On Thursday, April 24, 2008 I had the honor and privilege of speaking at Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church as part of their Adult Ministry's Community Lecture Series. This 90-minute talk revolved around the experiences of local Secessionists, Unionists and the African-Americans at Fredericksburg Baptist Church, Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), St. George's Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg Presbyterian Church and Fredericksburg United Methodist Church. Each of these, citizens and soldiers, Northern and Southern, black and white, were able to survive the darkest of times in our nation's history to become the faithful congregations that still exist today.

Excerpts from this lecture are below:

Stories Of Religion, Racism, Rebellion And Reconstruction


Thank you Alan for that wonderful introduction. Good evening folks. Thank you all for coming tonight. I want to quickly thank the members of the Adult Ministry here at SPC, for the invitation to speak, as well as their wonderful event coordination and promotion. From the beautiful posters and flyers to the timely newspaper and internet ads, I never had PR as good as this.

It is certainly a privilege to have an opportunity to speak to you tonight. I have been very fortunate in my career as I get the opportunity to lecture to various history and heritage groups all over the great state of Virginia, but it is always an extra special occasion when I get to talk at my own church. I see a lot of familiar faces out there as well as many new ones. Welcome all.

Tonight, I will be discussing the storied histories of Fredericksburg's landmark houses of worship. Before I get into the churches themselves, I did want to give you a little background on this project and the book that instigated this lecture...

Those who are familiar with my work know that I publish material in both the Christian and secular genres. And as my first 3 books were all religious in nature, this upcoming title 'Houses of the Holy' will be my first secular title, or straight history as some call it. This book was a wonderfully challenging piece for me that stretched my abilities as an author - a researcher - and as a historian.

Back in the spring of 2007, I was contacted by one of the commissioning agents from The History Press, which is a wonderful publisher that is based out of Charleston S.C.. THP specializes in regional titles and they offered me a contract with an option of selecting my own subject matter. As my work is often faith-based, or focused on the roles of religion during the war, churches seemed like a good choice.

Well, it turned out to be a great choice, but also one of the most challenging of my career. I was very fortunate, that my friends at the National Park Service opened their archives to me and after spending a few days up at Chatham Manor digging through dusty bound volumes and folders, I was able to assemble a large pile of primary source materials.

Adding to this blessing was the congregational historians and committees from the churches themselves. Each had representatives who were kind enough to meet with me. Through their generosity, I was also able to get some nice secondary sources to accent the piece. Frankly, I have enough material to write 3 books and a handful of articles on this subject. I also acquired materials for the Spotsylvania churches too.

What struck me as I worked on this manuscript was how much I didn't know about Fredericksburg during the War Between the States from a civilian perspective. I had studied the battles and the soldiers. I was familiar with the political and military aspects of the town and its place in the Civil War. However, I didn't know the points of view from the people. This project actually pushed me to look in places that I had never been.

Some of them were dark places. I even had to go back and rework much of the piece at the suggestion of the real experts from the National Park Service, who felt I was too optimistic and soft on race-relations and the complex issue of slavery. The result was a much stronger narrative that I and my publisher are very proud of.

Unfortunately, this book will not be released for at least another 10 weeks. The timing just didn't work out right, so tonight I will be signing copies of my last release 'The Southern Cross,' which is a Civil War devotional with 50 inspirational stories from the Civil War. I also have handouts available with info on the church book.

Tonight I will be reading from passages in the book, which will be approx. 200 pages with over 70 period photographs. Please remember too that I will be doing signings in the area along with some radio and TV, so please keep an eye out for that one. I will also give out my website address at the end of my talk tonight. There I post updates and links on everything I do. I am also hoping to take this project to the next level and develop a walking tour of these churches titled "Footsteps in Faith Under Fire."

So without further ado, let's begin. I present to you, the historic churches of Fredericksburg.