Anniversaries That Matter

Every day is the anniversary of something.  On every single day of the year, somebody died and somebody was born. Something was invented and something was destroyed.

The Equal Justice Initiative publishes a calendar you can order here (a deal at $2.00) that includes – on every single day of the year – the anniversary of a racial injustice that happened that day in history.  It is an excellent devotional resource for lamentation.

There are certain personal anniversaries that will forever mark the particular Befores and Afters of our lives.  September 16 will always be that day for me because it marks the day my life was divided between “having my Mom” and “not having my Mom.”  Pete Davidson’s demarkation date is September 11, the day his father died in the attacks on NYC.  He was 7 years old.  Many people I respect on social media often refer to their own personal Before and After days.  For Shannon Dingle it’s July 19th.  For the family of Rachel Held Evans, it’s May 4th.

Our culture in the United States is marked by anniversaries that some of us recognize annually and some of us do not.  Among those include several in the month of June:

  • The beginning of the Tulsa Massacre of Black Wall Street – June 1
  • The assassination of Medgar Evers in Jackson, MS – June 12
  • The murders of LGBTQ siblings in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL – June 12
  • The murders of nine church people attending a Bible study in Charleston, SC – June 17
  • The final declaration of The Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people who had not yet heard in Galveston, TX – June 19 (i.e. Juneteenth)

This particular week is also a special anniversary for me as I mark June 17 as the date when Denise Anderson and I became the first Co-Moderators of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA.  It marks a Before and After time of my life.  One June 17, 2016 Denise and I stood before the commissioners of the 222 General Assembly of our denomination and spoke these words:

Good evening. We greet you in the name and with the love of our Savior,  Brother, Friend, and Lord Jesus Christ. Our names are Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston and we humbly ask you to consider electing us to be Co­-Moderators of this 222nd General Assembly. 

Less than a week after the worst shooting in American history in a  gay bar during Pride month, the day after the first anniversary of the murder of our brothers and  sisters in Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, on the eve of Juneteenth when slavery was finally abolished in Texas and throughout the Confederate South, and the year of the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women . . . we hope to be Co­Moderators who talk about these things.

We are still talking about those things – and rightly so.  Since that night, new anniversary dates have marked our history forevermore:

  • The shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA – July 5, 2016
  • The shooting of Philando Castile in Saint Paul, MN – July 6, 2016
  • The shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA – March 18, 2018
  • The shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY – March 13
  • The choking of George Floyd outside a grocery store in Minneapolis, MN – May 25

Each one of these deaths was caused by professional police officers resulting in the deaths of unarmed people of color.  And these are the ones with video or sound recordings.

I look forward to joyous anniversaries in our futures:

  • The day when a vaccine is proven effective against COVID-19 and we can all get back to a sort-of normal time.
  • The day when we elect political leaders who care for “the least of these.
  • The day when our nation becomes what we say we want to be.

This Friday marks the first day of the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. 

The 224th.

For the first time it will be virtual.  It will be shortened because nobody can Zoom 10 hours a day for 10 days.

And it will be both inspirational and aspirational – I pray.  I also pray it will mark a holy “Before” and “After” moment for all the commissioners who make decisions for the Church in the name of Jesus Christ.

Image of the 2020 EJI calendar.  They make inspirational and aspirational gifts.

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