A block party celebrating city founder John Lynch’s birthday will be held Saturday, Aug. 27, on the grounds of Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg. During the event, the church also will sign a partnership agreement with the University of Lynchburg and the Lynchburg Museum System.
The John Lynch Birthday Block Party, to be held from 3 p.m. to sunset, will include live music, food trucks, and other family activities. Throughout the afternoon, there will be guided tours of the South River Meeting House, a late-18th century Quaker church. Quaker Memorial is located at 5810 Fort Ave.
The Rev. Anghaarad Teague Dees, Quaker Memorial’s pastor, is looking forward to the celebration.
“Quaker Memorial Presbyterian has had a lovely tradition of being caretakers of this piece of Lynchburg’s history,” Dees said. “We have decided to celebrate the birthday of our city’s founder, as well as welcome our neighbors to come and join in the festivities.
“We hope that this will be a day of fun for the whole family, as well as a reintroduction of Quaker Memorial Presbyterian to our neighborhood.”
The signing ceremony will be held at 4 p.m., with set-up for media at 3:30 p.m. It will take place inside the South River Meeting House and include officials from all three groups. A wreath-laying at John Lynch’s grave will follow the signing.
“The University of Lynchburg is honored to work with the congregation of Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church and the Lynchburg Museum System to highlight the significant contributions of the South River Meeting House to the establishment of the Lynchburg community,” President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar said.
John Lynch’s mother, Sarah Lynch, began holding Quaker meetings in her home in 1754. By 1757, it became necessary to build a meeting house to accommodate the growing Quaker community. This building was destroyed by fire and replaced by another structure.
Soon, a larger building was needed and the present South River Meeting House was completed in 1798. Following the departure of many of the area’s Quakers, who opposed slavery and war, in the 1820s, the meeting house fell into ruins.
In 1899, the property was purchased by the Presbyterians, who rebuilt the structure and named it Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church. Following the completion of a larger adjacent facility, the church decided to make the former meeting house a historic shrine. The building is a Virginia Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.
Self-guided tours are currently offered at the meeting house and it has been the site of occasional events, but church members hope to expand its offerings with support from the University and the museum system.
Carolyn Eubank, a church member and former University employee, is spearheading the effort. She believes the partnership will enable the meeting house to better tell its story and the story of its connection to Lynchburg’s founding.
She also hopes to offer consistent programming for the Lynchburg community and outside visitors. Some, she said, come from as far away as England to study their Quaker heritage. Others visit the grave of Lynchburg’s founder — and other early city officials — in the church cemetery. Eight of the city’s 11 original trustees worshiped at the meeting house.
Eubank envisions living history events, a digital information kiosk, tours through the museum system, and cross-disciplinary collaborations and internship opportunities for University of Lynchburg students.
“This would be a fabulous internship for a student in museum studies,” she said, adding that the meeting house is rich with research opportunities for faculty and students, too.
Ted Delaney, director of the Lynchburg Museum System and chair of the partnership task force, is looking forward to supporting future meeting house collaborations and tours.
“The Quaker origins of Lynchburg and its founder, John Lynch Sr., have been largely forgotten today,” he said. “I’m very excited about the new partnership and the opportunities to share this fascinating story with our community and the wider world.
“Especially as we approach the 250th anniversary of the founding of the nation in 2026, the timing couldn’t be better.”
For more information about the block party, email Dees at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the partnership signing, email Delaney at email@example.com.