For the past five years, St. Paul’s has partnered with the historic Abyssinian Meeting House of Portland to celebrate Juneteenth in our Memorial Garden. Friends and strangers and our children from far and wide have come to listen to great soulful music, dramatic readings, to play games, create butterflies for freedom, to eat soul food and to celebrate in the freedom that Juneteenth symbolizes.
The theme of Juneteenth is freedom because the final declaration to the end of slavery was announced on June 19, 1865 in Texas. Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, two years before Juneteenth. He not only hoped that freed slaves would join the Union Army, he also was against slave expansion in the West, which he feared would break apart the country even further. Our parish in New Jersey, Grace Church began to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the beginning of the New Year in part because January 1 is an important date not only for the New Year, but also for freedom. This celebration included a partial reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, “…that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” We loved to sing the African-American freedom song, “Oh, freedom! Oh, freedom! Oh freedom over me. And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.” And we’d read passages of Scripture that had to do with freedom, especially the passage from Exodus about the Israelites being freed by God from Pharaoh.
Today and tomorrow the celebration of Juneteenth continues. St. Paul’s together with the historic Abyssinian Meeting House has produced a video celebration. Because of the pandemic and social distancing precautions, we can’t enjoy the live activities, performances and food at St. Paul’s. But we can celebrate by viewing a video of many of the performances we normally would have offered live. There is even a video “performance” of how to make cheesy grits, grits being an innovation of African-American cuisine! See it here YouTube
And tonight, join in the fun for the live stream musical celebration of State Theatre in Portland of Juneteenth at 8:00 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/statetheatreportland/posts/4565180633507319
May we all enjoy true liberty in Christ, freedoms and a “fair portion of the riches of this land,” (from BCP, p. 815)
In hope, Carolyn+