What is Juneteenth and what does it mean for churches?
The topic of Juneteenth is often met with a strong response. The responses I have observed vary from: confusion, to anger, some are moved to tears in support, others react with vehement opposition. It is quite interesting to see how a holiday can affect individuals; I find this especially interesting in the church context. I believe both the opinion of the individual and church on Juneteenth have large implications on the reach of said entity. It is in this post I hope to define, delineate, and offer discourse on Juneteenth.
What is Juneteenth?
"Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, observed annually on June 19.1" In summation it is the end of slavery in the United States. Although many site the creation of the 13th as slavery's end there were still several states that had yet to ratify said amendment. It was not until the closing days of the civil war that all African Americans in the US would know emancipation. Freedom arrived on June 19, 1865, approximately 2,000 Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army proclaimed that the more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans in the state, were emancipated. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth," by the newly freed people.
What response is merited?
While I can not force a paradigm upon you I do believe that there are Biblical principals that should form our thinking on Juneteenth. I will list and elaborate upon them below.
Liberty and emancipation are massive themes throughout scripture. Reference: Isaiah 61:1, Galatians 5:1, Colossians 1:13, John 8:36, Romans 6:14, Isaiah 42:6-7
God's people in the Old Testament celebrated their deliverance from slavery. Exodus 12:24-28, Psalm 106:6-7
We are told to rejoice with those who rejoice. Romans 12:15
It is a rare instance of a national sin ending. Exodus 21:16,1 Timothy 1:10
It had tremendous effects on fulfilling the Great Commission and evangelism. Out of the ramifications of emancipation there were many churches, seminaries, ministries, and schools started. Some of the more famous individuals freed into ministry were: William Pettiford, Edward Hart Lipscomb, Jesse Freeman Boulder, Matthew Campbell, and many more.
The aforementioned are just a few reasons that I can support the celebration of Juneteenth. It also helps in engagement with persons of color and urban individuals. I pray the points of this article help and challenge!