Rector’s Blog: Observations from the HRI Pilgrimage

Observations from the History and Reconciliation Initiative Pilgrimage to Alabama

by Charlie Dupree

The first thing that happened when I entered Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church in Montgomery, Alabama was a hug from the greeter at the door. “Wow, what a greeting,” I thought to myself. “Is she going to hug everyone who enters the church?” Sure enough, that’s what she did. And the hugging didn’t stop. As we entered the sanctuary, our tour guide continued this practice of radical welcome. From the moment we entered Dr. King’s first and only church that he served, the message was about love.

“That’s why you’re here,” the tour guide said. “Because God has put onto your heart the same thing that God put onto the heart of Dr. King: a call to bring about justice and love.”

I write this note, literally, on the way home. This morning, we drove to Selma. All of the pilgrims had a chance to march over the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge and we did, even though it was pouring down rain! We continued to Brown Chapel AME Church, which was the starting point for these historic marches. Our guides were those who had been a part of these historic events.

“From where you’re sitting,” one guide said, “we could hear the screams and horses’ hooves coming from the streets.” She was sixteen at the time of Bloody Sunday. Another gentleman was a part of the final march into Montgomery. Listening to these two people heightened my awareness that these events did not happen all that long ago.

To walk in their footsteps – to remember the bravery of those who marched – to remember that there is still work to do. That’s what this pilgrimage has been about. The Rosa Parks Museum, the Legacy Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice . . . these places spoke to each of us in different ways.

At night, we gathered to unpack the experiences of the day, but many of us had not yet found the words. We talked about what we saw and felt. We asked many, many questions. We were as honest as we could be about what we’ve done and left undone. It was holy work.

Over the past three days, those on the pilgrimage have heard voices from the past saying, “Never again,” and we’ve made silent and not-so-silent promises to rededicate ourselves to the work of peace, seeking justice, and walking humbly with our God.

We hope to make time to share the experiences of the pilgrimage. In the meantime, please click on the links above to start or continue your own exploration of this important journey.

See you in church,
Preferred pronouns: he, him, his
You can call me “Charlie” or “Father Charlie”

The Rev. Dr. Charles T. Dupree
Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Richmond, Virginia