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The Day is Coming, June 19, 2024: How Shall we Celebrate It? Shall We Speak of it in Our Churches?


By Dr. Waymon Hinson

This is the Sunday before June 19, or Juneteenth. If any church is going to speak about it, it would be today. Next Sunday will see the sacred day in the rear view mirror. I periodically ask around, or occasionally I’ll follow Sunday bulletings, announcements, and sermon topics to see who will speak of it on this Sunday, or any Sunday.  Probably most are speaking about or rather to father’s on Father’s Day. That’s not a bad idea, to encourage us in our parenting and mentoring and all. 

My sense is that “progressive” churches are more likely to address Juneteenth and its meanings, and tha “conservative” churches are more likely to let it pass on by, but they will speak of Memorial Day, Veterans Day, or other bonafide holidays. Some say it’s not their church policy to address political things, and so the pastor won’t but the presiding elder will pray what is not said from the pulpit.

And so I am left wondering, why would a church NOT speak of one of the most profound holidays in our annual calendar? Is it because they are mainly a white church and do not want to offend anyone? Is it because it is not the gospel as defined in the church’s literature? Is it because they are embarrassed to say out loud that they know little to nothing about the day? Is it because racism hides beneath the layer of congeniality and “the gospel is for all?” Is it because “politics is divisive” and “to speak of racism is likewise divisive?” Is it simply a matter of not being informed?  

For churches that are predominantly Black, I’d ask the same questions, but what would the answers be? I’d love to see a church that fully engages people, one that validates our lived experience, one that celebrates Juneteenth wholeheartedly. 

I could also ask the same thing as to why churches remain open on Juneteenth, a federal holiday? 

Either way we go, we are sending a message to our people. 

Last year, Juneteenth was on Sunday, and the holiday the following day. An opportunity seized? An opportunity missed? 

I’m also curious about what makes some of our members feel invisible? I suppose this is one of them. Rather than church leaders assuming things about this day or acting arbitrarily about this day, how about if those leaders ask their African American members their opinions about it. I wonder if it would be kind of like the WPA interviews for formerly enslaved people years after freedom. There is some evidence that when the interviewee felt a similarity with the interviewer, the conversation was more real, but when there were perceived differences, such as a white woman interviewing elderly Black men who had been formerly enslaved, interviewees avoided more controversial topics or touched on them gently, like where masters were good or bad. 

I’m curious as to who knows about Juneteenth and who doesn’t.  A recent Gallup poll shows that the knowledge about it among American citizens has gone up since 2021. That is a good thing.

Personally, I have known about Juneteenth since the days of my adolescence here in Texas. I don’t know exactly when, but I remember knowing about it for a long time. Juneteenth became a Texas holiday in 1979 and now a national holiday as of 2021 when President Biden signed it into law and it immediately became a national holiday.

If I had been asked to say a few words at my church, what would I have said. I’ve thought long and hard about it and it would read like this. Just a note that this is a slightly emended post from what I wrote last year at this time. 

Wayon Hinson, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist, a researcher, and an advocate in matters related to social justice.  He is a gifted storyteller in the search for justice for the oppressed and marginalized peopleTo learn more about Dr. Hinson click here to visit his blog, “Let Justice Ring.”


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