For almost three years, the Research and Pilgrimage Working Group – a sub-committee of the Diocesan Truth and Reconciliation Commission – has been planning a commemorative pilgrimage to honor the history and legacy of slavery in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The project is related to a resolution adopted at the 2006 diocesan convention that calls for the establishment of a task force to “specifically research and report on the historical role of the Episcopal Church in these systems of slavery and racism, so that we as a people of God can come to make a full, faithful and informed accounting of the legacy we inherit and better understand how we can work, both individually and collectively to ‘repair the breach’…”. The TRC working group has invited parishes in the diocese to research the history of slavery as it relates to their individual histories. The purpose is to preserve and to remember the vital contributions that enslaved people have made to the development of the Episcopal Church, to reflect on how these contributions have enriched our Diocese, and to consider how best to honor this often forgotten legacy in our future Church. The pilgrimage, known as the Trail of Souls, will involve both an actual bus tour and a virtual online tour.
The idea for the “Trail of Souls” tour grew out of the Diocese of Maryland’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s mission to discover and be reconciled with the Church’s involvement and complicity in slavery and its legacies. The commission’s efforts are also a response to a 2006 General Convention resolution that asked dioceses to research and broaden their understanding of this history.
The history of the Diocese of Maryland goes back to the earliest Colonial days, when many households and farms had enslaved people of African descent and several of our historic church buildings were built by these enslaved people. While all around abolitionists and pro-slavery groups debated the controversial practice, many Episcopalians were accepting of the institution of chattel slavery. They justified it in those days, thinking that with Scriptures supporting slavery and with it being legal, it must be the way that God wanted the world. It was not until the battle of Gettysburg that Episcopal bishops began to ponder whether God might be doing a new thing.
In order to remember the past and honor those who worked to bring about change, and to celebrate the progress that we have made so far, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Research and Pilgrimage working group has been working with 21 historic churches that have roots either in the period of slavery or in the struggle for civil rights.
22 parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland have committed themselves to search for the truth of
their experience of slavery and its legacies. Parishes founded before 1864, the year a new Maryland
Constitution abolished slavery, and currently active predominantly African American parishes were
invited to help create an experience for our diocese which would uncover our complicity in the sin of
A pilgrimage to and with these parishes invites your participation “on the ground” or via the Diocesan
The pilgrimage will be launched All Saints Day, November 1, 2014 (Day of Repentance and Reconciliation).
Special times will be arranged for organized journeys in various parts of the diocese.
The parishes involved are in four geographic clusters: Southern Maryland, Western Maryland,
Baltimore east and north, and West Baltimore. In each area there are also sites and institutions which
help us understand the context and wider experience of slavery in Maryland and the struggles to
The TRAIL of SOULS Pilgrimage Toward Truth and Reonciliation is part of the Diocese of Maryland’s
continuing struggle to discover our complicity in the enslavement of fellow children of God