Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day people enslaved in Texas first heard that the January 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation had freed them. Some celebrations use the day to present facts about African American culture and achievements. Clergy and lay leaders might also draw connections between the forces that today hold us all enslaved and the liberating power God longs to be for us.
Juneteenth may also be the oldest celebration of the end of extreme religious oppression in the U.S. Before the proclamation, people of African descent were forced to worship in secret in some places, including South Carolina, where all-Black congregations were against the law. In the U.S., there is a long history of violence against Black churches, including the 1963 murders in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the 2015 murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
June is a good time to start or continue steps toward understanding and justice.
This message is excerpted from “The holy month of June” by Kristin Berkey-Abbott in the June 2019 Gather magazine. Today is the Second Sunday after Pentecost. Today is Juneteenth. Today is Father’s Day.
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