From a Pastor's Desk

A series of opinion articles from rostered ministers and lay leaders from our Synod.


From the Black Pastors Group | Juneteenth 2023

Jun 07, 2023


A Day of Observation and Remembrance

Juneteenth Freedom” by Rowan Attensetts


Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, holds profound significance in the history of the United States. On this day, we commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and recognize the ongoing struggle for equality and justice. Juneteenth should be more than just a date on the calendar; it should be a “Day of Observation and Remembrance”—a day to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and envision a future where all are truly equal.

At its core, Juneteenth represents the liberation of enslaved individuals in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This momentous occasion marked the end of slavery in the United States and became a beacon of hope for millions of African Americans who had long suffered under the yoke of oppression.

Today, Juneteenth provides an opportunity for all Americans to reflect upon the historical injustices faced by Black people and acknowledge their invaluable contributions to the nation. It is a day to honor African Americans’ resilience, strength, and spirit throughout history. By recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Black individuals, we can break down the barriers of ignorance and prejudice that still persist in our society.

A significant aspect of Juneteenth is acknowledging the contributions and inventions that Black people have made throughout history. From influential figures such as The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elizabeth Carter Brooks, and Mary Church Terrell to the numerous everyday individuals who have positively impacted their communities, the achievements of Black people deserve to be highlighted and celebrated.

Moreover, Juneteenth is an occasion to embrace and uplift the rich culture of our Black communities. It is a day to revel in the vibrant traditions, music, art, and cuisine that have emerged from the African American experience. We foster unity and promote a more inclusive society by appreciating and participating in these cultural expressions.

In considering the spiritual dimension of Juneteenth, it is essential to recognize the role of faith and the church in the Black community’s journey toward freedom and equality. The Lutheran Church has a distinct place in this history, with Reverend Jehu Jones playing a crucial role in advocating for justice and liberation. Additionally, it is important to highlight the Frankean Synod, a group of Lutheran pastors who expressed dissatisfaction with their church’s position on slavery in 1837. Their dissent showcased a significant internal debate within the Lutheran community regarding the issue of slavery. By acknowledging the involvement of the Frankean Synod, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of the historical context and the varying perspectives within the Lutheran Church during that time. This recognition further emphasizes the significance of faith and its role in the fight for social justice.

Drawing inspiration from the biblical text of Jeremiah 29:11, which speaks of hope and a future, Juneteenth can become a day to uplift and inspire. This verse reminds us that God has plans for our lives, plans that include a hopeful and prosperous future. By highlighting this message of hope, we can encourage individuals to embrace their purpose and work towards a better future for all.

As we observe and remember Juneteenth, we must also stand our ground on God’s call for our lives. It is a day to renew our commitment to equality, justice, and the pursuit of a more inclusive society. Educating ourselves about racial injustice’s history, engaging in meaningful conversations, and advocating for change can contribute to the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality.

In conclusion, Juneteenth is a significant day in American history that warrants greater recognition and observance. It should be a “Day of Observation and Remembrance” where we acknowledge Black people’s history, contributions, inventions, and culture. Let us celebrate the journey of African Americans, recognize their invaluable contributions in the present, and envision a future where equality and justice prevail. We can infuse hope and inspiration into this day by incorporating a spiritual dimension into Juneteenth and drawing upon texts such as Jeremiah 29:11.

Furthermore, Juneteenth reminds us that within each of us lies a unique and powerful story waiting to be told. It is a day to embrace and uplift the stories and experiences of Black individuals, recognizing the strength, resilience, and triumphs that have shaped our lives. Listening to these stories and amplifying our voices deepen our understanding and forge stronger connections as a diverse society.

Together, let us stand firm in our commitment to God’s call for our lives and work towards a future where all individuals are truly free and equal. May Juneteenth be a catalyst for change, fostering unity, empathy, and the unwavering pursuit of justice for all.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Let us pray:

Gracious God,

On this sacred Juneteenth, we gather in profound gratitude, commemorating the freedom and liberation you have given us. With unwavering faith, we embrace the promise revealed in Jeremiah 29:11, where you declare your plans for our well-being and a future filled with hope.

In heartfelt prayer, our voices merge, embracing the Black community, both past and present, as we seek your divine guidance, protection, and empowerment. In your boundless mercy, bless their endeavors, amplifying their voices and fostering unity within our nation. Guide us on a transformative journey towards a society where your profound understanding of justice and inclusivity reign supreme.

We ask your wisdom to dismantle divisive barriers and nurture a world defined by love, respect, and understanding. With hope and trust in your divine plan, may the wings of freedom empower individuals to soar to remarkable heights, embracing their boundless potential with courage and grace.

In your name, we pray. Amen