Churches, dioceses to host variety of Juneteenth celebrations

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jun 12, 2024

Trooper Jackie Quinn, representing “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 9th and 10th Cavalry, carries the General Order No. 3 during a march reenactment in celebration of Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 2023. Photo: Adrees Latif/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] Activities marking Juneteenth – June 19 – are set to take place in churches and dioceses across The Episcopal Church, ranging from a block party with a genealogy theme to concerts to potlucks.

Juneteenth commemorates the date in 1865 that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to ensure that all enslaved people in the state were freed. This came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, but the order couldn’t be enforced everywhere until after the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865.

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, became a national holiday on June 17, 2021, making it the first new national holiday adopted since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. While Texas and more than two dozen other states already observed Juneteenth as a state holiday, interest in a federal holiday was renewed in the summer of 2020, during months of racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a number of other Black people.

In a reflection on The Episcopal Church’s website, Lindsey Delks, a domestic policy advisor in The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, writes about his experience of Juneteenth growing up in the deep South with grandparents who had been active in the Civil Rights Movement. He says, “It is always hard to celebrate holidays dedicated to Black people, especially in the United States. The feeling of wanting to appreciate where you’ve come from is constantly overshadowed by the sinking feeling that you’ve never moved far enough.”

In 2021 Missouri Bishop Deon Johnson wrote collects for Juneteenth that others are welcome to use.

The following is a list of some Juneteenth events hosted by Episcopal churches and dioceses. Check online for additional events by local dioceses and parishes.

Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri – On June 10, the Diocese of West Missouri hosted a Kansas City Tour to visit Black historical landmarks: the Black Archives of Mid-America, Levi Harrington Historical Marker at site of 1882 lynching, and the Garrison School in Liberty and Fairview Cemetery in Liberty.

Church of the Good Shepherd – On June 14 at 6 p.m. Eastern, the Church of the Good Shepherd, York, South Carolina, is hosting a community conversation featuring professors O. Jennifer Dixon-McKnight  and Edward Lee. The event is free but registration is required.

Episcopal Diocese of Long Island – A Juneteenth ceremony and reception is being sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island on June 15 at 11 a.m. Eastern at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City. Scholars selected for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island’s Barbara C. Harris Scholars Program will be presented with their scholarships; this is the program’s third year. All scholars are the descendants of enslaved people who have exhibited exceptional academic excellence and dedicated themselves to creating a more just world through their communities. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Episcopal Church of the Atonement – On June 15 at noon Eastern, the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Washington, D.C., will host a genealogy workshop and block party in conjunction with the Majani Project, a free genealogy club for all students, and The Mission Continues, which connects veterans with under-resourced communities.

Episcopal Diocese of California – The annual Juneteenth celebration of the Episcopal Diocese of California will take place on June 15 at 11 a.m. Pacific at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland. Bishop Marc Andrus will be the celebrant, and Bishop Coadjutor Austin Rios will deliver the homily. A reception will follow the service.

St. Joseph-St. John Episcopal ChurchSt. Joseph-St. John Episcopal Church of Lakewood, Washington, on June 15 from 3-5 p.m. Pacific will host a community celebration at Lakewood City Hall with the theme “we are family.

St. John’s Cathedral – On June 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern, St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida, will host a Juneteenth concert featuring the work Voice of My People by M. Roger Holland II. A reception will follow. Events are free and open to all.

Washington National CathedralWashington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., will celebrate Juneteenth on June 16 at the 11:15 a.m. Eastern Sunday Holy Eucharist that features guest preacher Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches and music from the cathedral’s Contemporary Worship Ensemble.

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church – On June 16 at 10 a.m. Pacific, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California, will welcome as guest preacher the Rev. Mark Chase, associate rector at All Saints, Pasadena. A festive potluck, provided by the St. Barnabas community and members of All Saints’ Racial Reconciliation Committee will follow the service.

St. Augustine’s ChurchSt. Augustine’s Church, Oakland, California, is hosting a Juneteenth celebration on June 16 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. The featured speaker will be Elaine Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party.

Church of the Epiphany – On June 18 at 12:10 p.m. Eastern, the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D.C., will host a Juneteenth concert featuring countertenor Andrew Chukwuku Egbuchiem.

Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal ChurchHoly Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island, South Carolina, will be the site June 18 at 5 p.m. Eastern for the Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Arts Juneteenth Celebration, which will feature an evening of history and music of the African-American culture in the Lowcountry.

Episcopal Diocese of Maryland – The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland hosts its Juneteenth observance on June 19 beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. Participants then will process to the Harriett Tubman Grove at Wyman Park for a 6 p.m. prayer and celebration service.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church – On June 22 at 1 p.m. Eastern, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Altoona, Pennsylvania, will host a Juneteenth Jubilee, with the program provided by the Blair County African American Heritage Festival.

St. Mark’s Cathedral – The Black/African American Circle of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia is hosting a Juneteenth liturgy and potluck BBQ on June 22 at noon Pacific at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, Washington. The worship service will feature poetry, music, preaching and the Holy Eucharist. A special offering will be taken up in support of the Richard Younge Curates of Color Fund. The event also will be livestreamed.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church – On June 23 at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Eastern, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia, will include hymns from Lift Every Voice and Sing in its services. The church also will be making biannual donations to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts in recognition of the role played by Black composers and musicians.

St. Luke’s and Trinity on the Green St. Luke’s Parish, Darien, Connecticut, and Trinity on the Green, New Haven, Connecticut, on June 22 at 3 p.m. Eastern will co-host an afternoon of music, fellowship and prayer at Villano Park in Hamden, Connecticut. Activities will include St. PJ’s Jazz Collective at 3 p.m., community prayers at 3:50 p.m. and St. Luke’s Steel Band at 4 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chairs for seating, as well as a snack or dessert item to share.

—Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.