Jamestown's 400th year: Episcopal Church joins observances; April 26 First Landing event nears

Information, resources at episcopalchurch.org/400years
April 1, 2007

The Episcopal Church will join the months-long observance of the 400th anniversary of North America's first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. The commemoration officially begins April 26 with the marking of the English settlers' first landing at what is now Virginia Beach.

The Episcopal Church traces the heritage of its first congregation to Jamestown, and many churchwide groups -- together with the dioceses in Virginia and West Virginia -- are commemorating the historical event with conferences and gatherings.

The 400th anniversary of the First Landing will be marked on April 26 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a re-enactment of the ships' arrival. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will attend this event, which corresponds with the annual conference of the Episcopal Communicators in Virginia Beach.

The Presiding Bishop will also join a June 24 Jamestown assembly of Episcopalians from the dioceses of Virginia, Southern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, and West Virginia to celebrate the church's ministry, history and movement into its fifth century in the region.

"Legacies and Promise: 400 Years of Episcopal History," sponsored by the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, National Episcopal Historians and Archivists, and the Episcopal Women's History Project, will be held June 24-27 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"Our Church Lives" is the theme of this year's conference of the National Network of Episcopal Clergy Association (NNECA), June 25-27 in Williamsburg. Keynote speakers will include the Presiding Bishop.

Other event highlights include the announced visit by Queen Elizabeth II to Jamestown in May.

The Episcopal Church's Office of Native American Ministries is sponsoring an All Saints' Day Commemorative Service at the Historical Jamestown Memorial Church on Thursday, November 1. The observance continues on Friday and Saturday with a symposium on Remembrance, Recognition and Reconciliation.

Episcopal Life/Episcopal News Service produced a comprehensive four-part series of bulletin inserts with insights into the history and background into the life and ministry of those who established Anglican churches and worship on these shores. Topics are: Episcopalians will mark 400-year milestone in New Year; Jamestown and Its Church: A Nation's First Parish; The Colonial Period: Tracing Native American Perspectives; Virginia and Its Dioceses.

For reference, listings and links, visit http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/topics/jamestown.

A brief history
On December 19, 1606, the Virginia Company of London, formed by charter of King James I, dispatched to the New World three ships -- the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery -- for colonization and to find a trade route to Asia.

With 105 aboard, the ships entered Chesapeake Bay and made landfall on April 26, 1607, at a coastal point the settlers named Cape Henry, near what is now Virginia Beach.

This "First Landing" is memorialized by a stone cross at Cape Henry, now a centerpiece of the surrounding First Landing State Park. The monument commemorates the site where, upon their safe arrival, the settlers erected a wooden cross.

Among the settlers was Robert Hunt (1568-1608), priest of the Church of England, from which the Episcopal Church is descended. It was under his leadership that the group offered its first prayer services in the New World, notably on May 13, 1607, when the settlers reached the point they would call "Jamestowne," the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

At Jamestown the settlers later built a church, but for their first service they suspended "an old saile" between several trees to shelter the congregation, and are said to have fashioned a communion rail by affixing a sapling to two trees. There, Hunt conducted the prayer service, likely from the 1604 Book of Common Prayer. He later led the first service of Holy Communion, in June 1607, on the third Sunday after Trinity Sunday.

The region's spiritual and cultural history also includes the traditions of the indigenous First Nation peoples, whose contributions are documented by local historians and museums and recognized by the Office of Native American Ministries.

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