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Rappahannock Christian Church


Rappahannock is one of the oldest churches of the Disciples of Christ. Both Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell, his son, who were among the leaders in the Restoration Movement, toured and preached extensively in eastern Virginia in 1830 and 1831. During this period, Alexander Campbell resided in Richmond for many months while attending the Constitutional Convention of 1830 of which he was a member. The Campbells advocated religious reforms, preaching that the church should be one, and that its teachings should be those of Christ and the Apostles as set forth in the New Testament, not based upon creeds or theology.

Rappahannock Church was founded in 1832, probably first meeting in the homes of its members. On January 10, 1834, Robert and Tabitha Sewell conveyed to E. Joseph Pitts and Thomas Henley, Trustees of Rappahannock Church, one acre of land which comprises a portion of the present church lot. A building was erected on this lot which was known as "Rappahannock Meeting House." In 1858, the congregation having grown substantially, a need was found for a larger building. Washington L. Clark, Architect, and Dr. Leonard Henley, Builder, were commissioned to construct the present building where services were first held on the fourth Sunday in May 1861. The building is of Roman design, reflecting a Colonial influence in the interior. The stately structure is testimony to the prosperity of mid-nineteenth century Tidewater Virginia.

Among the early leaders of the Disciples was Peter Ainslie, father of Peter Ainslie II and grandfather of Dr. Peter Ainslie who became a national and international leader for Christian unity. The first officials of the church were Thomas M. Henley and John Richards, elders, and Peter Trible, Peter I. Derieux and Christopher Browne, deacons. In 1835, Christopher Browne was elected elder and Edward Macon Ware I and Muscoe Garnett, Sr., were made deacons.

Judge Muscoe Garnett of "Ben Lomond" gave the original communion service and the communion table. Edward Macon Ware I of "Bellevue" gave the pulpit sofa, and Dr. Leonard Henley presented the gallery clock. Through the years Rappahannock has been the recipient of other significant gifts.

Among the ministers of the Brotherhood reared in or ordained through the Rappahannock congregation are: John M. Trible, Elmore Dunn, Peter Ainslie, John T. T. Hundley, Ritchie Ware, Francis H. Scott, Maury Hundley, Jr., Roy M. Parker, Edward H. Parrish III, William C. Allen and Kenneth C. Wilbur.

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