A Maryland church formed by Confederate segregationists and slaveowners is committing $500,000 in reparations to its community over five years, starting with 10 percent of the parish’s endowed wealth.
“Since 2017 this parish community has focused on uncovering the truth of our past and studying the true impact that Memorial inflicted on our neighbors through housing segregation and redlining, disenfranchisement of Black voters, and inequity in school and youth programs here in Baltimore. As a faith community dedicated to social justice, we acknowledge how our history has shaped our present reality. This initiative is one more step toward repairing that harm,” said Rev. Grey Maggiano in a statement.
The Memorial Episcopal Church dedicated $50,000 of its endowment and an additional $50,000 from its operating budget for 2021 to the Guy T. Hollyday Memorial Justice and Reparations Initiative, which will invest the funds in community partners doing “justice-centered work” in housing, education, environmental justice and civic engagement.
Named for a civil rights activist and LGBTQ+ advocate, the initiative marks a break from the past for the church, which was named for a slaveholder at the time of the Civil War. The church removed, deconsecrated and reinstalled several memorial plaques in its rectory garden to several of the Confederate sympathizers who formed the church in a break with its abolitionist branch.
“The presence of the plaques memorializing slave owners does continued harm to our African-American members and all who enter our sanctuary,” said Maggiano.
Located in Baltimore, Md., the church investigated and documented its past history and participation in slavery after asking, “Why, in a city that is more than 60% African-American, in a neighborhood that is almost 50% African-American, is our congregation predominantly white?” Today, its congregation includes Steve Howard, an indirect descendant of the church’s founding family, and Rev. Natalie Conway, whose ancestors were enslaved by that same family.
“While many believe that the “past is in the past,” the current congregation of a church formed as a memorial to slave-owners acknowledges that as a parish, city and country we are not far removed from that past,” said the church in a release.