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T Grayson Dashiell

T Grayson Dashiell

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Published by TheLivingChurchdocs
The Rev. T. Grayson Dashiell’s election as secretary of the Diocese of Virginia on May 20, 1863, would seem uneventful except for two facts: the diocese was part of the Episcopal Church of the Confederate States of America, and Dashiell served his diocese faithfully for the next 29 years. Probably no one else in the history of the Virginia diocese served the church in as many critical positions as Dashiell did over his career.
The Rev. T. Grayson Dashiell’s election as secretary of the Diocese of Virginia on May 20, 1863, would seem uneventful except for two facts: the diocese was part of the Episcopal Church of the Confederate States of America, and Dashiell served his diocese faithfully for the next 29 years. Probably no one else in the history of the Virginia diocese served the church in as many critical positions as Dashiell did over his career.

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Published by: TheLivingChurchdocs on Jan 13, 2012
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 Virginia Theological Seminary Archives photo
By Worth E. Norman, Jr.
he Rev. T. Grayson Dashiell’s election as secretary of the Diocese of Virginia on May 20, 1863, would seemuneventful except for two facts: the diocese was part of the Episcopal Church of the Confederate States of Amer-ica,and Dashiell served his diocese faithfully for the next29 years.Probably no one else in the history of the Virginia dio-cese servedthechurch in as many critical positions asDashielldid over his career.Dashiell’s long tenure sug-gests that Virginia Episcopalians recognized his superiorability to take care of details while expressing a faithfulchurchmanship. Dashiell served as secretaryfortwobishops: the Rt. Revs. John Johns (1862-76) and FrancisMcNeese Whittle (1876-1902).Dashiell’s name first appears in the diocesan journal of 1856, which does notmention his parochial assignment.Most likely he was assigned as an assistant minister at St. James’s Church in Richmond. In 1866 St. James’sformedSt. Mark’s Church as a mission plant and Dashiell becameits first rector. In the parochial reports for 1866 Dashiellreported no church revenues for St. Mark’s because it wasin formation. At the 1862 annual convention before he was electedsecretary,
replaced the name
on amotion by Mr. Dashiell. This namechange mirrored a similar changeadopted by the initial triennial council of the Protestant Episcopal Church in theConfederate States of America. The dio-cese for almost four years was integral tothe temporary national confederatechurch. The Rt. Rev. William Meade(1841-62)of Virginia was the senior and presiding bishopof the confederate church until his death in 1862.One of Dashiell’s significant documentary contribu-tions was “A Digest of the Proceedings of the Conventionsand Councils in the Diocese of Virginia,” from 1876to1881. Dashiell’s introductory pages provide his perspec-tive on the history of the “Church in Virginia.”In thefirstchapters he wrote an impassioned defense of the post-Revolution Episcopal Church against charges that it was part of the colonial Virginia government and exercisedextra ecclesiastical or legal and judicial control of its people.Leaders of other denominations, within decades afterthe Revolution, went to court and had glebes and prop-erties of Virginia’s Episcopal churches confiscated orauctioned off, the justification being that they were“stolen” from the people during colonial days. Dashiellcountered those arguments and legal actions with factswidely known and accepted: that the leaders of the Amer-ican Revolution, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others, were not enemiesof the people. They were all Episcopalians — indeed,
Vir- ginia
Episcopalians. As secretary of the annual conventions/councilsDashiell was responsible for the publication of theirundertakings. The signs of the times are expressed in theminutes of the annual councils. For example, Bishop John Johns in his address to the 1862 convention men-tioned that on May 24, 1861,the Federal troops had taken possession of the City of Alexandria and he and his fam-ily had to flee their home. The 1861 diocesan conventionwasto take place in Alexandria inMay but was changedto Richmond because of the unsettled condition of thecountry. That turned out to be a prescient change.The 1862 journal also mentions a completed project of the Diocese of Virginia’s Domestic Missionary Society:building a home for St. Philip’s African Church in Rich-mond. According to journal records, Bishop Johns hadgiven much aid to this active congregation and had offi-ciated there for four or more months. The charge nowwould be placed under the Rev. D.F. Sprigg. In the yearsfollowing,the names of Sprigg, Giles Buckner Cooke, A.W. Waddell, and Dashiell would be attached to a majordiocesan effort at promoting education and evangeliza-tion of African Americans in Virginia.In 1865 Dashiell wrote that the “war between the North-ern and Southern sections of the country terminated in April of this year. The lack of transportation facilities, thedestruction of all kinds of property and the consequent poverty and confusion throughout Virginia, prevented ameeting of the Council in May.” Instead, the Council met
