September 15th marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Fran Woodruff (On the Chancel Steps) recently attended a teacher conference on the history and stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. Through discussions with the conference presenters and members of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, she learned that many churches are planning to continue the Sunday School lesson that was cut short on that fateful day: “A Love that Forgives.” And this year, September 15th falls on a Sunday.
I am now on a campaign to make sure all of my church friends across the country are aware in hopes that they will have time to make plans to break from the lectionary and connect across time and place. While historical and Internet sources all differ whether it was just a Sunday School lesson or the sermon, most agree the service was to be Youth Sunday and the best I can find says the text for the day was Matthew 5:43, 44 (though some sources say it was Luke 23:34).
Recognizing that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week, maybe, just maybe, we shall all overcome. And think how powerful it will be to continue the lesson interrupted fifty years ago!
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
- Birmingham’s Civil Rights Movement
- 16th Street Baptist Church
- A podcast from NPR marking the 40th anniversary of the bombing, from All Things Considered.
- Videos posted on the History Channel related to this event.
- The children’s book (5th grade) “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963” a Newbery Honor Book written by Christopher Paul Curtis.
- A Time to Speak lesson plan from Teaching Tolerance.