Undoubtedly, racial integration was the most difficult issue facing St. Paul's in the late 1950's. Mr. Evans made it clear that his own personal beliefs and his convictions as priest and rector were that the church's responsibility was to work energetically to promote integration. He encouraged and prompted better relations between Trinity Church and St. Paul's, and argued strongly that the closed public schools should be re-opened on an integrated basis as the courts had ordered. When a private foundation wanted to conduct all-white classes in the local churches, Mr. Evans told them that St. Paul's could not be used for such a purpose. After an initial time of confusion, the vestry supported him in that decision. In a letter to the vestry explaining his position, Mr. Evans said, "The church of Christ is not a social club to encourage us in our preconceived prides and prejudices. It is the dispenser of God's truth and light to all who will receive it. It offers to clergy and laity alike a ministry of reconciliation that we may bring others into the family of God. The breakdown of the differences of race, color, and culture was one of the first accomplishments of the followers of Jesus. God did not send his Son into the world to save a select group, but to save all who would received him. We often forget that we are members of a universal church which is extended through time, space and eternity to bind us in God's love with those true Christians who have gone before us, and that we hold a trust for the present and the future, because without us, God's purpose in Christ cannot go forward." Within the parish there were differing reactions. Many agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Evans and joined with him in working for integration within the church and in the community. Others disagreed with what Mr. Evans was doing. Although they were not necessarily opposed to integration, they felt the church and its clergy had no business being actively involved in controversial social issues. They were especially upset when Mr. Evans wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Progress calling for integrated public schools and signed it as the Rector of St. Paul's. A third group, probably a minority, thought that integration itself was wrong and contrary to the Christian faith.
By 1961 Mr. Evans began to believe that for the sake of the parish he should resign. Several issues were causing divisions within the parish and he felt that his resignation might bring the congregation back together. Financial problems were beginning to develop because the new building program created a need for more income just when some parishioners began withdrawing financial support to protest the church's involvement in integration. There was also a division of opinion about the amount of control the parish should have over the university ministry. Some thought it should be a part of the St. Paul's program entirely, while others felt it should have a large degree of independence. There was also some concern because the population of the surrounding community was growing rapidly, but the size of the St. Paul's congregation remained stable.
Although the vestry voted Mr. Evans their unanimous support and many parishioners strongly urged him to stay, he decided that his resignation was a necessary first step in resolving the differences within the parish. In April, 1961, he announced his intention to leave, and in July he went to Worcester, Massachusetts to become associate rector of All Saints Church, where his exceptional ability as a pastoral minister was needed. In the months following Mr. Evans' departure two developments helped bring the congregation back together. The first was a decision to adopt Mr. Evans' son, the Reverend Theodore Evans Jr., as the parish's overseas missioner. "Tad" Evans had grown up in St. Paul's while his father was the Rector, and after college and seminary he had gone to Hong Kong as part of the church's missionary work. Through a new program of the national church which connected local parishes with individual missioners, St. Paul's became Tad's home parish, offering him their prayers and support. In return, Tad, through regular correspondence, kept the parish informed about his work. As a part of that new relationship, that year the women of the church studied the church's overseas missionary work.
The other healing factor was the presence of the Reverend Allan Beckwith, a member of the Seminary faculty, as interim minister. (Mr. Cammack remained on as chaplain and resident minister). Each Sunday Mr. Beckwith drove down from Alexandria to conduct services and lead an adult Bible class. His strong sermons, his sensitive pastoral care, and his interesting classes helped the parish through a very difficult period. In fact, it became a very positive time, especially when Mr. Beckwith assured the congregation that he would serve for as long as it took to find a new rector.
Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 13:23