T. Grayson Dashiell
Probably no one else in the history of the Virginiadiocese servedthechurch in as many criticalpositions as Dashielldid over his career.
(Continued on next page)
THE LIVING CHURCH • January 29, 2012
at St. Paul’s, Richmond,on September 20. Bishop Johnsreported that the Domestic Missionary Committee of theEpiscopal Church in New York City offered financialassistance to the diocese, but while stating its gratitude,the diocese refused the offer.This was also the Council that structured the dioceseinto convocations, and it adopted a paper encouraging thereligious instruction of “colored” people. All clergy andlaity were called upon to “engage with renewed effort inevery available means that would contribute to their well-being.” In 1866 the council created the Standing Com-mittee on Colored Congregations, to assist colored mem-bers of the church who wanted to form new and separatecongregations.Dashiell was elected to this committee andwas probably its most active member for many years. According to the Rev. George Freeman Bragg, Jr., his-toriographer of the Afro-American Group within the Epis-copal Church, there “were more colored communicants,and colored clergy in the State of Virginia,than in any of the other dioceses of the [Episcopal] Church.” Braggwrote that the 1869 council acknowl-edged the formation of St. Stephen’sChurch in Petersburg. Dashiell himself noted annually the progress of St.Stephen’s to the council and com-mended the work of its white rector,the Rev. Giles B. Cooke, a former con-federate major on Gen.Robert E. Lee’sstaff.Cooke, Waddell, Dashiell, and theCommittee on Colored Congregationsworked diligently over the years toassist the development of African American communities within the dio-cese. At the 1867 council the Com-mittee on Colored Congregations and Dashiell reportedthat progress, though reasonable and steady, was slow.The size of the diocese was huge. At that time the dio-cese still consisted of the communicants in the newstate of West Virginia. But the highest density of its col-ored population was in central and southeastern Vir-ginia. Richmond had the most difficult task because thearea was “almost wholly preoccupied by other denom-inations” and postbellumpolitical excitement washigher there than anywhere else, meaning that it was dif-ficult to plant Episcopal churches. Still, one separateblack congregation was worshiping in its own building.In Norfolk four white and five black teachers workedseveral Episcopal day schools with 450 scholars.Petersburg was an entirely different story.In the sum-mer of 1865 a Sunday school was opened and grew rap-idly to 300students. Another school had to be opened tohandle the growth of students— former slaves eager toacquire an education and to learn the gospel. The rollssoon grew to more than 450. The St. Stephen’s Churchschool would eventually become the central location forcontinuing education of black laity and clergy.By 1870another phenomenon was taking place in the Southsidecounties of Virginia.Race relations turned sour as Congressional Recon-struction in the South met with resistance from whites. Although Virginia escaped official Reconstruction,itseffects from throughout the rest of the South werenonetheless present. African Americanmembers of whitechurches, particularly in Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, andBrunswick counties, were more or less thrown out of their congregations.In Boydton, a group of Methodists found themselveswithout their old church and were left on their own. Aminister from the African Methodist Epis-copal Zion Church named James R. How-ell came to Boydton and helped the dis- placed worshipers form a newdenomination known as the Zion Union Apostolic Church. This historical versionis documented by the U.S. Bureau of theCensus account of churches in the South(1909). Another historical account,according to theology professor EstreldaY. Alexander of Regent Seminary in Vir-ginia Beach, identified Howell as an elderofthe African Methodist EpiscopalChurch who movedfrom the Tidewaterarea to Boydton. In either case the situa-tion of the displaced congregations was the same.The Zion Unions spread quickly throughout the South-side of Virginia and the adjoining North Carolina counties. A few miles south of Lawrenceville in Brunswick Countya new Zion Union church was built near the farm of Mr.and Mrs. F.E. Buford. Mrs. Buford, also known legendar-ily as Miss Pattie Buford, had her own Sunday schoolclass on her father’s plantation during the period of slav-ery. Whatever her reasons, Miss Pattie confronted theZion Unions, saying their worship services were loud.She also learned of their anti-white theology, mostly bytheirleader,James R. Howell. She offered to teach ZionUnion children and adults; her offer was accepted. A
T. Grayson Dashiell
(Continued from previous page)
This was alsothe Council thatstructured the dioceseinto convocations,and it adopteda paper encouragingthe religiousinstruction of“colored” people.

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