Where the River Flows Finding Faith in Rockingham County, Virginia 1726-1876
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To the east of the Blue Ridge, the Church of England would direct and proscribe matters of faith and practice for the majority of Virginians. But beyond the mountains, often settling on the broad meadows which graced the edge of so many streams, were people of different traditions–Baptists, German Reformed, Lutheran, Mennonists, Dunkers, Presbyterians, Inspirationists, Quakers, Separatists, Moravians. As far as the state was concerned, these were “dissenters,” those who disagreed with the Anglican church on some point of theology or other. They were tolerated as a welcome buffer against the French and native Americans to the west, yet in time each would lend its own traditions to the growing colony that would in large part shape the future of the new nation to come.
During the Revolution, a new county was formed west of the Blue Ridge. It was named Rockingham. Like its nearest neighbors, it would foster a special blend of eastern Virginians and descendants of the pioneering colonial dissenters. In time, more groups would flourish here. Methodists, the spiritual renewal movement within the old Church of England, and the United Brethren, a unique amalgam of German-speaking Christians brought together by a surprising revival of faith, held their camp meetings amidst these beautiful, rolling hills.
Some residents of the Valley would applaud the concourse of ideas that abounded. Others remembered the conflict, bitter disagreements over doctrine and practice, and the petty jealousies which divided those who should have been good neighbors.
There are also stories of remarkable courage, people who stood by the truths they held so closely. In a land of slavery, they chose to keep people free. In a land of war, they chose not to fight. In a land of devastation, they set their hands to rebuild what had been destroyed.
More remarkable still are the lives that were changed–people of every age and every station, all grasped by something beyond their natural lives. Here is the real, lasting story, a story of faith and commitment, of hope that does not disappoint. It is the story of those who live where the river flows.
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