To receive and share God’s accepting Grace, challenging Wisdom and transforming Love

STEDY, February 6, 2019

February is Black History Month. As many of our students are learning about influential people who have courageously and painfully dragged our country and world to a better place, I thought it may be interesting to know that one of the most famous was also an Episcopal preacher.
“May I say a few words?” This was the question a former slave asked President Millard Fillmore during the Women’s Rights Convention on June 21, 1851, in Salem, Ohio. Following this polite question, the famous abolitionist and civil rights activist, Sojourner Truth, launched into her famous speech, “Ain’t I a woman?” In the speech she spoke not only of her life as a slave and the mother of a slave but she spoke for women’s rights and freedom for all.

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in 1797 to slave parents in Ulster County, New York. She was the youngest of twelve children. Around age nine, she was sold at a slave auction to John Neely for $100, along with a flock of sheep. Neely was a cruel and violent slave master. Like many black New Yorkers, Isabella spoke only Dutch and her new owners beat her for not understanding their commands. She was sold twice more before arriving at the Dumont farm, at age 14, where she worked for 17 years. John Dumont beat her, and there is evidence that his wife, Sally, sexually abused her. Of this time in her life, Isabella wrote: “Now the war begun.” It was a war both with her masters, and herself. She was sold two more times by age 13 and ultimately ended up at the West Park, New York, home of John Dumont and his second wife Elizabeth.

Around age 18, Isabella fell in love with a slave named Robert from a nearby farm but as they were from different owners, they were not allowed to marry. Instead, Isabella was forced to marry another slave owned by Dumont named Thomas – she eventually bore five children.
At the turn of the 19th century, New York started legislating emancipation, but it would take over two decades for liberation to come for all slaves in the state. In the meantime, Dumont promised Isabella he’d grant her freedom on July 4, 1826, “if she would do well and be faithful.” When the date arrived, however, he changed his mind and refused to let her go. Incensed, Isabella completed what she felt was her obligation to Dumont and then escaped his clutches as fast as her six-foot-tall frame could walk away, infant daughter, Sofia, in tow. She later said, “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.” In what must have been a gut-wrenching choice, she left her other children behind because they were still legally bound to Dumont.
Isabella made her way to New Paltz, New York, where she and her daughter were taken in by two Methodists, Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen. When Dumont came to re-claim his “property,” the Van Wagenen’s offered to buy Isabella’s services from him for $20 and Dumont agreed. After the New York Anti-Slavery Law was passed, Dumont illegally sold Isabella’s five-year-old son Peter. With the help of the Van Wagenen’s, she filed a lawsuit to get him back. Months later, Isabella won her case and regained custody of her son. She was the first black woman to sue a white man in a United States court and prevail.
The Van Wagenen’s had a profound impact on Isabella’s spirituality and she became a fervent Christian. In 1829, she moved to New York City with Peter to work as a housekeeper for evangelist preacher Elijah Pierson and then for another preacher named Robert Matthews. During this time she became a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Living among people of faith only emboldened Isabella’s devoutness to Christianity and her desire to preach and win converts. By the early 1830s, she participated in the religious revivals that were sweeping the state. She quickly established herself as a powerful speaker, capable of converting many.

In 1843, she was “called in spirit” on the day of Pentecost. The spirit instructed her to leave New York and travel east to lecture under the name Sojourner Truth. This new name signified her role as an itinerant preacher, her preoccupation with truth and justice, and her mission to teach people “to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin.” Thus she embarked on a journey to preach the gospel and speak out against slavery and oppression. Her faith and preaching brought her into contact with abolitionists and women’s rights crusaders, and Truth became a powerful speaker on both subjects. She traveled extensively as a lecturer, particularly after the publication of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which detailed her suffering as a slave. Her speeches were not political, but were based on her unique interpretation-as a woman and a former slave-of the Bible.

