Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
August 14th is the feast day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Seminarian and Witness for Civil Rights, in the Episcopal commemoration of saints. Daniels was a 26-year-old seminarian at Episcopal Theological School in the Boston area who was part of a group arrested for protesting segregation and denial of voting rights near in Hayneville, Alabama. After being released from jail and seeking to buy a cool drink at a local store that would serve African Americans, he and his group encountered an armed construction worker who had been named a special deputy. When the man pointed a shotgun at a 17-year-old African American girl named Ruby Sales, a member of their group, Daniels pushed her down and was hit with the blast meant for her in his chest, killing him. His murderer was later acquitted by an all-white jury and was never held to account for his crime. Ruby Sales herself later attended ETS, and to this day has dedicated her life to activism for the freedom of all and to preserving Jonathan Daniels’ memory.
Jonathan Daniels’ story is a powerful reminder to us all of the importance of the life of faith being one of action as well as belief. As our reading last Sunday from Isaiah reminds us, merely performing religious rituals by rote is repugnant to God if we do not actually open ourselves to the conversion of life our worship is meant to effect in the first place. Jonathan Daniels embodies the power of the life of faith to lead us to lay down our lives for each other. And his example reminds us to be willing to take up our lives for each other, for us to denounce the forces of violence that attempt to terrorize and oppress others.
Jonathan Daniels would now be 80 years old, had hate not tried (and ultimately failed) to silence his voice and his witness. And in the memory of his voice and all the other voices crying out for justice and equality even today, may we examine both our silences and our words and actions, seeking to be on the side of love and integrity, until justice and freedom roll down like waters for all.