Hundreds attended the Parish Church of St. Helena’s 93rd annual Sheldon Church Service on Sunday morning on the grounds of the Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee.
Always held on the second Sunday after Easter, it brings life to one of the most beautiful and most sacred spots in the entire Lowcountry.
Since 1925, the Parish Church of St. Helena has hosted a service of morning prayer and a picnic on the grounds, complete with music and fellowship; over a half century since the first service was held and well over a century since it was a prospering parish.
This year, the guest preacher for the day was the Rev. David T. Drake, Senior Pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Lutherville, Maryland.
Established in 1745, Sheldon Church was built between 1751 and 1756 on land donated primarily by the Bull family and named after their ancestral home in Warwickshire, England. Described as a monument to Anglican wealth and spiritual primacy, the church was built along a row of seven classic columns with colonnaded walls three-and-a-half feet thick. It was the earliest example of classical Greek architecture in America.
The original structure was burned by General Augustine Prevost’s British soldiers in May 1779 during the American Revolution. It laid in ruins until 1825 when a vestry was formed to restore the church to the center of spiritual life in Prince William’s Parish. It prospered during the remainder of the antebellum era as a parish of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, but it would not survive the American Civil War. During the Civil War (1861-1865), the church was stripped of its timbers and furnishings and would never be restored again.
In 1925, the Parish Church of St. Helena reclaimed these ruins from the encroaching wilderness and hosts an annual service at the site as a continuing legacy of Old Sheldon’s spiritual heritage.
Photos by Amy Lane/ESPB