It was extremely hot and humid on one of those particular tour days. We had prayed for the guests who would be joining us, that they would be blessed as they begin, renew or continue to grow their own Faith Heritage journey. Our guests are so grateful to come into the sanctuary on the southeast of Charleston’s Four Corners of Law to sit, rest and take in the quiet beauty while listening to the tour guide tell of the history and faith of the people who worshipped here over the centuries. It’s as though they are entering an oasis, leaving the world outside as they step into “holy ground,” even lowering their voices in respect and awe.
The tour has been named “The Faith Heritage Tour” because not only do the guests discover the rich history of St. Michael’s Church, but they also learn about the Anglican faith and the steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ that has been the foundation of St. Michael’s during the past 264 years. Many are often surprised to find out that we are still a faithful, vibrant and active congregation. Our tours are complimentary and that seems to be a welcome surprise to them also.
Another tour team serves on Thursdays; and Jeff Moll advised that he estimates having taken 800 persons on tours in the past year. He believes all historic church tours should “make people not only appreciate the history but see it through the experience of Godly men and women who have had influence and leadership of the time.” He has seen persons of the Muslim and Jewish faiths come to a better understanding of and respect for Christianity.
As well as this tour works for St. Michael’s, it also can be a model for how other historic churches can take advantage of their strategic location on the South Carolina coast to offer tours and allow this to be an opportunity for evangelism. Our tour begins outside at the front doors and describes just what the guests will experience, moving from the Four Corners into the narthex, the sanctuary, out into the churchyard as they gather at the gravesites of John Rutledge and Charles Pinckney with a brief biography of their lives and their faith. At the end of the tour in the churchyard, part of the message they hear is the opportunity for them to contemplate their own spiritual journey with an encouragement that “all those interred here, who have died in Christ are with Him in heaven.” A “thank you for visiting with us today” is followed by an invitation to join in prayer; that God will bless them and for travel mercies for each one.
At this point, the guests are invited to follow the guide to the Connections Center where we offer them cold bottled water and an invitation to sign our guest book. Fans and notepads are printed with photos and information about the church to take with them. (You can imagine how much they welcome the fans and cold water during the hot summer months!) Other souvenirs and resources are available for suggested donations too, including boxed note cards, magnets, St. Michael’s Cookbook and George W. Williams’ book on the history of St. Michael’s. We are so happy to extend an invitation to join us on Sunday and give them all the information they need on the places, times and types of worship.
Our guest book is filled with entries from people all over the world! It is amazing to see how far they have traveled to visit our Holy City. They have come from Jerusalem, Russia, Germany, China, South Africa, New Zealand, to name a few. A couple from South Africa had many questions and shared their story with us: Marc is a physician and works with orphans and vulnerable children with AIDS. His wife Keri is a teacher to the children. They asked for prayers for them and the children.
Many of the guests place their prayer requests in the Prayer Box that we provide and when the in tours are over, we lift each request in prayer and then place them into the prayer ministers’ box in the sanctuary. We are so humbled by some of the guests who share their own stories with us. We believe that the Connections Center set up offers them a sense of welcome and peace and they feel comfortable in asking questions and beginning conversations with us.
Their visit to the Connections Center also gives them a chance to see the photo display of our congregation in service and fellowship as we talk with them about the mission and purpose of St. Michael’s in
“Transforming hearts through Jesus Christ in Hearts and Homes, the Holy City, the Hurting Coast and the Hungering World.”
When you begin working with a ministry, very often you don’t even think about the blessings you will receive when you are so concerned that others will be blessed and you are just a vessel for that. But as we hear from many of the guests how blessed they were participating in the tour, we have found it has blessed us also in so many different ways beyond anything we could imagine.
Tours of St. Michael’s Church are given most Thursdays and Fridays by members of the Tour Ministry Team.
Judy and Bill Biggie are part of the Tour Ministry Team at St. Michael’s Church (Anglican).