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Charleston begins 350th anniversary celebrations with faith-based events

kylon middleton illumination project.jpg

The Rev. Kylon J. Middleton, pastor of Mount Zion AME Church, moderated a panel discussion on how the faith community can respond to discrimination in an “Illuminate Charleston” event in April at the Central Mosque of Charleston. To begin Charleston's 350th anniversary celebrations, faith leaders will hold a series of events highlighting the city's religious history. File/Staff

To begin Charleston's 350th anniversary celebrations, faith leaders will hold a series of events highlighting the Holy City's religious history.

The city of Charleston, the Charleston Interreligious Council and the Charleston 350 Commission will kick off the monthlong series with a proclamation from Mayor John Tecklenburg, mirroring the tradition set in place by the Governor's Office six years ago.

It is set for 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, 80 Broad St.

Children from 12 faith traditions — African Methodist Episcopal, Baha'i, Buddhist, Catholic, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Judaism, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Unity/New Thought and Earth-based/Native American — will read the proclamation aloud with Tecklenburg.

Mike Whack, special assistant to the mayor, said this is the first time a proclamation will be read aloud with children.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, there will be a "Gathering of Faiths in Charleston" event at Seacoast Church in West Ashley. There will be tables and booths set up with 26 faiths represented.

Attendees will be given passports to check in at each faith table to learn about their traditions and how they have evolved over the years in Charleston.

The Gathering of Faiths in Charleston will end with a burning bowl for people to write on flash paper the things they wish to be rid of for the new year. 

The Rev. Kylon Middleton, pastor of Mount Zion AME on Glebe Street, said there will be a noontime Watch Night service on Dec. 31 at Morris Brown AME Church on Morris Street. Watch Night services take place on the night of Dec. 31 to commemorate Dec. 31, 1862 — the day before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

"One-hundred and fifty years later, African Americans gather at meeting sites and churches, holy places to commemorate that very act," Middleton said. "At around 11:55 p.m. people are asked to go to their knees for the annual watch call. Participants kneel, pray and ask God to divest them from those things that are past — both the historical past and to free them so that they might be able to walk in newness of life in the New Year so they are not shackled or constrained from the baggage of all those things that held them back."  

Eight events are scheduled from Dec. 31 through Jan. 27 and include food prepared by the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, a tour of the Second Presbyterian Church and St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, a talk by local historian Nic Butler at the Charleston County Library, and its fourth annual Food and Faith event highlighting women in the Muslim and Jewish faiths. 

The Charleston Interreligious Council aims to "bring together people of all faith and no faith to talk about their religious backgrounds" and "create mutual spaces of understanding," said the council's president, Dena Fokas Moses.

For a full list of events, go to cicouncil.org.

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Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelaporterPC. 

Mikaela Porter joined The Post and Courier in April 2019 and writes about the city of Charleston. Previously, Mikaela reported on breaking news, local government, school issues and community happenings for The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn.

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