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Richmond's St. Paul's Episcopal Church Seeks to Become "Cathedral of Reconciliation"

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Known for years as the Church of the Confederacy, St Paul’s Episcopal Church is just across the street from Capitol Square in Richmond. But the church has announced steps this week to remove certain images of the Confederate Flag from inside the sanctuary – it’s part of an effort at racial reconciliation.

The church is steeped in Confederate history. Jefferson Davis sat in these pews, so did Robert E. Lee. There are plaques here for each of them, I’m standing in front of one that says “To the Glory of God, in grateful memory of Robert Edward Lee.” It features a Confederate battle flag, and just across the church is another one with 3 Confederate battle flags to Jefferson Davis.

These plaques will soon be removed and placed elsewhere in an exhibit.

But, all along the walls of the church are stained glass windows depicting Lee and Davis as biblical figures. These windows won’t be removed or changed.

The church held a series of conversations among the congregation beginning in August, the notes from which show a clear struggle to find balance between past and present.

In a statement, church leadership says they hope to build a memorial to honor slaves who were members of the church, and that perhaps instead of being known as the “Church of the Confederacy,” they could someday become known as the “Cathedral of Reconciliation.” 

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Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief. She's covered policy and politics from the state capital since 2016. She was a 2020-2021 recipient of the Fulbright Young Journalist Award. She spent a year in Munich, Germany researching memory, justice, and how a society can collectively confront its sins. Her Virginia-based coverage of home healthcare workers, voting rights, and Richmond’s Slave Trail have won national news awards.
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