Juneteenth, Day of Jubilee

By / Jun 6

This year, in order to give thanks for God’s providence and the end of slavery in the United States, Tenth Church will sponsor a Jubilee Day cookout at 4pm on Saturday June 17, in what has been used as a parking lot and will soon become a courtyard for fellowship. If it is raining, we will move the event to Fellowship Hall. Please RSVP so we can have an idea for the food order. Let us come and join together in a time of encouragement, remembrance, and celebration. 

Sadly, we note that such a happy event as the end of slavery has sometimes been used in pursuit of partisan contention or secular ideological agendas. We separate from those and plan to praise almighty God for his wonderful gifts with a time of Christian fellowship, joy, and gladness. 

Why is June 19 important?

On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. On that day, the army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in that state were free by executive decree under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

Initially, Juneteenth was celebrated as a day of Jubilee by those who had endured the horrors of slavery and racism.  In addition, many churches of the time also saw just reason to celebrate the freedom of the slave from the bondages of slavery. These special days included songs, food, and speakers to celebrate. It was a time of great joy in the churches.

Former slaves and many of their descendants continued to celebrate Juneteenth—sometimes making pilgrimages to Galveston in honor of the day. The practice was carried to the north in the early part of the century when large numbers of African Americans moved to the north as part of the Great Migration. The day was also promoted in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s under the Rev. Martin Luther King as a way not only to look back but also to draw attention to the unfulfilled promises of the post-Civil War era. Though it was not declared a national holiday until 2021, it had become a de facto celebration in much of the United States. 

Why Jubilee Day at Tenth?

Jubilee, of course, is a specific biblical reference. A year of Jubilee was to be enjoyed by the people of Israel where every 50th year was a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to those who owned it. Many African Americans in slavery understood the parallel, and for them 1865 was a year of Jubilee. 

As Christians, we understand a similar parallel as we have been liberated from slavery to sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who began his public ministry in Nazareth by declaring he had come to fulfill Isaiah’s Jubilee promise “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18-21).  Hopefully, this celebration will remind us of our own experience of Jubilee–God saving us from the oppression of sin.

Tenth Church understands that our city is a place of great spiritual need. We believe that God has placed us in Philadelphia to pray for its peace and minister in Jesus’ name. We give thanks for God’s providential work that ended slavery and pray that a similar work of providence will subdue the sin of racism sin that alienates people in our communities.

All are invited.  If you have any questions, please contact Frank Harder, Enrique Leal, Paul Duggan, or Kevin Little.