Two coalitions of local ministers are encouraging the local African-American community to heed the warning of Spanish poet George Santayana: “A people that forget their history are destined to repeat it.”
Therefore the Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance and the Missionary Baptist Ministers’ Alliance will present the 64th annual Emancipation Day Service on Tuesday, Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. at Christ Missionary Baptist Church, 1001 Eugene St.
The service, which features a sermon from a prominent preacher, praise music and an awards ceremony, is held each year to commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, credited with freeing slaves after 244 years of captivity, and keeping the United States intact as a nation.
The celebration is also designed to remember the struggles and achievements of African-Americans since the Emancipation.
“We should never forget the historic act of God which gave us our freedom, and remember the inroads made by our forefathers,” said Rev. Melvin Girton, pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church.
Rev. Fitzhugh Lyons, pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance, noted that the Emancipation Day Service is modeled on the Juneteenth celebrations in Texas, named in memory of the month that many slaves received news that the emancipation had been signed.
“That’s a special part of our heritage,” Lyons said.
Prominent clergymen who have delivered sermons for the event in the past include Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev Andrew J. Brown and many others.
“We only bring the best and the most inspiring preachers,” Lyons stated.
This year’s speaker will be Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr., who is senior bishop of the national Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. A native of Arkansas who grew up in Gary, Ind., Williamson has led various congregations in Florida, Illinois and Indiana.
Between 1986 and 2002 he grew the congregation of Carter Temple C.M.E. Church from 50 to over 3,000 active members. He has also served as advisor for Jesse Jackson’s PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) organization and is founder of One Church One School, a nationwide community partnership program that offers conferences, mentoring, scholarships and tutoring for youth.
Williamson also once served as pastor of Phillips Temple C.M.E. Church in Indianapolis.
“We thought it would be a great idea to bring one of our own back home,” said Lyons.
Williamson’s appearance fits in with this year’s theme of honoring C.M.E. ministers, especially several who lead local churches.
Throughout the service praise music will be offered by the choirs of Breeding Tabernacle C.M.E., Burton Temple C.M.E., Phillips Temple C.M.E., Trinity C.M.E. and Womack C.M.E. Churches.
A tribute to Congresswoman Julia Carson will be offered by her pastor, Rev. Jonathan Bailey of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. An analysis of the political state of the local Black community will be given by state Sen. Glenn Howard D-Indianapolis, state Rep. Bill Crawford D-Indianapolis, and WTLC-AM personality Amos Brown.
The Mozel Sanders “Drum Major for Justice” Award will be given to Marc Lockhart of Lockhart Cadillac, Lyons, and Lynn Kimmell.
Organizer’s hope next week’s service will offer solutions the community can use to become “emancipated” from problems such as academic failure, crime, health disparities and cultural identity.
“Churches need to take the lead in addressing today’s challenges and bringing God forward as a primary solution,” said Girton. “If we don’t do it, who will?”
For more information call (317) 283-2622.