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From Michigan to Alabama: A pilgrimage of learning, healing, and dialogue

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan organized a civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama, engaging 44 participants in visits to significant historical sites related to the civil rights movement. This initiative aimed to foster racial understanding among its members through firsthand experiences of America’s civil rights history, including visits to the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Legacy Museum. The pilgrimage served as a foundation for dialogue and learning, emphasizing the Christian commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself, and offering a space for grace-filled, uncomfortable conversations about race, history, and healing.

Julie Roys reports:

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan conducted a civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama Feb. 16-19 that brought a diverse group of church members and others to four key sites, including the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery.

The trip was part of the diocese’s work to build greater racial understanding among its 76 worshipping communities and more than 14,000 baptized members.

‘This is a foundation for a movement of how we embody Christ’s great commandment of love your neighbor as yourself,’ said Bishop Bonnie A. Perry, adding, ‘I think we can be a model for how we have grace-filled, uncomfortable conversations.’

The trip began with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four girls and injured more than a dozen others. The group then traveled to Montgomery for visits to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, both part of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The pilgrimage meant something different for each of the 44 people on the sobering journey.

Read the full article.

Key Points

  • The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan organized a pilgrimage to Alabama to enhance racial understanding through visits to historical civil rights sites.
  • The initiative aimed to foster grace-filled, uncomfortable dialogues among participants, reflecting the Christian commandment to love one’s neighbor.
  • The pilgrimage served as a personal journey for participants, offering insights into America’s racial history and the ongoing struggle for civil rights.
Themes Pros Cons
Racial Understanding Enhances empathy and knowledge of civil rights history. Can be emotionally challenging for participants.
Dialogue and Healing Promotes open, honest conversations about difficult topics. Uncomfortable discussions may be hard for some to engage in.
Personal Growth Offers a transformative experience for individuals. Personal discomfort and confrontation with harsh realities.

Questions to Consider

  1. How can historical pilgrimages contribute to contemporary discussions on race and equality?
  2. In what ways can churches further engage in actions that promote racial healing and understanding?
  3. What role does personal experience play in changing perspectives on civil rights and social justice?


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