Sacred Ground Pilgrimage: Day 1 Digest

Our Sacred Ground Pilgrimage is but one part of our two-year commitment to intentional learning and action opportunities designed to help us to become more fully the Beloved Community as part of our shared diocesan vision of a world healed by love. Truly this pilgrimage is one for our whole diocese. There are 30 of us on the ground in Alabama this week, but your involvement as a pilgrim in your own time and space is just as vital to our shared commitment, mission, and vision. Thank you for joining the pilgrimage in prayer and in interactive learning opportunities. We hope you’ll also tune in to our social media channels – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube – to keep up with the experiences in Alabama as they happen. 

Each day, we’ll post a daily overview of the learning experiences for the day and, whenever possible, ways for you to engage in those experiences from afar. If you have any questions or would like to share your own reactions to the learning experiences, please reach out to Rachel, our Communications Director via email or by calling or texting 315-741-1100.

If you’d like to see other days’ overviews and learn more about our commitment to racial justice and healing, please visit this page. 

Today, our pilgrims journey southward to Birmingham. Please pray for their safe travels. 

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who trave,l in particular our CNY siblings in Christ traveling to Alabama; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our first stop is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

About the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham. The mission of the BCRI is to enlighten each generation about civil and human rights by exploring our common past and working together in the present to build a better future. (Source)

Praying Together as Pilgrims 

Holy God, source of wisdom and grace: bless us as we embark into spaces of learning about struggles for the rights and dignity of our Black siblings. Give us open minds to receive the truths – however hard – of the ways we as a nation have failed to honor your presence in one another. Give us tender and caring hearts to receive the sacred stories of the people who have persevered in the struggle to honor the dignity of every human made in your image; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. 

Learning Together as Pilgrims
  • Explore the BCRI Oral History Project: This project is an invaluable collection of more than 600 interviews with pivotal laborers in the Civil Rights Movement. Explore some of the many digitized interviews available to you on the website and hear from humans who moved the movement. 
  • Foot Soldiers: Through this interactive online resource, you can trace the footsteps of brave people who stirred the conscience of a nation and influenced the course of the international struggle for human rights, all centered in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Our next stop is next door at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

About the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

Organized in 1873 as the First Colored Baptist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, Sixteenth Street was the first Black church in Birmingham… Because of segregation, the church, and other Black churches in Birmingham, served many purposes. It functioned as a meeting place, social center and lecture hall for a variety of activities important to the lives of the city’s Black citizens… Due to Sixteenth Street’s prominence in the Black community, and its central location to downtown Birmingham, the church served as headquarters for the civil rights mass meetings and rallies in the early 1960’s. During this time of trial, turmoil and confrontation, the church provided strength and safety for Black men, women and children dedicated to breaking the bonds of segregation in Birmingham, a city that Black citizens believed to be the most racist in America… The mass meetings held in Sixteenth Street, and in many other churches in Birmingham in May of 1963, resulted in marches and demonstrations that produced police retaliation and brutality, still painful to the memory of all who lived in the city and millions who saw it reported on national TV newscasts. Most of the marchers were school children and several thousand were arrested. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth provided inspirational leadership to the marchers during this chaotic time. The marches and demonstrations did break the bonds of public segregation in Birmingham.

On Sunday, September 15, 1963, at 10:22 a.m., the church became known around the world when a bomb exploded, killing four young girls attending Sunday School and injuring more than 20 other members of the congregation. Later that same evening, in different parts of town, a black youth was killed by police and one was murdered by a mob of white men. It was a shocking, terrifying day in the history of Birmingham and a day that forced white leaders to further come to grips with the city’s bitter racist reputation. (Source)

Praying Together as Pilgrims

Please join us in this prayer, based on the prayer of Rev. Arthur Price, Jr,, Pastor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church,  at the anniversary of that tragic bombing in 2015:

God, we pause now to remember what happened nearly 60 years ago at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a sacred place of devotion to you and service to your people. We remember how on that fateful day, a Sunday school lesson was taught about your love that forgives, your agape love. In the midst of that lesson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, & Carole Denise McNair had their lives stolen from them by a terrorist, fueled by hate. We thank you, Lord, that the story of this church and  its community did not end there. We thank you that you turned bitter days into better days. Shepherd us as we continue to live into that story, your story. Keep us from complacency and continue to guide and  enlighten each generation about civil and human rights as we explore our common past and work together now to build a better future. Through the power of your Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus, who lived and died as one of us. Amen.

Learning Together as Pilgrims
  • Get to know the people of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church – This church is more than a historic reminder of hurt, it is a thriving community of love. Explore the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church website and get to know the people who continue its legacy of community and the love of God. 
  • Learn more about the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing through this article and video from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University. 
  • Listen to a Survivor: The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing is not that far removed from our current day. Sarah Collins Rudolph is in early early seventies now, but in September 1963, she was only 12 years old. She stood next to her sister, 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins as the dynamite exploded, killing Addie Mae and three other girls and stealing the sight from Sarah’s right eye. In this 2020 video, Mrs. Collins Rudolph  has a conversation with Ebony Phillips, Vice President of the Greater Atlanta Black Prosecutors Association, and describes what it was like to grow up Black in Birmingham and her recollections from that tragic day.

Day 1 in Alabama ends with dinner, fellowship and compline with the people of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, a historically Black congregation with a rich history. 

Join us for Compline live on Facebook sometime around 6 p.m. EST. At this time, a PDF of the worship program is not available, however if one becomes available, we will share it in the live stream and update the racial justice page on our website.

Reflecting Together as Pilgrims

Take some time to reflect and pray about the experiences from this Pilgrimage Day 1. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some wondering prompts that can help you to get started: 

  • I wonder what surprised me the most about today’s experiences. 
  • I wonder where I saw God at work in the stories and experiences today. 
  • I wonder what part of the stories I heard today will stay with me. 
  • I wonder where I am in these stories I heard today. 
  • I wonder where I and these stories are in the big story of the people of God. 
  • I wonder what’s next in this big story of the people of God.  
  • Kate Lufkin Day

    So many feelings listening to Sarah Collins Rudolph speak about that day. She really brought it home. I wish I could have known her mother. I believe that Angela Davis was deeply affected by the bombing, and was the same age as the girls who died. Her life took another, remarkable trajectory from that horrific event. I was struck also by Sarah’s seeking medication for her pain in cigarettes and alcohol, a natural choice when there’s nothing else offered. Thinking of you all on the physical pilgrimage, and sending prayers! It’s a lot for the human heart to take in.

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