Notes from the Field of Youth Ministry
Selma and Easter Resurrection
Posted By Milly Morrow on April 01, 2015
There are times when we as humans need to recount events in our collective memory in order to continue to make meaning out of those events, and further to integrate that meaning so that we can live more fully into God’s intention for us and our collective future. This is what we do during Holy Week and on Easter morning. We recall the events that led up to the death of Jesus by washing feet, sharing the meal and then holding vigil at the Cross. Without this recalling, Easter Sunday would simply be a celebration; void of our grief and longing Easter lacks the true depth of the actual resurrection. In the same way and for centuries Pilgrims have traveled miles to visit sites that recall events of the past that hold meaning for the present. Pilgrims like those 45,000 plus people who recently traveled to Selma, Alabama to recall the events of Bloody Sunday 1965. Sixty of those pilgrims were from our Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. We traveled by van and by bus - a nine hour drive through traffic and into the late dark night to arrive at our host church of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Selma. The church sits in the very middle of that small town and holds a history all of its own. There the sixty pilgrims found shelter where we all slept comfortably, or not, on the floor of the parish hall. We had little idea of what the morning would bring, but we were there to experience the fruits of the movement of the last fifty years - to hear from our president and many of the Elders of the Civil Right Movement and to be a part of the new movement of those gathered.
In the morning light and while the day unfolded what we found was that being a part of a movement is actually made up of many, many moments of waiting. We waited for hours to get into the crowd only to wait many, many hours to hear from the president and Elders. We waited hours for food and water and restrooms. Waiting can be hard. But waiting, being still and listening, meeting new people and hearing the stories of those pilgrims gathered and being in the sea of diverse and prayerful people was actually, in the end, what it seems we came for. Hearing the president and the crossing of the bridge was amazing…the energy of so many people in one place for the same reason was dramatic and intense, but the waiting was full and rich and made the crossing of the bridge and the president’s speech even more welcomed and inspiring.
The WNC Pilgrims crossed the bridge together late Sunday night. As we crossed, right at the crest of the bridge, right where the original marchers would have seen the police and government gathered with bully sticks wrapped in barbed wire, on horses ready for attack just fifty years earlier; we now saw a party… a thousand strong of racially and aged diverse people singing and clapping. We couldn’t have held back our youth from the call of that crowd if we had tried! We walked the rest of the bridge straight into that party…into the sea of the new movement. When we entered, a circle formed around our youth as if it had been planned and several young African-American youth extended their hands to our youth, inviting them to dance. Many of our youth accepted the invitation and enter the circle, hands over their heads clapping, laughing and dancing with their whole bodies, as the Dj’s on stage yelled “50!” and the crowd responded “YEARS!” - “50!”, “YEARS!”, “50!” “YEARS!”...on and on this chant went as the young people in the middle of the circle danced together.
I witnessed this…as they joyfully danced on the exact same piece of land where fifty years earlier people were clubbed down and bleeding and fighting for their lives. Through the laughter and the loud roar of the crowd, I heard a still small voice rising from my heart and I felt tears streaming down my cheeks ..the still small voice said; “Resurrection” - and I realized, we had all been waiting to witness Resurrection.
Peace and Happy Easter,