In 1844, Truth joined a Massachusetts abolitionist organization called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, where she effectively launched her career as an equal rights activist. It was here that Truth met abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. Garrison’s anti-slavery organization encouraged Truth to give speeches about the evils of slavery. Although he admired her speaking ability, Douglass was patronizing of Truth, whom he saw as “uncultured.” Years later, however, Truth would use her plain talk to challenge Douglass. At an 1852 meeting in Ohio, Douglass spoke of the need for blacks to seize freedom by force. As he sat down, Truth asked “Is God gone?” Although much exaggerated by Harriet Beecher Stowe and other writers, this exchange made Truth a symbol for faith in nonviolence and God’s power to right the wrongs of slavery.
With the start of the Civil War, Truth became increasingly political in her work. She agitated for the inclusion of blacks in the Union Army, and, once they were permitted to join, volunteered by bringing them food and clothes. She became increasingly involved in the issue of women’s suffrage, but broke with leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton when Stanton stated that she would not support the black vote if women were not also granted the right. As Nell Painter puts it, “at a time when most Americans thought of slaves as male and women as white, Truth embodied a fact that still bears repeating: Among blacks are women; among the women, there are blacks.
In 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, Truth spoke out about equal rights for blacks and women. A classic quote from that speech:
“Ar’n’t I a woman? Look at me. Look at my arm,”
She bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her large muscles.
“I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me-and ar’n’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man, when I could get it and bear de lash as well-and ar’n’t I a woman?”
Here she paused and she pointed her finger at a minister who had made the argument the men should have rights but not women. She continued:
“Den dat little man in black dar, he say woman can’t have as much rights as man, ’cause Christ wa’n’n’t a woman. Whar did your Christ come from? “Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had not’ing to do with him.”
She ended her rebuke with
“Bleeged to ye for hearin’ on me, and now ole Sojourner ha’n’t got nothing more to say.”
The speech became her most famous, though it was just one of many as she continued to advocate for human rights the rest of her life.
In 1867, Truth moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, where some of her daughters lived. She continued to speak out against discrimination and in favor of woman’s suffrage. She died at home on November 26, 1883, records show she was age 86. Truth left behind a legacy of courage, faith and fighting for what’s right and honorable, but she also left a legacy of words and songs including her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which she dictated in 1850 to Olive Gilbert since she never learned to read or write.
Perhaps Truth’s life of Christianity and fighting for equality is best summed up by her own words: “Children, who made your skin white? Was it not God? Who made mine black? Was it not the same God? Am I to blame, therefore, because my skin is black? …. Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?”

~ Upcoming Events ~

Wednesday, February 6
7 pm | Valentine Little Theater
UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World
Dr. Michele Borba explains what parents and educators MUST do to combat the growing empathy crisis among children today-including a 9-step empathy-building program with tips to guide kids from birth through college, and beyond.
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February 10
Team 2 Acolyting

Family Worship
10 am |Chapel

Sunday School
10:30 am | Sunday School Classrooms

Youth Group
Either after church for lunch at Numero Uno Pizza
3562 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107
Please RSVP to Heather

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February 17
Team 3 Acolyting

Sunday School
10 am | Sunday School Classrooms

Heather and Antonio will be out of town, if you are free and willing to help teach, please speak to them and they will provide the materials you need.

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Stuck in the Middle: The Sandwich Generation
Presented by Dr. Donna Benton
Wednesday, February 20th
7 PM | Valentine Little Theater

Many middle-aged Americans find themselves as part of the “Sandwich Generation”- those responsible for taking care of their children and aging parents at the same time. Dr. Donna Benton, the Director of USC’s Family Caregiver Support Center/Los Angeles Caregiving Resource Center, will discuss issues surrounding the “Sandwich Generation” and offer practical solutions and support for those stuck in the middle of juggling kids, careers, and aging parents.

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February 23
29th Annual Rotary International
District 5300

Peace Conference
University of La Verne
Ann and Steve Morgan Auditorium
Founders Hall
1950 3rd St, La Verne, CA 91750 Map
Conference: 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Conference Flyer Here

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Sunday, February 24
Team 4 Acolyting

Family Worship
10 am |Chapel

Sunday School
10:30 am | Sunday School Classrooms

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Sunday, March 3
Team 1 Acolyting

Family Worship
10 am |Chapel

Sunday School
10:30 am | Sunday School Classrooms

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Wednesday, March 6
Ash Wednesday Service and Imposition of Ashes
12 pm | Chapel
&
6 pm | Chapel

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Sunday, March 10
Team 2 Acolyting

Family Worship
10 am |Chapel

Sunday School
10:30 am | Sunday School Classrooms

Please feel free to contact Heather if you have questions.