Wednesday, June 20, 2007

300th anniversary update: Civil Rights Project invites stories.

At the 1963 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., African-American pastor Tom Wilson of First Church of the Brethren in Chicago declared, "What is at stake in this growing racial conflict? Apart from the restoration of human dignity and worth, and the need for bringing relief to those who have suffered long and patiently at the hand of injustice, nothing less than the integrity of the church itself is at stake. The world, and more specifically, the Negro communities, have grown weary of the church's lofty pronouncements and pious platitudes. They await our answer today. They want to see, to feel, and to taste of the redemptive love of Christ."

Wilson's words resonated with Brethren across the US as many heeded the call to action by taking an active role in the struggle for racial equality. Although Brethren were not united on the role of the church in the Civil Rights Movement, the stories of pastors, college students, congregations, and individuals both young and old express the deep passion and dedication of many Brethren to the cause.

The Brethren Witness/Washington Office has been collecting the stories of Brethren participants in the Civil Rights Movement since last September, with the ultimate goal of a book publication for the 300th anniversary celebration in 2008. So far, stories have been collected from Brethren all over the denomination, from California to Chicago to Pennsylvania. Stories include those of people who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., and other prominent civil rights leaders; recollections of those who participated in the Selma, Montgomery, and Albany campaigns; memories of the March on Washington in Aug. 1963; stories from those who faced hatred, violence, and criticism; and stories from those who remember the Civil Rights Movement as the most influential time in their lives.

As the Brethren Witness/Washington Office continues with this project, Brethren are encouraged to contact the office with their personal stories and experiences with the Civil Rights Movement. Contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office,337 North Carolina Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003; 800-785-3246;

Those who are attending the 2007 Annual Conference are invited to visit the Brethren Witness/Washington Office booth, where there will be an opportunity to record personal stories, or to receive more information about the project.

--Emily O'Donnell is a legislative associate at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

Source: 6/20/2007 Newsline Extra

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