December 2012 - Saying Your Prayers on the Road
Driving North or South along the US East Coast?



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With Christmas coming up and so many travellers driving on I-95, we thought it was a good moment to let you know where you might find a church along the way where you can pop in and say some prayers. These are not just any houses of worship - they are historic, memorable or famous.

VA -

Number One's Church

GA - Built by Slaves
FL - Praise the Lord and Pass the Suntan Lotion
VA - Tiffany Church
CT -
Graveyard in the Basement
VA -
Did He Get Liberty or Death?
GA - The Smallest Church in America (Well, Almost)

VA - Number One's Church

VA Exit 177B: Christ Church's (1767) fame rests on the fact that both George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped here. In the front left, notice Washington's pew (#60) - the only one remaining in its original double configuration. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (# 46 on the right) was married to Washington's step-great granddaughter, Mary Custis. Regular congregants refer to the chapel's geography as the Lee side or the Washington side. Notice an original boot scraper outside the door (Washington side). Perhaps one of these gentlemen used it.

During the Civil War, Col. Orlando Willcox of the Union Army wrote of Washington's connection to the church, "There I could almost feel his imposing presence...".

It is a tradition for each President of the US to visit here at some point during his administration, usually on a Sunday near Washington's birthday (Feb 22). Tours are given. 118 N. Washington St., Alexandria. Tel: 703-549-1450. Christmas Services: December 24: 3pm Holy Eucharist, 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist (Auditorium), 5:30 pm Festival Eucharist (with 20-min. organ prelude), 8 pm Festival Eucharist (with 20-min. organ prelude), 10:30 pm Festival Eucharist (with 20-min. organ prelude); Tuesday, December 25: 10 am Holy Eucharist.

GA - Built by Slaves

Exit 99: The First African Baptist Church is the oldest black church in America. The Congregation was established in 1775 and the building was built in 1859 by slaves and free blacks, who built it brick by brick by lantern light in their meager time off. One of the first ministers, Andrew Cox Marshall, asked blacks who were saving up to buy their freedom ($1,500) to put the money towards buying the land.

To build this structure, men made the bricks down by the river in the overnight hours, and women carried them up to this spot. Many of the church's original pews bear the tribal markings of the African slaves. If you get to see the basement, you might notice air holes in the floorboards - this was for the Underground Railroad. The Sunday school started here in 1826 is supposed to be the oldest in N. America. 23 Montgomery St., Savannah. Tel: 912-233-6597.
FL - Praise the Lord and Pass the Suntan Lotion

FL Exit 261: Back in 1953 when this was still the Neptune Drive-In Theater, The First Christian Church organized the first drive-in service. Buying the property in 1957, and now known as Daytona Beach's Drive-In Church, they welcome everyone - tourists, the physically challenged, families with kids or those looking for a unique way to worship (honking your horn = clapping).

Photo courtesy Daytona Beach Drive In Christian Church

Perfect for those going to the beach on Sunday (don't need to wear your Sunday best!) - just stay in the car, tune in on your radio or listen to the speakers, and at the end Rev. Robert Kemp-Baird will shake your hand through the window - then you can hop across the street to the beach. Hours: Sun 8:30 & 10. 3140 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach. Tel: 386-767-8761. Christmas Eve Service: 7pm
VA - Tiffany Church

VA Exit 52: Old Blandford Church was built in 1735 in a parish founded by Peter Jefferson (Thomas' father!), and it is one of only 6 churches in the US with a full set of 15 Tiffany windows. During the siege of Petersburg it was used as a Confederate hospital, and in 1901 it became a Confederate memorial to the 30,000 soldiers buried there in the 189 acres of cemetery.

Each Confederate state donated money for one of the windows representing the 12 apostles, which were personally and magnificently designed and installed by Louis Comfort Tiffany; the one of St. Peter he handcrafted himself. The windows glow with light no matter what time of day, and are rich in 3-dimensional colors, fabrics, nature and meaning. Tours of the church begin at 10 am and run every 45 minutes, with the last starting at 4 p.m. 111 Rochelle La., Petersburg, in Blandford Cemetery. Tel: 804-733-2396.

CT - Graveyard in the Basement

CT Exit 47: Center Church on the Green - When this church was moved off the green in 1813, they placed it over a section of the green's graveyard. If you go down to the basement, you can walk amongst the grave markers and table stones (for the richer folks) dating from 1687 to 1812.

Benedict Arnold's first wife is here (he took the 2nd one and hightailed it to England), and so is Reverend James Pierpont, a founder of Yale college. 250 Temple St., New Haven. Tel: 203-787-0121. Christmas Eve Service: 4 pm

VA - Did He Get Liberty or Death?

Exit 74C: St. John's Church - We know the famous words "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!", which were uttered by Patrick Henry and lit the fires of revolution in 1775. St. John's Church in Richmond was the site of the clandestine 2nd Virginia Convention, where he called his comrades (Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendelton, Peyton Randolph, George Washington, George Wythe and others) to arms in a rousing speech. Re-enactments of the convention are held on Sundays at 2 pm (tickets at 1 pm) from Memorial Day to Labor Day (FREE).

Buried in the graveyard are one signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Wythe, and Edgar Allen Poe's mom, Elizabeth Arnold Poe. So, did Patrick Henry get liberty or death? 2401 E. Broad St., Richmond. Tel: 804-648-5015. Christmas Services: December 23: 8:30 & 11 am Advent Lessons and Carols, December 24: 5:30 pm Family Christmas Eve Eucharist; 11 pm Festive Choral Eucharist

Answer: Liberty

GA - The Smallest Church in America (Well, Almost)

GA Exit 67: Christ Chapel was a vision of Mrs. Agnes Harper, a rural grocer who dreamed of a quiet sanctuary for travelers passing through Georgia. With limited funds, she managed to have erected a 10' x 15' building which seats 12, with foldaway kneelers. Mrs Harper imported the stained glass windows from England and placed a glass star in the roof to permit the midday sun to light the interior.

Prior to her death, she named the site Memory Park and deeded the church to Jesus Christ to prevent it from ever being sold. In 1983, the McIntosh Chamber of Commerce adopted the little church and now makes the needed repairs. Though it goes by the "Smallest" billing around here, that designation probably fits the Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York, at 3.5' x 6'.

Travelers continue to stop for a moment of rest, peace and tranquility. Mrs Harper once said, "It is not the dimensions of the church which is important - it is the extent of the faith." Open 24 hrs. On Hwy 17 S. 1 mi. from exit. Church is on the left hand side in the trees.

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Look ahead exit by exit to see which motels (with 800 numbers), gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, 24-hour pharmacies, auto mechanics, radio stations or radar traps are there, and where you can stay with your pet. We share our stories of the road : history on I-95, museums, trivia, towns to explore or places to run the kids. These can be read for entertainment during the drive, and may entice you to stop, stretch your legs and discover someplace new.

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