On Sunday, Sept. 15 — the 56th anniversary of the bombing that killed four young girls at the church — Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church unveiled refurbished spaces where visitors can watch videos about kindness, caring for all humans no matter their race and the civil rights history of the church and community.
“After you leave this place we don’t just want you to experience history,” Pastor Arthur Price Jr. said. “We call the four girls ‘angels of change’ and our hope is that people will leave inspired, become agents of change as a result of what happened here.”
Church bells tolled
The church bells tolled at 10:22 a.m. — the moment on Sept. 15, 1963, that the dynamite went off, killing Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Morris, who is also known as Cynthia Wesley, as they were preparing for the church’s Youth Day. A wreath laying ceremony also was held at the site of the bombing.
Eric S.C. Manning, pastor of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, served as the guest preacher during the 11 a.m. worship service.
“I think we have a symbiotic relationship considering the two churches experienced acts of violence within their place of worship,” Price said about Mother Emanuel, where nine worshippers were killed in 2015.
“This is a way that we can come together in solidarity and preach the message of Jesus Christ and how He teaches us to stand tall and not to fear in the face of adversity.”
And on Sept. 5, Price welcomed to the church a government delegation from Wales, including its minister for education, Kirsty Williams.
Price said the visitors from Wales were heeding the message he hopes his church inspires.
“That’s one of the things that the Welsh government did,” he said.
“They presented us with a plate with a black hand and a white hand extended to each other” addressing the fact that though people are different their value is the same, Price said. “We ought to be working together so that we make sure that what happened here 56 years ago never happens again.” (RNS)