Midweek Message June 19, 2024

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32


Today marks the annual celebration of Juneteenth, the day that last enslaved people in the United States were finally set free, some two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863.


As the Union troops, led by General Granger, marched into Galveston TX, word finally reached every part of the country. The General’s first order of business was to read General Order Number 3 to the people of Texas, the last holdout of the confederacy:


"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."


With those words generations of enslaved people, men, women, and children, were set free. I can hardly fathom how it may have felt for someone to hear the words of freedom after so many years of enslavement. Joy? That seems like a safe bet. But what about uncertainty? Righteous fury? Maybe even some fear? These were a people starting from scratch. Yes, they had tremendous skill and resilience (borne out of threat to life and limb). But their pockets were empty and despite the new legislation, everything about society remained deeply racist, bent hard against the success of the formerly enslaved.


And yet they celebrated and we all continue to celebrate today. Communities experience collective trauma, such as the experience and history of slavery. They also cultivate collective resilience, a relentless ability to bounce back from adversity again and again.


Today I was reading about the culinary traditions of Juneteenth, one example of such resilience. Did you know that the color red is prominent in Juneteenth celebrations? Think red velvet cake and red Juneteenth punch. Red, a color of pride among Yoruba and Congo, places many of the enslaved people living in Texas had originated from. And red, a reminder of the bloody history of slavery.


We cannot undo the unthinkable cruelty and injustice of slavery. But we can and must remember. And we should also recognize and name the unique values, strengths, and contributions of African Americans across time and today. The work of undoing racism carries on, and celebrating the resilience of our Black siblings is one way to counter false narratives and injustice with a righteous truth. 


If you’d like to learn more about Juneteenth, here is a great place to look: https://www.juneteenth.com/


Pastor Page


Ministry Highlight - Roots of Empathy


After the service on Sunday, June 23, in the Mt. Baker Room at around 11:30 am, you are invited to a lively discussion about Roots of Empathy, an international award-winning program that supports grade school kids with engaged citizenship, emotional well-being, and experience less bullying. At the heart of the program is a baby as a “tiny teacher” of empathy. Sara Airoldi, Whatcom Program Manager, and Margie Kimberly, Volunteer Roots of Empathy Instructor will lead a Q&A about how you can help make this possible in Bellingham and Whatcom County classrooms, and fill your cup in the experience! 

There are opportunities for folks to get trained to facilitate the curriculum 1x/week in a classroom, and for parent(s) with a new baby born this summer to visit the classroom 1x/month starting in October. Or come to learn more, share the delight, and spread the word! For more information on this program, visit their website.