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Historic St. John's church keeps Veterans Day tradition alive with a twist

Posted at 7:22 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 19:32:54-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Every year for the past 44 years, the Historic St. John’s Church, the first church built in the city of Richmond, has presented a pre-Veterans Day weekend reenactment of the one of the most famous speeches in history.

Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” speech took place inside the located in Church Hill building back in 1775.

It's one of the most important speeches in American history.

"It’s the speech that sparked the American Revolution. We love doing it on Veterans Day. It’s a wonderful way for us to honor veterans who’ve served and honor their families as well,” said Sarah Whiting, Executive Director of St. John’s Church Foundation.

Except that due to the coronavirus, the reenactment couldn’t happen this year.

“We still can’t do a full reenactment in the church for Veterans Day, so we came up with this idea of Patrick Henry giving a solo performance,” said Whiting.

Normally, the 10-man show would be alongside an audience of as many as 350 people who help serve as the delegates of the Second Virginia Convention which was a meeting of the Patriot Legislature.

“If you’re here, you could be sitting next to Patrick Henry, or George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or Richard Henry Lee. It’s a perfect living history environment,” Whiting explained.

Charles Wissinger, who plays Patrick Henry, says “give me liberty or give me death" became a rallying cry for the upcoming revolution.

This year, Wissinger stood alone with no-crowd for a one-time online event this past weekend to talk about Henry’s life, and was followed by an online question and answer session.

Suffice to say that Whiting and the Historic St. John’s Church was determined to continue with their annual tradition.

“Nothing’s stopping us. We’re just doing it in a new form. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m really eager to get live stream reenactments up and running,” said Whiting.

This month, the Historic St. John's Church is offering graveyard tours this Saturday, where some famous veterans are buried, as well as a tour of the church on November 14 and 21. Masks are required