Its skyline may be dotted with steeples, but this Holy City has an underbelly some would call sordid. Slaves, prostitutes and pirates once roamed the alleys of Charleston, S.C., while ghost tours continue to attract thousands of curious visitors.
What makes Charleston’s past so fascinating, say authors Julian Buxton and Edward Macy, is the tension inherent in the juxtaposition of extremes: The splendor of 18th century mansions served as the backdrop for 29 pirate corpses rotting in hot sun. The worst sort of human commerce and cruelty manifested itself at a Slave Mart located on a quaint cobblestone street.
Just steps from three prominent Charleston churches, revelers stumbled into the Planter’s Hotel, one of the “bawdiest” establishments in antebellum America.
Yet Charleston also was known as one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World. It’s one of the few cities in the original 13 colonies to provide religious tolerance to the French Huguenot Church. In fact, one of the very few remaining Huguenot congregations in the entire United States is located in Charleston.
The Holy City
How did the nickname actually arise? Just look to the sheer number of churches and denominations that exist side by side within city limits. It is home to the only African-American Seventh Day Baptist Church congregation in the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of the United States and Canada.
The city serves as the seat for both the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The First Baptist Church of Charleston is the oldest Baptist church in the South and the first Southern Baptist Church in existence.
In the past year, more than 330 of Charleston’s myriad churches united to bring a Franklin Graham Festival to their city. Although the event kicks off this weekend, the process started when a group of local pastors got together and extended a formal invitation to Graham. A series of breakfasts, seminars, organizational meetings, prayer events, Christian education courses and leadership rallies then followed.
Long Term Benefits
Every evangelistic festival conducted by Franklin Graham is the result of a cooperative effort involving the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham, his team, and many local Christians and churches.
It is a process that begins long before the Festival kicks off and continues long after Graham leaves the stage. Local churches find that shared purpose, sustained effort and cooperation continue to bind them together for years to come.
“Men and women will be drawn to the Savior this weekend,” says Graham. “Those who come to know Christ will be channeled into the local churches. Also, hundreds of people have been trained in personal evangelism. Long after the festival is over, these people will be taking that training into the churches. We hope and pray that the churches will benefit over the years.”
Breaking the Bondage of Sin
Referencing Charleston’s past, Graham points out that “like many other port cities up and down the Atlantic coast, Charleston was once known for its slave market where tens of thousands of captured Africans were shipped in chains and sold into bondage.
“Although the African slave trade ceased a century and a half ago,” Graham says, “today millions of men, women, and children still live in slavery–slaves of sin, living in spiritual bondage.”
As Jesus said in John 8:34: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
But, Graham adds, “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, willingly shed His own blood on Calvary’s cross to redeem sinners from this bondage. God then raised Him up from the grave, triumphant over sin, death, and the devil.”
An Exciting Weekend
Over three nights, Sept. 19-21, Graham will show Charleston how to find true freedom – in Christ. In addition to life-changing messages, the Lowcounty Festival will feature music by award-winning artists:
- Friday: Israel Houghton & New Breed, and TobyMac
- Saturday: Newsboys and Group 1 Crew
- Sunday: Casting Crowns and Kirk Franklin, Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea
Saturday morning will feature KidzFest, a special event with God Rocks and Dennis Lee & Friends.
Stop back to our home page the next several days for up-to-the-minute stories, videos, Festival blogs, live streaming each night, and more!