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Worship Service Will Mark 500th
Anniversary of Slavery in the Americas

Posted September 4, 2001

HOLLAND -- Participants from Holland and Hope College will come together for a worship service scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16, at 3 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel in observance of the 500th anniversary of the introduction of slavery into the Americas.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

The "Sankofa" service has been scheduled in conjunction with a call from the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC) for observances throughout the hemisphere to mark the anniversary.

According to the NBCCC, the first African slave to be transported for labor to the Americas arrived in Hispaniola--today Haiti and the Dominican Republic--in 1501, less than a decade after the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. The group's call for observance notes, "We take this historical moment in the history of humankind to challenge ourselves, all people of goodwill, the Roman Catholic Church and all those with a Christian conscience to examine the issue of racism in our lives, society and globalized civilization."

The NBCCC describes "Sankofa" as a Western African term "that calls a person, or a people, to look back to their past for wisdom to discern their future." The services will focus on redemption as exemplified by the biblical story of Joseph; repentance for racial dysfunction; reconciliation; and restoration of unity.

The 90-minute service at Hope is being organized by the college's Phelps Scholars Program in conjunction with the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism and local citizens.

"The proclamation written by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus is a powerful statement of the impact of slavery on all Americans--white, black, Native and Latino," said Dr. Charles Green, who is director of the Phelps Scholars Program and a professor of psychology at Hope.

"As we worship on September 16, we will recall nearly 400 years of slavery in the Americas," he said. "But we also will focus on the enduring legacy of a racism rooted in slavery, and celebrate the contributions of a people strong enough to survive and to succeed in spite of horrific circumstances."

The sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Wayne Coleman, pastor of the Church of the Burning Bush. The invocation and benediction will be by Dr. Timothy Brown, who is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope and the Henry Bast Professor of Preaching at Western Theological Seminary. Dr. Fred Johnson III, assistant professor of history at Hope, will provide an overview of slavery in the Americas. The Rev. Roosevelt Hunter, pastor of Holland First Assembly of God, will lead a prayer.

The Church of the Burning Bush Community Outreach Tabernacle Choir will sing during the service. Elder Bill Dunlop, who is a Native American story teller, and Tracy Jaeger, who is director of Native American Community Services of Kent County, will sing "Amazing Grace" in Cherokee. Congregational singing will be led by C.J. Grier, who is director of the Hope College Gospel Choir and minister of fine arts at Maple Avenue Ministries.

Several other members of the Hope and Holland communities will also participate in the event.

The college's Phelps Scholars Program is a multicultural program available to Hope freshmen from all racial/ethnic backgrounds, and is designed to facilitate their enjoyable transition to Hope and to provide the foundation for four productive years as members of the student body. The Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, is a broad-based effort to overcome racial barriers in the community. The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus serves as a fraternity for Black Catholic clergy, and supports the spiritual, theological, educational and ministerial growth of its members and combats institutional racism within the Catholic Church and in American society generally.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located on College Avenue at 12th Street.

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