By the Rev. Dr. Sally J. French Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of New Jersey
[Editor’s Note: This post was update on June 14 with the latest information about the Juneteenth commemoration in Perth Amboy.]
For many people, June is a favorite month. It’s the beginning of vacation season and the end of the school year. For those of us who follow the church’s calendar, it marks the transition from Easter to Pentecost and the green and growing weeks that follow. Our Sunday readings for the weeks after Pentecost focus on living into our faith, learning about Jesus, and responding to God’s call.
June is also the month of both LGBTQ+ Pride and Juneteenth, two celebrations that invite us to reflect on the Gospel call to compassion and love, to see all people as beloved children of God, and to recognize that, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Again, we are invited to live into our faith, learn about Jesus, and respond to God’s call.
In recent months, there has been an increase in hostility and violence against LGBTQ+ persons. Legislation has been brought forward in our country and elsewhere in the world that diminishes human rights. I know of a congregation in our diocese that experienced property damage earlier this year because of their support of our LBGTQ+ siblings. The hatred and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans people, is real and harmful. Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate the gifts offered by LGBTQ+ persons and work for justice. Our diocesan Pride Celebration Eucharist takes place at St. George’s, Rumson on Sunday (June 11) at 4:00 pm. Please join us.
Juneteenth, our newest federal holiday (2021), commemorates the day (June 19, 1865) when the last enslaved people in the United States learned of their emancipation, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (Jan 1, 1863). The federal holiday is new, but the celebration has deep roots. It is an acknowledgement of freedom, equality, and potential, in response to slavery and oppression. St. Peter’s Perth Amboy will participate in a city-wide Juneteenth event beginning at 11:00 a.m. at the Perth Amboy Ferry Slip, where there will be a commemoration of the landing of enslaved Africans. Participants will then process to St. Peter’s for a memorial at the monument for enslaved Africans who were buried there. At noon, St. Peter’s will host a musical event, followed by a procession to Perth Amboy City Hall Circle, where the the program continues with a Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony and the ringing of church bells throughout the City of Perth Amboy. Again, we invite you to join us.
Both Pride Month and Juneteenth celebrate the gift of communities and people who have historically been marginalized. These celebrations invite us to see God’s loving presence at work in different races, cultures, families, and identities. Diversity is a gift that enriches and strengthens us. When diversity is a source of division and oppression, it is injustice, and when we encounter injustice, as followers of Jesus, we are called to respond. Let’s work together to live into our faith, learn about Jesus, and respond to God’s call.