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Jousting and festivities to highlight Episcopal parish's tricentenary


All Hallows' Episcopal Church sits on a green hill in Davidsonville, surrounded by gravestones and silence.

But on Aug. 23rd, after 300 genteel years, the aristocratic church will emerge from its tranquility for a huge tricentennial celebration.

Costumed knights on horseback and maids waving ribbons will join parish members near the original church for a jousting tournament, being held to recognize not only the parish's 300th birthday, but also that of jousting, the Maryland state sport.

Church members say the first recorded tournament in the colonies was held at All Hallows' in 1692.

Earlier this week, parish member Gail Enright, who has written a history of All Hallows', walked the property of the brick chapel off Solomon's Island Road below Annapolis.

A plaque copied from a 12th-century church in Hampshire, England, welcomes visitors in the entranceway:

"Friend, you enter this church not as a stranger, but as a guest of God. He is your Heavenly Father. Come then with joy in your heart and thanks on your lips into his presence. . ."

Inside, the church has been restored to its original simplicity: Plain white walls, box pews painted white and floors that hold the graves of two parish rectors, including Mrs. Enright's ancestor, the Rev. William Duncan.

The second grave in the chapel commemorates the Rev. William Broden, who bought a Davidsonville farm named Roedown, which remained in the family until 1945. The Marlboro Hunt Club now holds its spring races on this property.

In the rear of the chapel, a tiny fireplace provided the building's only warmth. In cold weather, members usually kept their coats on, Mrs. Enright said.

Outside, aged red bricks bear initials dating back hundreds of years, such as the elegantly scrolled RJW. A bell given to the church by Queen Anne in 1714 remains on the property, and a silver service from the queen rests in an Edgewater bank vault, Mrs. Enright said.

The first church record is that of a birth in 1669.

A few miles away on Route 214, a larger All Hallows' was built as a rest chapel to accommodate those traveling to the original chapel. This building became the parish center as the heart of Davidsonville moved north. Services are now held in both church buildings.

The 300th anniversary marks an amazing continuance for a congregation that averages under 30 in attendance at each building, said the Rev. Michael Moore, interim rector.

But those who do come are faithful, he said. "The church draws people from several communities. The history draws a lot of them; the buildings themselves are attractive."

The parish membership officially numbers about 200.

Mrs. Enright, who was baptized in the original chapel but moved away, returned to All Hallows' when she moved back to Davidsonville as an adult. One of her own children was baptized at the church; another married in it.

"There aren't any ugly Episcopal churches," she says appreciatively.

Many of Davidsonville's first families, such as the Inglehearts, the Townsends and the Owens, have been members of the church for centuries. Col. William Burgess, who donated land for Londontowne, the early international port on the South River, is buried in the yard.

The chapel caught fire in 1940, and the interior was restored after extensive research, Mrs. Enright said.

"Until the last 40 years, everyone who came lived in Davidsonville," she said. "Recently, people discovered that they don't have to go to the nearest church. One member comes from Baltimore, many from Annapolis."

At least half of the parish does not live in Davidsonville, she said, and the membership includes both retired people and young couples with children.

An increasing number of these younger members interested in running organizations such as the altar guild are also infusing the church with new life, Mrs. Enright said.

One member, Mary Hoffman, suggested the idea of a 300th anniversary celebration to the vestry and has done much to encourage members about the event.

Said Mrs. Enright: "It's taken a while to get people excited, but now everyone is becoming involved."

To re-create the jousting tournament on Aug. 24, All Hallows' invited the Bay Jousting Association from the Eastern Shore. The tournament will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Davidsonville Ruritan Hall athletic field, located on Route 424 in Davidsonville.

A pageant will illustrate the progression of jousting, beginning with knight-to-knight combat and concluding in the current nTC spearing of rings with a lance from horseback. There will be four classes of jousting and an awards ceremony.

Entrance to the tournament will be a $5 parking fee, proceeds to benefit All Hallows' Church. The Davidsonville Ruritan Club will sell food, and church groups are bringing baked goods. Commemorative programs with a history of the church and scoring sheets for the jousting will be available.

Mr. Moore leaned on the old wall that encloses the church yard, and looked about. "It's very exciting," he said. "It will be quite a day, that Sunday afternoon."

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