On this September 15th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, it is time to reflect on the deeds done in the name of intolerance. On September, 1963, three members of the white supremacist organization called the Klu Klux Klan planted a bomb which ended the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley all 14 years old and the youngest slain was Denise McNair age 11. The children were African American, they were at choir rehearsal practicing for the Sunday service when their lives were cut short.
Earlier that same year Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream”(prophetic in hindsight) said, “Four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.” They will never know the impact their young lives had on the civil rights movement nationwide, their untimely death brought a nation together in a single mission to stop the violence in the name of hate.
Many statues and memorials have been erected honoring their lives. Artist John Henry Waddell, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix (UUCP), moved by their death, created a sculpture, “That which might have been” which graces the memorial garden at the UUCP. John said that each sculpture represents the girls with different aspirations, the north facing sculpture, whose hands are raised to the sky represents hope and prayer. The twin of this sculpture is in the garden of the Washington Carver museum in Phoenix. This month President Obama granted the girls the Medal of Honor celebrating their short lives and the contribution to the civil rights movement.
The Unitarian Universalist’s are aware of crimes committed against people who are different, whether by color, faith, sexual orientation, as they have also been subjected to a hate crime committed on July 28th, 2008. With 200 people and 25 children inside their sanctuary watching the children’s production of “Annie” a lone gunman opened fire. Two church members were killed. One member, Greg McKendry stood in front of the blast and saved many lives. No children were hurt in this incident. The reason given for the shooting by Jim Adkinsson, an unemployed man, was because he hated gays and liberals and wanted to be killed by the police department.
We have just celebrated the International Day of Peace. Faith leaders around the world as well as the newly appointed Franciscan monk, Pope Francis called for peace, tolerance and love. This Sunday, September 15,2013, Rev. Susan-Frederick Gray’s sermon will be, “Love that forgives”. Although the world is still in turmoil, with genocide, war and hate, there is hope that with forgiveness, understanding and love, the Earth could achieve a lasting peace. This peace would have to begin with each of us, with the understanding that love will conquer all, even in a world divided by theology, bias, racism and hate.
Come and see the sculpture in the garden, enjoy the music and the sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, located at 4027 E. Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley, Arizona. The services are 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. See you there
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