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March 12, 2010

April programs examine religion on the eve of the American Revolution

April is Religion Month in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Programs during the month offer guests the opportunity to explore the role of religion on the eve of the American Revolution.

Sites in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area highlight the role of religion in everyday life in 18th-century Virginia and include:

  • Gospel of Education. The Presbyterian minister Rev. Mr. James Waddell and Baptist preacher Gowan Pamphlet discuss the importance of learning to read so that all may read the Bible. There was no law during the 18th century prohibiting the education of enslaved or free blacks. 12:30 p.m., Fridays, April 2-30, Presbyterian Meetinghouse. No admission ticket required.
  • Faith of a Founding Father: Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was accused by some of being a Deist. He was a member of the established church in his youth. He was convinced that every man deserved freedom of conscience. He tried to include that freedom in early documents outlining the rights of Virginians and Americas. While he was ambassador to France, his protégé, James Madison, was able to push through his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Guests are invited to join in the conversation with Mr. Jefferson as he discusses his view on religion. 10 a.m., Saturdays, April 3-24, Governor’s Palace. Any Historic Area admission pass provides entry into this program.
  • Martha Washington: Woman of Faith. Martha Washington suffered many trials in her life, including the loss of her husband and two of her children before her marriage to George Washington. She found strength in her firm belief in the Creator. Join her in her morning routine of devotions. 12:30 p.m., Mondays, April 5, 19 and 26, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket or museum pass provides access to this program.
  • God Hath Made Us Free. All but one of the faculty at the College of William and Mary before the American Revolution were ordained Church of England ministers. Sermons were regularly read for the edification of the students. Eighteenth-century sermons have been edited for these half-hour programs. 11 a.m., Mondays, April 5-26, Wren Chapel, College of William and Mary. No admission ticket required.
  • Faith of a Nation Builder: Gowan Pamphlet. Gowan Pamphlet was born into slavery but that did not prevent him from becoming a popular preacher. The black Baptist church he founded in Williamsburg in the last quarter of the 18th century is featured in the African American Religion exhibit on Nassau Street. Guests are invited to hear Gowan’s views on religion. 10 a.m., Tuesdays, April 6-27, Governor’s Palace. Any Historic Area admission pass provides entry into this program.
  • Watts, Wesley, Newton and Toplady: Hymns of Change. Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton and Augustus Toplady are all familiar names among the writers of “old favourite hymns” in American and British Christianity. In the 18th century, their verses were new and different and not part of the accepted body of church vocal music. Hear examples played and sung, and discover how these writers and their hymns became agents of change in the religious landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries. 4 p.m., Tuesdays, April 6-27, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket or museum pass provides access to this program.
  • Jefferson and Henry Present Their Disparate Views on the Separation of Church and State. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry present their respective bills concerning religion before the Virginia legislature in 1784 to the public. Free reservations are required. 12:30 p.m., Thursdays, April 8-29, Kimball Theatre. Any Historic Area admission pass or Good Neighbor pass provides access to this program.

    The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum hosts a visiting scholar lecture series throughout April. The hour-long programs include:

  • The Heart and Soul of Virginia’s Colonial Establishment: The Parish in Everyday Life. John K. Nelson, author of “A Blessed Company: Parishes, Parsons, and Parishioners in Anglican Virginia, 1690-1776,” lectures on the everyday context of the Church of England in the Virginia colony. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 7.
  • Dissent and Toleration on the Road to Revolution: Patrick Henry’s Role in Virginia’s Struggle for Religious Freedom. Professor C. Jan Swearingen, Texas A&M University, lectures on the language of religious freedom, political liberty and independence. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 14.
  • God and Emancipation: The Religious and Political Lives of Robert Carter III. Andrew Levy, author of “The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves,” discusses Robert Carter, Baptists and slavery. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 21.
  • Religion and Revolutionaries. Jeffry H. Morrison, editor of “The Founders on God and Government” and “The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life,” speaks about the role of religion in public life. 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 28.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, museum pass or Good Neighbor Card provides access to this lecture series.

    Religion Month programs are made possible with the generous support of the Kern Family Foundation, Waukesha, Wis. Programs and exhibitions at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment fund.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg Hotels feature conference spaces and recreation activities from spa and fine dining to world-class golf. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation.

    Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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