The Episcopal Church Welcomes You
» Site Map   » Questions    

« Return
Jonathan Daniels, Alabama martyrs are focus of August 11-12 pilgrimage
Ruby Sales says gathering serves as 'indelible mark'

By Daphne Mack

Jonathan Myrick Daniels   

[Episcopal News Service]  The memory of Jonathan Myrick Daniels will be honored at the Eighth Annual Jonathan Daniels and Martyrs of Alabama Pilgrimage, August 11-12 in Hayneville, Alabama.
Daniels was the a 26-year-old Episcopal seminarian at Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) who answered the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help register African-American voters in Alabama, only to be shot and killed months later, on August 20, 1965, while shielding a then 16-year-old Ruby Sales from the shotgun fired as she attempted to enter a store to buy something to drink.
Sales said the incident rendered her mute for several months.
"The [Civil Rights] Movement was one of the most important struggles of the century because it broke the back of southern apartheid without the people firing one shot," Sales said. "It offered a real alternative to those people who would argue that freedom can only be won through the butt of a shotgun."
Sales is director of SpiritHouse, a Washington, D.C.-based, national, nonprofit organization that she founded in 2000. She has also served as director of the Citizens' Complaint Center in Washington, D.C., director of Black Women's Voices and Images, and director of Women of All Colors, which she also founded. She has taught courses on the Civil Rights Movement and African American women's history at the University of Maryland. The Veterans of Hope Project at Illif School of Theology selected her as a Veteran of Hope.
Describing the importance of the yearly pilgrimages in Alabama, Sales said they serve as "indelible marks."
"These annual pilgrimages serve to remind each of us that ordinary people made the southern movement possible and that it was a movement built on much sacrifice, and much commitment," Sales said. "People who were part of the movement faced tremendous violence, and hostility from both the state and white vigilante groups in the south so that this freedom, this struggle was not easy."
More than 400 participants are expected to gather this weekend to honor Daniels who was declared "a martyr and witness to the Gospel" and in 1994 was added to the Episcopal Church calendar of saints and martyrs, to be remembered on August 14 each year.
Attendees of the event will participate in a Taizé-style worship service on August 11. This contemplative prayer service of music and prayers, which will be hosted by youth from around Alabama, makes use of a tradition of ecumenical music which comes from the Taize Community in France and focuses on reconciliation. It will be followed by dinner at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lowndesboro at 7 p.m.
The official pilgrimage will begin at 11 a.m., on August 12 in the Courthouse Square. The procession will go to the old jail for a reading and hymns and then on to the old Cash Grocery Store where Daniels was murdered. More prayers and hymns will be offered at the place of martyrdom. The procession will then return to the VMI Memorial in the Courthouse Square and then on to the Courthouse where a service of Holy Communion will take place in the courtroom. U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia will speak at the service of Holy Eucharist. Lewis, a pioneer for civil rights, was a leader of the march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 which later came to be known as "Bloody Sunday."