04 February 2023

Praying in Ordinary Time
with USPG: 4 February 2023

Rosa Parks Day is commemorated in man place on her birthday, 4 February

Patrick Comerford

The Feast of the Presentation yesterday (2 February) concluded the 40-day season of Christmas and Epiphany.

In these days of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday later this month (22 February), I am reflecting in these ways each morning:

1, reflecting on a saint or interesting person in the life of the Church;

2, one of the lectionary readings of the day;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Rosa Parks Day is honoured as ‘the first lady of civil rights’ and ‘the mother of the freedom movement’

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005) was a civil rights activist best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. The US Congress has honoured her as ‘the first lady of civil rights’ and ‘the mother of the freedom movement’.

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on 4 February 1913. Her mother Leona (née Edwards) was a teacher, her father James McCauley was a carpenter. Her great-grandfather, James Percival, is believed to have been born in Glasgow to Irish immigrant parents ca 1830-1833.

Rosa Parks grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), founded by free Blacks in Philadelphia in the early 19th century.

Emmett Till, a Black teenager, was brutally murdered in August 1955. On 27 November 1955, four days before she refused to give up her seat on the bus, Rosa Parks attended a mass meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery to discuss the murders of Emmett Till and two activists George W Lee and Lamar Smith. The meeting heard that the two men accused of murdering Till had been acquitted and walked free.

On 1 December 1955, Parks refused to obey an order from a bus driver James F Blake in Montgomery, Alabama, to leave a row of four seats in the ‘coloured’ section in favour of a white passenger because the ‘white’ section was filled. She was arrested for civil disobedience and violating Alabama segregation laws.

Her case dragged through the courts for months, and inspired the Black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year. Plans for the bus boycott were announced at Black churches in the area on Sunday 4 December 1955, and a church rally that night agreed unanimously to continue the bus boycott. A new group was formed and was named the Montgomery Improvement Association at the suggestion of the Revd Ralph Abernathy. The Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a newcomer to Montgomery and minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, was elected president.

Rosa Parks’s case finally resulted in a ruling in November 1956 that bus segregation was unconstitutional. Her act of defiance and the Montgomery bus boycott became important symbols. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation, and organised and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Although widely honoured in later years, Rosa Parks also suffered for her action. She was fired from her job, received death threats for years afterwards, and suffered financial strain, so that she was forced to accept assistance from church groups and admirers. Her rent was paid by Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.

Rosa Parks died on in Detroit on 24 October 2005 at the age of 92. Her coffin was flown to Montgomery and taken in a horse-drawn hearse to Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, where she lay in repose at the altar, dressed in the uniform of a church deaconess. After a memorial service, her coffin was brought to Washington DC to lie in honour in the rotunda of the US Capitol. A memorial service was held at Metropolitan AME Church in Washington DC on 31 October 2005.

Her funeral service took place in the Greater Grace Temple Church in Detroit on 2 November 2005. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit , where the chapel has been renamed the Rosa L Parks Freedom Chapel in her honour.

California and Missouri commemorate Rosa Parks Day on her birthday today, 4 February, in Michigan on the first Monday after her birthday, and in Alabama, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas on the anniversary of her arrest, 1 December.

‘As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them’ (Mark 6: 34) … a moored boat in the harbour in Georgioupouli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 6: 30-34 (NSRVA):

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is the ‘Opening Our Hearts.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by James Roberts, Christian Programme Manager at the Council of Christians and Jews, who reflected on Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday last week (27 January) and World Interfaith Harmony Week, which began on Wednesday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today invites us to pray in these words:

Let us give thanks for the work of the Council of Christians and Jews. May we work for reconciliation in our own lives and strive towards a more peaceable world.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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