As people of faith gather in Selma this weekend to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 March, our Beloved Conversations Circles at UCS – our small groups focusing on race and privilege – began this month’s session by remembering all of those citizens who gathered there to cross a bridge. We all have different connections to the 1965 March in Selma. Some of us remember it quite vividly; others were children; still others learned about it in a history session; some may not yet know the story. No matter what your connection, however solid or fleeting, we ask you: What one image, memory or lesson from Selma stays with you?
On March 8, 1965 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. issued an invitation to Rev. Richard Nash and 1st Unitarian Chicago to come to Selma. It was an invitation that went out to many faith traditions across America. “In the vicious maltreatment of defenseless citizens of Selma, where old women and young children were gassed and clubbed at random, we have witnessed an eruption of the disease of racism which seeks to destroy all America. No American is without responsibility. The people of Selma will struggle on for the soul of the nation but it is fitting that all Americans help to bear the burden. I call therefore on clergy of all faiths to join me in Selma.” The number of people who responded to Dr. King’s invitation inspired hope. People crossed the divisions within our country in order to stand in solidarity with one another. This is a strong lesson that we continue to uphold today.
Dr. King noticed fifty years ago that Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours of the week. This continues to be true. To cross the bridges that continue to divide us, the Summit Interfaith Council kicks off its city-wide Dialogue Circles on Race on March 8th. Once again people of different religions and race are coming together to build relationships, to hear our common story, and to reconcile our country’s divisions. Both the Mayor and the Chief of Police have been very supportive of the Circles. The Dialogue Circles will meet once a month for four months, at which point, we will issue another invitation for people to join our Circles. Our mission: “To explore the dynamics of race so we can better understand each other so that we can live together in a better way in the space we have.”
Next October we are planning a Civil Rights journey for members of our Summit houses of worship. Led by Matthew Corkern at Calvary Episcopal Church, the trip will take us into the past to learn lessons from our forbears and seek to understand how we can continue their legacy. As one person in our Beloved Conversations Circle said this week, “I wake each morning and consider what I can do today so that my children will not become adults in a country divided by racism.”
Each generation has a call. It is up to all of us to listen for it and answer it, to the best of our abilities. As Dr. King said, “No American is without responsibility. The people of Selma will struggle on for the soul of the nation but it is fitting that all Americans help to bear the burden.”