In a solemn ceremony held in the context of Black History Month in Falls Church Saturday afternoon, scores of citizens and church members participated in the dedication of a new plaque embedded into the brick walkway at the entrance to the historic Falls Church Episcopal honoring “enslaved persons.” The plaque’s words, “With gratitude and repentance we honor the enslaved people whose skill and labor helped build The Falls Church,” summed up the combined themes of recognition and repentance for the role of the slaves who did the manual labor to build the historic brick building in the mid-1700s.
The Rev. John Ohmer led a brief dedication ceremony. His prayer intoned, “Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done, remembering especially on this day the evil of slavery: for our past and current blindness to human need and suffering, our indifference to injustice and cruelty, our exploitation of other people, our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us: for those things done and left undone.”
His dedication was preceded by remarks from Falls Church’s Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation founders Nikki Graves and Edwin B. Henderson, and an oral history presentation with members of the foundation and others dressed in the garb of the 18th century and Civil War telling the story of the founding of the church (George Washington was a vestryman of the Alexandria church which built the Falls Church as a mission extension) and of John Read, who was buried on the church grounds after being singled out for execution by Confederate forces for his role in educating slaves in the waning days of the Civil War.