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A Prayer for Juneteenth

Juneteenth is the oldest African American celebration of emancipation from slavery. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, but news of emancipation moved slowly.  Texas was the most remote of the slave states, and the Emancipation Proclamation was not enforced there until two and a half years later, after the Civil War had ended . When the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas,  on June 19, 1865 announcing that all “slaves” were free in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation that the last slave experienced freedom.  The name of the observance is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”, the date of its celebration.  

In 1968, shortly after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, his Poor People’s Campaign held a Juneteenth Solidarity Day, giving the holiday a new prominence in the civil rights movement.  From the late nineteenth century through today, typical Juneteenth celebrations across the country include parades, speeches by African American community leaders, singing of traditional songs such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and dancing.

In honor of the Juneteenth holiday, we offer this Scripture and Prayer for Juneteenth.

Exodus 3:7,9 “ Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings.  The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 

1 Corinthians 15: 57 “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Liberating God, we offer a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for your hearing the cries of the oppressed.  Bless your name for giving us the victory and freedom over slavery.  We in gratitude unite all of our hearts to reflect on where you have bought us from. As we enter this Juneteenth holiday celebration let us remember all of our ancestors who longed to see this day come. Let us sing songs of joy and celebration.  God thank you for the freedoms we experience, let us not take for granted at what cost we experience it.   May we fill the land with songs of joy and thanksgiving in celebration in remembering your saving grace. 

Oh amazing and gracious God, may we all give a moment of silence to “breathe your breath of life”.  And  In all our times of tribulation and suffering you enabled us to endure, to build character as a people and  May we continue the fight for full liberation for all people, for our indigenous siblings.  Loving Parent, and always grounded in a hope  that did not disappoint. Your abiding love freed us and continues to free us for the sake of your love.  May we as a people begin to heal and be reconciled to each other freely in love and justice. 

Lord, we can’t fully celebrate while others are in need of liberation from poverty and persecution. We cry out on behalf of the families separated at our borders, as children who are detained in cages cry out for their parents. Send your word, oh God to save and free them.

And Lord after a time of celebrating, give us the strength, motivation, fortitude and courage to continue to fight for social justice, equity, and to dismantle all systems of oppression and supremacy. In hopes that we all shall overcome one day.  Amen

Rev. Babette Chatman

University Campus Pastor