Faith Formation

Civil Rights Sunday is September 15

November 6, 2014
Lifelong Formation

On September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, killing four little girls and marking a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement that ultimately contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a recent blog post, Sharon Ely Pearson referenced a trip taken by Fran Woodruff (On the Chancel Steps) to a teacher conference on the history and stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham.

Pearson writes, “Through discussions with the conference presenters and members of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, she [Fran] learned that many churches are planning to continue the Sunday School lesson that was cut short on that fateful day: ‘A Love that Forgives.’ And this year, September 15th falls on a Sunday.” (Civil Rights Sunday, Building Faith blog)

Fran writes,I am now on a campaign to make sure all of my church friends across the country are aware in hopes that they will have time to make plans to break from the lectionary and connect across time and place. While historical and Internet sources all differ whether it was just a Sunday School lesson or the sermon, most agree the service was to be Youth Sunday and the best I can find says the text for the day was Matthew 5:43, 44 (though some sources say it was Luke 23:34).

Recognizing that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week, maybe, just maybe, we shall all overcome. And think how powerful it will be to continue the lesson interrupted fifty years ago!

Even though this is the beginning of the program year for many Episcopal churches , I hope that Children’s Ministry programs across the country will take this Sunday to join in solidarity with other faith communities commemorating this important event.

You could incorporate the lessons into your Sunday morning program or host a special event. Here are some ideas and resources you might find useful:

Kids in Birmingham 1963 offers online stories from the friends, family, and witnesses to the bombing. These might be useful in starting a conversation or inspiring a creative response to the violence and intolerance underlying the bombing.

Mighty Times: The Children’s March, is a 40-minute video telling the story of how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 and brought segregation to its knees. Their heroism complements discussions about the ability of today’s young people to be catalysts for positive social change. This video is reportedly suitable for children. However, I would recommend that you view it for yourself and make a decision based on your community.

Teaching Tolerance, is an outstanding campaign and website sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The site offers outstanding curriculum resources for all ages.

Also, watch for details on the Episcopal Church’s State of Racism webcast, which will air live on Friday Nov. 15, 2013 at 1 pm Central (2 pm Eastern, noon Mountain, 11 am Pacific, 10 am Alaska, 9 am Hawaii)The forum is ideal for live group watching and discussion, or on-demand viewing later. It will be appropriate for Sunday School, discussions groups, and community gatherings.

Do you have any resources or ideas to share to gain some momentum for Civil Rights Sunday? If you do, please post them in the comments below.

David Stickley

Formation Associate