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Today the church remembers Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Seminarian and Martyr, 1965.Nothing is as clear and unambiguous in Holy Scripture as the teaching that it is God"s will that we love and care for one another; that the strong defend the powerless; that we “respect the dignity of every human being.” Yet, in times of stress, confusion, and crisis, few of us seem to have the time or the inclination to obey such gospel imperatives. A bold and touching exception was found in Jonathan Daniels of Keene, New Hampshire. In the summer of 1965, Jonathan Daniels, a twenty-six-year-old student at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts, came to Alabama to help reconcile persons of different races and secure basic human and civil rights for black citizens. In Hayneville, Alabama, he and others were jailed for picketing local businesses. They were soon released and, while trying to enter a store to buy a cold soft drink, were confronted by a deputy holding a shotgun. Daniels pushed Ruby Sales, a sixteen-year-old African American, out of harm"s way. He was shot and killed. A Roman Catholic priest, Richard Morrisroe, standing nearby, was severely wounded by the same deputy. Years later, Bishop Robert O. Miller of Alabama would say of him, “John was not simply a civil rights worker who happened to be a Christian. He was a person whose mature formation in Christ led him to the prophetic ministry that led him to his death.” May we stand ready to lay down our lives for others, especially the defenseless and the outcast. Amen.
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O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.