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South Carolina Episcopalians

(l to r) The Very Rev. Canon J. Michael A. Wright of Grace Church Cathedral, The Venerable Calhoun Walpole, Archdeacon of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and  The Rev. Canon Caleb Lee, also of Grace Cathedral were guests of Canterbury Cathedral this week as the Mother Church of Anglicanism celebrated the life and ministry of our own Bishop William Alexander Guerry.

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July 13, 2018

Canterbury Cathedral Celebrates Our Own Bishop Guerry 90 years after his Murder

Mother Church of worldwide Anglicanism honors special relationship with The Episcopal Church in South Carolina at Choral Evensong today

Three years ago on a bright Sunday morning in Charleston, Grace Church welcomed Dean Robert Willis of Canterbury Cathedral to what would shorty become the newest cathedral in the Anglican Communion.

Dean Willis was struck by the story of the late William Alexander Guerry, the Eighth Bishop of South Carolina, who was murdered in June 1928 by a distraught priest, rankled by the bishop's advocacy of full inclusion of African Americans in the life of the Church.

Dean Willis could not help but note the historical irony as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American elected to that post, celebrated the Eucharist that morning.

Dean Willis returned to Grace last year with a gift and announcement. 

The gift was a stone, beautifully carved by one of Canterbury's famed stone cutters, to be affixed to the walls of the Anglican Communion's newest cathedral.

The announcement was that Bishop Guerry's name had been added to Canterbury Cathedral's roll of Anglican martyrs, and that a special Choral Evensong would be held in celebration of his life and ministry on the 90th anniversary of his death in July 2018.

The Evensong happened today and was well-attended by Canterbury locals as well as a strong contingent of communicants from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  They included Archdeacon Calhoun Walpole, whose work on Bishop Guerry's life has contributed significantly to the resurgence of interest in his episcopate.

Also in attendance was The Very Rev. J. Michael A. Wright, Dean of Grace Church Cathedral, whose comments this evening seemed to capture the spirit of the occasion:

A Word from our time at Canterbury.
A Canterbury Tale to Remember

What a glorious service we were privileged to be part of at Canterbury Cathedral today, July 13, 2018.  

Special liturgical touches for me included processing through the Quire to the lectern to read a lesson at the service of Choral Evensong. I was pleased to find myself accompanied by our very own Grace Verger, Jim Hutchisson. The Canterbury Cathedral Choir sang an inspirational Spiritual as their anthem.  ‘Steal Away’ was the perfect musical prescription for this perfect day. 

The service commemorated the 90th anniversary of Bishop Guerry’s martyrdom. The moving ceremony would culminate with acolytes, choir, clergy (including Callie [Archdeacon Walpole] and Caleb [The Rev. Canon Caleb Lee]) and congregants processing to the ‘Chapel of the Saints and Martyrs of Our Time’, rising up past the high altar and the iconic Chair of St Augustine.

Many of the local faithful along with visitors to the cathedral joined in the procession to recognize Bishop Guerry’s witness. To see a row lined with Grace Church Cathedral representatives made today even more meaningful. The Dean of Canterbury, Robert Willis,  invited Callie to read a selection from our blessed hero’s writings. Dean Willis called on me to pray the Collect for Bishop Guerry, a prayer composed some years earlier in honor of our martyred bishop.   A hymn, ‘The Martyr’s Song’ specially written for today’s occasion echoed throughout the historic building that was first begun not long after Pope Gregory sent Augustine to these parts in the late 6th century.  

Timeless.  As Anglican Christians having so many connections with this special place through faith and family, prayer and pilgrimage, the term ‘Mother Church’ brought with it special meaning for me today. 

I was reminded of the words of St. Gregory, uttered anew by the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in the last century in this very cathedral as he addressed a world wide Anglican gathering:

 "Non pro locis res, sed pro bonis rebus loca amanda sunt. - Things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. 

"My friends,  the life, witness and faithfulness of William Alexander Guerry is a very good thing!

"As I reflect on  today’s observance I become aware that it represents the fruition of a pilgrimage begun almost a decade ago when three of the Grace family journeyed to Bishop Guerry’s grave in St Philip’s Cemetery and there and then  vowed to proclaim anew his story of racial justice bought with a price. Being present at  today’s uplifting service of prayer and praise felt nothing short of miraculous.

Thanks be to God. 


The Very Rev  J Michael A Wright
Rector and Dean
Grace Church Cathedral
Charleston SC 

Thank you Dean Wright.