Early church in the cemetery

As has been pointed out by many writers--notably Sir William Ramsay--the early Christians earned their recognition as a legally constituted body in the eyes of the state by enrolling themselves as members of a Burial Club : their cemeteries were recognized as the lawful property of the community, and they themselves were allowed to assemble at the spot where their dead lay buried ; and so for North Africa at least the cemeteries -- areae -- became the first churches, and the tombs of martyrs the first altars: though it must be remembered that there was neither church nor altar proper, till a much later date. We find therefore that the first cry of the populace in time of persecution was "away with the cemeteries !"

The Church in North Africa AD 200, p. 15, 16
Stuart Donaldson, 1902
Cambridge U Press

So next time you talk to someone who wants to go back to the pure, early church you can take them to the graveyard.


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