For the past few years, Christ Church’s Racially Aware Group of Episcopalians ministry has worked to educate the congregation about racial injustice, explore ways to combat racism, and raise awareness of our own church history related to slavery. Now we look to Juneteenth to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans on June 19, 1865.
On that historic day, almost two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Union leaders issued a proclamation of freedom for enslaved people in Texas, the last Confederate state with institutional slavery.
Though this will be Christ Church’s first liturgical commemoration of Juneteenth, the day has long been celebrated in communities across the nation, with “people of all races, nationalities, and religions…joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.”
As racial injustice in our nation continues to run rampant and the reality of system racism continues to rear its ugly head in our justice system, in schools and housing, and in violence against people of color, apathy is not an option. Christians are called to be a people of reconciliation.
The national Episcopal Church defines reconciliation as “the spiritual practice of seeking loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God and one another, and striving to heal and transform injustice and brokenness in ourselves, our communities, institutions, and society.”
The national Church and our own diocese are deeply entrenched in this work of reconciliation. Please take some time to review the multitude of resources available to learn more about fulfilling our baptismal promises to seek and serve Christ in all persons, strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Beyond this, how does Juneteenth apply specifically to our parish?
Established in 1727, Christ Church has evolved from a predominantly white rural church into a multi-cultural congregation in the community of Columbia. Our earliest records indicate our lay founders used proceeds from the sale of tobacco grown by enslaved people: to fund the building of the church, procure a communion set still used today, and pay the salary of our first rector. Additionally, a number of slaves were baptized at Christ Church.
These details are often not mentioned when we speak of the history of Christ Church. But this part of our history cannot remain shrouded in silence. Our Juneteenth commemoration offers the opportunity to honor the contributions of those enslaved people who are part of Christ Church’s legacy—and to immerse ourselves in the experience of these souls, so we can set our sights on the work of reconciliation and healing.
Please join us on Sunday, June 19th to commemorate Juneteenth during both of our services. We will begin our special liturgy in front of Old Brick, joined by the Rev. Canon Christine McCloud, Diocesan Canon for Mission, as our guest preacher. Canon McCloud will also lead a special adult forum in between services, from 9:30-10:15 a.m. A meal will be provided after the 10:30 a.m. service. I hope you’ll join us in worship, formation, and fellowship on this special day.