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A sanctuary is a defined as a place of refuge from hardship; a consecrated area. When I hear the word sanctuary peace floods my mind. I am reminded of quiet Sunday evenings and lazy Saturdays at the beach. Weddings, funerals and family gatherings come to mind as well. The traditional sanctuary, within the church, has been a refuge for many. It is a place that holds memories of joy and grief, hope and despair.

On Aug. 6, the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum will host its Historic Church tour. The tour will take place from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.; however, it sometimes extends to 12:30 p.m. The tour will visit First Presbyterian, Evans Metropolitan AME Zion, St. John’s Episcopal, Hay Street Methodist and First Baptist. Each of these downtown churches are listed on the National Register of Historical places and are rich with the cultural and religious history of Fayetteville. The cost for the tour is $3 and you must preregister by Aug. 4 in order to attend. Participants will travel by bus for the tour, and some walking is involved.

This is not your ordinary tour. 07-25-12-church-pic.gif

“It is more than sparkly windows and pretty structures” states Heidi Beazley, the museum specialist.

Her eyes light up as she begins to speak about the tour.

“It’s a dynamic experience, it’s more than history. The tour paints the picture of religious development in the area,” she said.

You are able to see how religion developed here in Fayetteville. Some of the churches like First Presbyterian have been around since the 1800s. Every church on the tour has something unique to offer.

“If you think you have seen it, you haven’t seen it in this way,” Beazley explained.

Although the tour is centered on the churches, the various demographics that attend add a special flare, as many of them are able to share their own experiences because they have lived in the area, and in some cases attended services there and watched the churches grow and change over the years.

Among the stops during the tour are the Market House, a site for early religious services. In times past there were no formal structures for religious services. The people would meet in the local market area. Traveling preachers would visit the area and people would gather together in the Market House to hear sermons and to worship together. Over time formal structures were built for these religious services.

The tour’s beautiful architecture, rich history lesson and dynamic fellowship truly makes it remarkable. It is so remarkable in fact, that last year’s tour had a waiting list of approximately 30 people. Currently the 2012 Historic Church tour is already half-way full.

To register contact the Fayetteville Area Transportation an Local History Museum at 325 Franklin St. in downtown Fayetteville or call (910) 433-1457,1458 or 1944. Although preregistration is required, payment is not due until the day of the tour (no large bills please). Come and explore the religious structure and history behind these awesome sanctuaries.

Photo: St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Fayetteville, was established in 1817. It is one of several churches in the downtown area.

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