists will excavate the land to try to find that history but before they start, the church members will hold a vigil to “bless” the land.

It was on that land where free and enslaved African-Americans gathered to pray and worship. The original church stood there for about 150 years before moving to its current location on Scotland Street in 1957.

It is a history that Connie Harshaw, president of the organization Let Freedom Ring, said should not be forgotten.

“It is the beginning of what we hope will be the telling of a whole story, not just in Williamsburg or the state of Virginia but also all over the nation,” she told News 3.

Harshaw is also a member of the First Baptist Church. In a previous interview with News 3 she said she drove past the location and noticed the plaque that stood next to the land that commemorates the church. She said she wanted to learn more about the history.

Now with a team of archaeologists helping them, they will dig to uncover that history hidden beneath the land. The excavation is expected to begin after Labor Day.

The blessing vigil will help kick off the project that is expected to last several weeks. As to what people can expect, Harshaw said, “We will be joined by leaders in the faith community in Williamsburg and James City County. We have an African-American composer who is working with the Williamsburg Symphony who is composing a piece just for this occasion. We have Henry Hart, the Virginia State poet laureate, who has written a poem dedicated to the founders of First Baptist."

This vigil is open to the public and begins Sunday evening at 5 p.m. in front of the land. The land is located on Nassau Street in Williamsburg, just north of Francis Street.

The organizers remind those that attend to adhere to the COVID-19 mandates, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. The vigil is an outdoor event with seats separated apart.