Juneteenth will play a special role in this Sunday’s religious services: NPR

Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, in Austin, Texas.

PICA-05476, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library


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Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, in Austin, Texas.

PICA-05476, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

On Sundays, the faithful will commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth during their worship services. Throughout the day there will be colorful parades, coast-to-coast music festivals, visits to historic sites, large gatherings within local communities, team sports and lots of barbecues.

However, many will start the day with a long-standing tradition: worship.

The Lord through Moses said to Pharaoh:
“Oh let my people go!
If not, I’ll hit your dead firstborn,
Then let my people go! “
Come down Moses
Down in the land of Egypt
Tell old Pharaoh
Let my people go

These lyrics, from “The Song of the Contrabands: O Let My People Go”, will have special significance at this Sunday’s services because they echo the spirit of the party. It is a biblical story about the experience of Israel, from Egyptian slavery to their exodus. Enslaved Africans identified with history. Generations later, this hymn is still sung to remember what it feels like to be a slave and to keep seeking equality and justice.

“Gospel music has really been a comfort to the black community,” says gospel singer Tye Tribbett, who performs at Juneteenth Unityfest 2022 on Sunday. “Its power to harness the capacity of hope, aspiration and faith to give courage to fear during the most difficult moments of our culture is part of our heritage and of music.”

Members celebrate Juneteenth at Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Galveston, Texas on Sunday, June 19, 2016, following the annual march from Old Galveston County Courthouse.

Jennifer Reynolds / The Galveston County Daily News


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Members celebrate Juneteenth at Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Galveston, Texas on Sunday, June 19, 2016, following the annual march from Old Galveston County Courthouse.

Jennifer Reynolds / The Galveston County Daily News

In Galveston, Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth, the faithful of Reedy Chapel AME Church will begin their service at 11:00 and conclude the day with a march for freedom. This was one of the places where enslaved people heard these words, from the General Order, No. 3, Juneteenth’s original order, June 19, 1865: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with an Executive Proclamation of the United States, all slaves are free. …”

Juneteenth is also called Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day and Freedom Day. It is the most recent new federal holiday, since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was introduced in 1983. As it falls on “the Lord’s day,” pastors will share a message. special with their congregation.

Bishop TD Jakes of The Potter’s House in Dallas says that to protect this nation’s legacy, one must recognize and learn from the past.

“Although the origin of the Juneteenth commemorations begins in Texas, it is vital that we all need to remember that when freedom and justice are delayed or denied they cause traumatic ripples in future generations,” he says.

Jakes adds, “… as we collectively stop to recognize and learn from the retarded freedoms of our nation’s ancestors, we must not allow those same systems to repeat injustices.”

In San Francisco, Grace Cathedral worshipers will celebrate and lament during their service. Actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith will deliver her morning message.

“His in-depth knowledge and narrative accounts of the school-to-prison pipeline, and ingrained episcopal faith, will guide us towards the emancipatory work today. We call it End Slavery for Good, ensuring that no one is subject to slavery, even if punishment for a crime… ”, says the Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi.

Reverend Joshua Lawrence Lazard, associate pastor of the Church of the Covenant, a predominantly white congregation in Boston, intends to take the title of his sermon from James Baldwin’s book, You mean it or you don’t.

“I will remind the listeners that Christians have a duty to manifest the themes of liberation and freedom,” says Lazard. “Our faith requires us to be active in restoring and redressing the wrongs that result from America’s original sin, slavery …”

According to historians, many American institutions have played a role in justifying slavery and white supremacy, including the Christian church, which used the Bible to justify the enslavement of African Americans.

In the documentary, Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom Christian apologist Lisa Fields says it’s not surprising that the first institution legally founded by the emancipated people of Galveston was a church. Fields says they “believed that God set them free” – not Abraham Lincoln or their slave masters.

This brings to mind another popular hymn that could be heard on Sunday June 11: “We Have Come This Way by Faith”, written by Albert A. Goodson:

We came this far by faith,
leaning on the Lord,
Trusting in his holy Word,
It has never let us down yet.
Singing oh, oh, oh, I can’t turn you around
We have come this far by faith.

Further reading on this topic

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White, by Daniel Hill

Re-disciplining the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to David Swanson’s True Solidarity

The Color of Compromise: The Truth About Complication in the Racism of the American Church, by Jemar Tisby

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, by Latasha Morrison

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith

25 black theologians who increased our faith Christianity today