Sunday, August 14

We are indelibly and unspeakably one

Daniels with an unknown child.
One of the advantages of time travel is you can learn about many amazing people. One is Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a white Episcopal seminarian who died on Aug. 20, 1965 while saving the life of 16-year-old Ruby Sales, a black girl.

She went on to attend Episcopal Theological School
(now Episcopal Divinity School) in Massachusetts where Daniels attended, and has worked as a human rights advocate in Washington, D.C. as well as founding an inner-city mission dedicated to Daniels.
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Seminarian and Witness for Civil Rights, 1965
Jonathan Myrick Daniels was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1939. He was shot and killed by an unemployed highway worker in Hayneville, Alabama, August 14, 1965.
From high school in Keene to graduate school at Harvard, Jonathan wrestled with the meaning of life and death and vocation. Attracted to medicine, the ordained ministry, law and writing, he found himself close to a loss of faith when his search was resolved by a profound conversion on Easter Day 1962 at the Church of the Advent in Boston. Jonathan then entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In March 1965, the televised appeal of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma to secure for all citizens the right to vote drew Jonathan to a time and place where the nation’s racism and the Episcopal Church’s share in that inheritance were exposed.
He returned to seminary and asked leave to work in Selma where he would be sponsored by the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Conviction of his calling was deepened at Evening Prayer during the singing of the Magnificat: “‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things.’ I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”
Jailed on August 14 for joining a picket line, Jonathan and his companions were unexpectedly released. Aware that they were in danger, four of them walked to a small store. As 16-year-old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance, a man with a gun appeared, cursing her. Jonathan pulled her to one side to shield her from the unexpected threats. As a result, he was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.
The letters and papers Jonathan left bear eloquent witness to the profound effect Selma had upon him. He writes, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown. . . . I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection. . . with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout. . . .We are indelibly and unspeakably one.”
Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 2003
pages 334-335

I highly recommend Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, by Charles W. Eagles (University of North Carolina Press, 1993; ISBN: 0807844209).

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