The Virginia Theological Seminary will partner with the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia to bring a service of “lament, reconciliation and commitment” in remembrance of African Americans who suffered under slavery in Virginia.

The event, called the Pilgrimage for Racial Justice, will be held on Saturday, Aug. 17, at St. Thomas Church in Abingdon, Virginia, with refreshments served at 5:30 p.m. and a service beginning at 6:30 p.m. The program will feature remarks by Ron Carson, founder of the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap and a member of the federal commission coordinating 400th anniversary events to remember the arrival of African slaves in America. Joseph Green Jr., also on the federal commission and a pastor, will present a homily, and the Eucharist will be celebrated by the Right Rev. Mark Bourlakas, bishop of the southwestern Virginia diocese.

“As we approach the anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in Virginia,” said Bourlakas, “we want to learn how we can actively grow relationships across dividing walls and seek Christ in the other. How can we repair the breach to build what [Episcopal Presiding] Bishop [Michael] Curry calls the ‘beloved community’? We are determined to find out and to proceed toward that goal.”

More events in the pilgrimage series are scheduled in Alexandria, Staunton, Roanoke and Radford.

Rev. Boyd Evans, the rector of St. Thomas, explained that “Abingdon was a significant landmark along the primary route of slave migration from the upper South to the deep South. … The first step in healing from any trauma is the recognition that such a trauma has been committed and suffered, and the pilgrimage will be a first step in that process.”

“The sin of institutionalized racism plagues our country and wounds God’s children,” said Bourlakas. “We will be employing this pilgrimage to continue directing attention to the pressing need for truth-telling about this country’s history of injustice.”

For more information, contact Evans at 865-705-8813 or email at

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