Wednesday’s rainy weather did not dampen the spirits of members of Liberty County’s African-American community, many of whom gathered on New Year’s Day at Thebes African Methodist Episcopal Church in Midway to celebrate the 151st anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation’s signing.
The event’s theme was “Unity — The Key to Perfecting the Dream,” and Thebes Pastor S. Dyann Robertson served as the program’s worship leader. Thebes AME’s combined choir sang several songs, including “How Great is Our God,” “Bless the Lord with Me” and “He is Able.”
Donnie Pulliam, a 2013 Liberty County Emancipation Proclamation scholarship recipient, read the Emancipation Proclamation.
Keynote speaker the Rev. Ashley Morris, a Hinesville native and Pleasant Grove AME Church member, delivered a message called “The Next Phase of Deliverance,” taken from 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 and Galatians 5:1.
“As I was growing up, I often asked myself why we celebrated the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. I was concerned with President Lincoln’s motive for signing the Emancipation Proclamation when the country was in the midst of a civil war. Was he concerned with freeing the slaves or winning the war? I questioned his motive. I couldn’t understand how we could celebrate when he really was not thinking about us,” Morris said.
“It was not until I started to understand how God works that I could celebrate the signing of the Emancipation. The slaves knew they could celebrate the signing of the Emancipation, not because of Lincoln, but because of their hope in Jesus Christ. God works in mysterious ways, and He uses people who may not even have you on their mind to bless you,” Morris continued.
“The Confederates thought they had the slaves, but God used Abraham Lincoln to sign a document to free a people who had been on his mind for over 200 years. It’s not about the motive, but about the outcome. We can count it as a victory. God will use things to bring us into a place of freedom,” she said.
Three Liberty County residents were recognized for their service to the community. Gloria Robinson, a member of St. James AME Church, received the Emancipation’s special award. Liberty County High School junior Kayla Frazier, a member of First African Baptist Church, received the youth award. Midway Congregational Church member Sallie
Richardson received the president’s award.
“I consider every day a gift from God, and what I do with it is my gift to him,” Richardson said.
Baconton Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Hermon Scott, president of the Liberty County Emancipation Proclamation Observance Committee, expressed appreciation to participating churches for their support of the service.
“It is because of your financial support that we are able to award scholarships to deserving high-school seniors. Last year, we awarded six $500 scholarships,” he said.
“The churches have always played an important role in our history,” Scott said. “They were the center of public life, and we must never dilute the importance of the church. It was the prayers of the church that touched Lincoln.”