“The story of the African-American people is the story of the settlement and growth of American itself, a universal tale that all people should experience.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Beginning in October 2021, St. Matthew’s (through our Social Justice & Racial Healing group) began to explore how we might engage with The Witness Stones Project as one avenue of exploring our church’s complicity with racism over the course of history since the church’s founding in 1802. We recognized that during the 17th and 18th century many individuals, including clergy in local communities, had enslaved others – Indigenous and African. In Connecticut, our towns were settled for the most part by Puritans who came to be known as the Congregational Church and soon after the Church of England that became the Episcopal Church. And our communities enslaved others.
We knew this project was one we could not, and should not, do alone. So we began to seek partners from neighboring congregations. As people of faith, no matter our doctrine or belief system, we all believe in the dignity of every human being. In the spirit of collaboration, we give thanks to all who supported this work in a multitude of ways: spiritually, financially, and educationally – especially The Episcopal Church in Connecticut, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport, St. Paul’s on the Green in Norwalk, Wilton Historical Society, and Dr. Julie Hughes whose research provided us with more than we could ever have or imagined.
On June 10, 2023 we celebrated the installation of our first Witness Stone Memorial to commemorate John C. Wallyat Wilton Historical Society where the stone will be placed for the wider community to view. Read the John Wally Program Book from the ceremony as well as Comments by Julie Hughes sharing how important this acknowledgment of John C. Wally’s humanity is to his descendants, and Cannot Unring that Bell by Nate Pawelek of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport.