Thursday, May 10, 2018

This 400-year-old Virginia church is older than almost any institution in America

From Southern Virginia-

Long before American independence, before the Pilgrims even landed at Plymouth Rock, there was Martin's Brandon Church.

And now, the Rev. Eve Butler-Gee looks at her flock at the same Martin's Brandon Episcopal Church in amazement. "They're faithful. Every single one of them is engaged and active," she said. But then again, it's no wonder: "They've been doing this for 400 years, and they're not about to stop now."

The church, one of the oldest in the United States that still operates, celebrates its 400th birthday this year. And for many families in the rural congregation, the pink-colored house of worship near the James River has been part of their family stories for a very large portion of that time.

"We've been coming here for seven generations. At least. We don't have any records before the Civil War," said Alecia Redfearn, 31, as the sixth-generation Martin's Brandon mom juggled Caroline, 3, and Bennett, 4 weeks - the seventh generation.

Redfearn spent her childhood here and never left, and she soaked up more than the light streaming in through the stained-glass window that, she can readily point out, is etched with the name of a Titanic survivor. "We live in the history here. That's why I like history so much," she said. "We take the ferry over to Williamsburg. You go by Jamestown. You think, 'This is where America started.' " Today, shaped by that upbringing, she teaches history to students in grades six through 11.

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