GETTYSBURG, Pa. — When Gettysburg's Episcopalian community set out to honor fallen soldiers in 1888, they didn't think of a graveyard.

They built a church.

The Memorial Church of the Prince of Peace is the only Gettysburg church designed specifically as a Civil War memorial, parish publicist Art House said. The building houses more than 150 stones and plaques for fallen Union and Confederate soldiers, including 140 that form the foundation of the church's bell tower.

Nearly 100 congregants gathered Sunday for a service meant to honor soldiers, re-dedicate the church and continue its mission as a welcoming, vibrant religious community.

Prince of Peace was “not partisan at a time when we recognized the need for healing,” said the Right Rev. Nathan Baxter, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

The Civil War "was the first time the country realized that wars are fought by young people,” Baxter said. “When we realize they are just children, young men and women, it forces us to ask the question, 'What can we do for peace?'”

Prince of Peace laid its cornerstone on July 2, 1888, the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The church's founding coincided with the reunion of thousands of Civil War veterans in the city, House said, adding that Union Gen. Samuel Crawford spoke at the ceremony.

The parish's legacy places a high value on community and service work, said John Rost, who serves as the church's sexton, or facilities manager. Its members work to effect change in the world, from volunteering at soup kitchens to helping Asian political refugees gain asylum in the U.S.

Parishioners said remembering the Civil War is an act of respect and learning.

“So much history today is not disseminated to young people,” said Gordon Fuller, of Gettysburg. "In Gettysburg, it's shown to everyone.”

The church has a difficult history of its own. Its first services were held in July 1900, after more than a decade of insufficient funds delayed its construction.

Prince of Peace became a self-sufficient parish for the first time in January 1970, only to be destroyed by a fire later that month. A metal cross on the altar and one stained glass window depicting Christ with children survived the fire, according to the church's historical archive.

But flames did not touch the bell tower, and the congregation continued educating people about the area's past when reconstruction finished in spring 1971.

“Memorializing (soldiers) means you remember that these men died for a reason, and that maybe you and I are free because of it,” Rost said.

Jeffry Burden, commander in chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, was a special guest at the re-dedication service.

The Legion began as an organization of Union soldiers renewing their loyalty to the north and President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1885. Its leaders were instrumental in building the church and donated some of its most important memorials, including four plaques for generals killed in battle.

It is an honor to see the group's history set in stone at the church, Burden said.

Baxter called on the congregation to be a “witness of peace in the country” for the church's next 125 years.

“The work we do as Christians is always about the future,” Baxter said. “Our nation continues to heal ... we are people who God has given a special calling.”

Follow Rachel S. Karas on Twitter: @rachelkaras.

(3) comments

Sanker

formerfcps, as I previously mentioned, you have serious mental disorders. Just what exactly made you decide to go through life hating the world as much as you do? Get busted messing around with one of your students, did you? You never have a positive comment to post on any subject, and have proven to all who read here that you are simply not capable of posting one. Not that long ago you admitted here that you singled out students of yours whom you SUSPECTED of smoking pot, and gave them misinformation and also lower grades than they had earned. Well, I'll tell you here and now that if one of those students had been my child, I'd not have bothered going to the Board about it, I'd have been visiting you in person. You, "sir.," have no credibility here as far as I'm concerned, nor will you ever. You are a psycho who merely knows how to type into a computer, and nothing else. And this proven by the fact that yesterday you compared the Army Of Northern Virginia with Al Qeida and Bin Laden. I strongly suggest therapy and many years of it, too.

formerfcps

Why include all those treasonous confederates in all this honor? They were at war with the USA. I don't see any plaques at Pearl Harbor honoring the dead Japanese of WWII, nor do I see any plaques at the Normandy cemeteries honoring the Nazis who fell at D-Day. The church should honor fallen union soldiers only. Let Alabama and Mississippi honor the fallen confederates, for they still carry on their cause.

Quisling


With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.