Ambassadors of Healing

by | May 30, 2019

Photo credit: Steelbeach Productions

From seven states and the District of Columbia, mostly Episcopalians, joined by Lutheran, Mennonite, Baptist, Methodist, and “Nones,” the seasoned and the young, differently abled, black and white, clergy and lay, all told, fifty-two pilgrims converged on Birmingham, Alabama, to travel the Civil Rights Trail and visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum May 20-25.  

We traveled from Birmingham to Montgomery, and then to Selma. We were regaled by the foot soldiers – children at the time – who told their stories of being at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday; of having to ask their parents’ permission to miss school to participate in the Children’s March. We were reduced to tears at the Legacy Museum as holographs of the enslaved told their stories of abuse, estrangement and a desire for freedom. We learned that Lehman Brothers, a major financial powerhouse that went bankrupt in 2008, began as a purveyor of human flesh. We learned that in 1857, there were more auction blocks in Montgomery than there were hotels and churches. We learned that the black residents of Selma, Alabama, are little better off economically today than they were in 1965. 

Then, on the final night, reminiscent of the mass meetings of the 1960s, we gathered together for one last time to strategize – what would we do; how was God calling us? First, we will stay together; we came together, many of us as strangers and became our version of the beloved community. Across denominational and diocesan boundaries, we came together. We will share what we learned; we will challenge our congregations; and we will commit ourselves to breaking down barriers that keep God’s children from being all they are called to be. As one young adult offered, “I’ve read about these places and what happened and I knew they still existed; but to see them for myself, to see the people who are still alive to tell the stories, this isn’t history, this is today.”

The Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, Ph.D.
Priest-in-Charge, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, D.C. 

Photo credit: Steelbeach Productions