July 19 Devotion
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” -Declaration of Sentiments
One hundred and seventy-five years ago this July 19th, over 300 people gathered from all over New England in the Wesleyan Church in Seneca Falls, NY. They met for the first Women’s Equal Rights Convention. In attendance that day were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglas and many, many other women and men dedicated to the cause of women’s equality. Seneca Falls is called the birthplace of Women’s Rights.
We regularly stop at Seneca Falls when we head east on vacations as a halfway point. It is home to the National Historic Women’s Rights park. This year we were able to go into the Wesleyan Chapel where the event took place. Of course, I had to stand at the pulpit where the above words from the “Declaration of Sentiments” were read. Once again, I was reminded of the important role churches have played in our country’s history and in the long history of God’s work for freedom.
People will commonly say to me, ‘the church should not be political.” Yet, time and time again the church has been at the center of very political actions in history towards the very freedom God desires. Since the time of Moses, when God said to him at the burning bush, “I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt…Indeed I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from Egypt.” (Exodus 3: 7-8) Our faith narrative tells us God seeks the liberation of all who are oppressed. Over many centuries people of faith have stepped out to speak and work towards equality for all God’s people. I guess one could say it’s in the very fabric of our faith to work on behalf of the oppressed.
The little chapel in Seneca Falls was just one more place in history where we see the witness of faithful people daring to challenge the status quo on behalf of others. Such faithful actions have been evident in the abolitionist movement, in the worker’s rights, in children’s rights, and in civil rights of all kinds. God worked through Moses to bring Israelites to freedom, God has worked throughout history to bring freedom to the oppressed. God still works with the church and her people today. To say that God is not political, the church is not to be political seems to deny the very freeing justice of God throughout history.
On this 175th anniversary of the Women’s Rights Movement, this female pastor gives thanks for those in the church who dared to step up and see a vision connected to God’s spirit. Today, may we all give thanks for the brave souls who, like Moses, step up when God calls and says, “let my people go.”