Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review: The Circular Church

My most recent completed book is The Circular Church: Three Centuries of Charleston History, by Joanne Calhoun, one of the members of the church I attend. The church truly has experienced a lot in its lifetime. It was begun in 1681, and has been housed in four different buildings, which have at various times been decimated due to:

-The Revolutionary War
-The Civil War
- a fire that was pretty much Charleston's equivalent of the Great Chicago Fire
-a major earthquake in the mid-1800s.

The church has always been the equivalent of a "liberal church" throughout the various eras it has been functioning in. While most of its members were slaveowners, slavery was an issue they constantly struggled with. They were the first church that allowed blacks into their services in slave days, and black churchmembers were given a great deal of responsibility within church operations compared to others in the day. It is even speculated that at least one minister may have been involved in helping slaves to read, which of course was a big issue of the day. Several other churches in the area are splits from Circular, including the local French Hugenot church and the Unitarian church(there is actually still a lot of interaction between my church and the Unitarian church today - the current minister at the Unitarian church is a member of Circular, and the former Unitarian minister has visited Circular on occasion since his resignation). During the Civil Rights movement, they were one of the first(if not the first) church to openly invite blacks to visit the church, when other churches were actually posting guards at the doors to keep blacks out. Today, they advertise their welcoming attitudes towards LGBTs as part of the UCC's "Open and Affirming" campaign, and have a "green" addition to Lance Hall(their "Sunday School" building, which was built to house the  congregation during one of the renovations made to a previous churchbuilding) which is one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the South(if I remember correctly), and was made by one of the top eco-friendly  architects in the country.

Overall, a good read about a good church, which also gives a lot of insight into the local history of one of the oldest cities in the country.

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