Over 500 people gathered at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va. on Saturday, February 16 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a special service of remembrance, celebration and witness. The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop, reminded attendees that “emancipation is another word for the ongoing resurrection we known in Jesus Christ, who continues to set us free.”
But, she added, “to discover the depth and reality of that freedom, we must re-encounter it, every day of our lives.”
The entire congregation joined in a litany of offense and apology, in which the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia, offered apologies for the Church’s complicity in the slave trade – and a promise to strive to create a community of justice. “The Diocese of Virginia gathers to apologize for its complicity in the institution of slavery and to repent of the injuries done in its aftermath,” said Johnston in the litany. He added, “With God’s grace we will amend our lives, committing ourselves to opposing the sin of racism in personal and public life.”
Hosted by St. George’s and planned by the diocesan Committee on Race & Reconciliation, the service was designed to mark a true journey from repentance to hope….
The celebration concluded with a walk through historic downtown Fredericksburg, which passed the site of the former slave auction block and ended at the memorial dedication of a sculpture by artist Ayokunle Odeleye.” The sculpture, depicting a set of raised hands releasing a dove into the air, is appropriately called “Jubilation.”
The bishops process into St. George’s, Fredericksburg for the service commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The waving red flag represents the small red flag auction rooms used to signal the sale of slaves.
Read Emily Cherry’s full report on the service here (PDF).
If you’d like the order of service, find it here.
The diocese’s report to General Convention (in response to resolution A143 of GC2009) on its complicity in slavery and racism is here.
Three priests of the Diocese of Virginia offered their personal reflections on emancipation. Speaking of her own congregation, the Rev. Kim Coleman said,
We are building a diverse and inclusive congregation that makes room for people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of abilities. We are laughing. We are loving. We are giving. We are growing.
Together we are discovering that there is more than the paralyzing stench of irreparable loss beneath the grave garments of slavery and racism. There also abide stories of tremendous courage, perseverance, strength of character, faith that prevails against all odds, and incomprehensible love, love that can and does forgive, forget, and carry on.
I am black. I am a woman. And I make a difference by choosing to continue engaging emancipation’s ongoing work of transfiguration, using the gifts God has entrusted to my care – among them my color and my gender.