This is only the second year for the Federal holiday of Juneteenth. What is it about, anyway? Why is it important?
The history of Juneteenth is this:
“After the Union Army captured New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Confederate states migrated to Texas with more than 150,000 enslaved Black persons. For 3 years, even after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved Black Americans in Texas remained in brutal bondage, immorally and illegally deprived of their freedom and basic dignity. On June 19, 1865 — over 2 years after President Lincoln declared all enslaved persons free — Major General Gordon Granger and Union Army troops “marched to Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas.” Presidential Proclamation on Juneteenth Day of Observance, 2022
On this gorgeous Sunday in June in Virginia in 2022, I was so glad that I attended worship at my church, Redeemer Lutheran in McLean, where Bible readings, uplifting music and the pastor’s message fleshed out for me Juneteenth and why, from the Christian perspective, it should be important to us.
At church today, I heard this reading from the book of Galatians, Chapter 3: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
Pastor Sandy Kessinger began her sermon with a quote from Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived; but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” She spoke about the unfinished work we, as Christians, are called to undertake to live out Gospel truths and dismantle destructive “isms” in our society. (To read Pastor Kessinger’s message, please visit: https://redeemermclean.org/worship/sermons)
And as we finished the service, the assisting minister read this prayer:
“Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold onto what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint hearted; support the weak, and help the suffering; honor all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
(To view a recording of this service, please visit: https://vimeo.com/showcase/7193046)
While it is a new holiday to many of us, I now have a deeper appreciation of what Juneteenth means, and what it should inspire. This new national holiday challenges us to face our history honestly, and to work for a better future for EVERYONE. As the Presidential Proclamation for Juneteenth 2022 reads:
“Juneteenth is a day to reflect on both bondage and freedom — a day of both pain and purpose. It is, in equal measure, a remembrance of both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, as well as a celebration of the promise of a brighter morning to come. On Juneteenth, we remember our extraordinary capacity to heal, to hope, and to emerge from our worst moments as a stronger, freer, and more just Nation.”
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.