Faith and Family: Church bells will ring in ‘Healing Day’ event

Published 12:15 am Friday, August 23, 2019


NATCHEZ — At 2 p.m. Sunday churches throughout the nation will ring their bells to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing of enslaved Africans at Virginia’s Point Comfort, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument.

Ministers and organizers at several Miss-Lou churches said they plan to participate in the event that is being organized by the National Park Service.

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National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Bond said Trinity Episcopal Church of Natchez, Jefferson Street Methodist Church of Natchez and First Presbyterian Church of Natchez had all agreed to participate in the commemorative bell ringing.

“I think it is so important for us as a community to be committed to truth-telling and the fact that Natchez, Mississippi, would not exist as we know it without the African slaves and their descendants who were brought to these shores beginning in 1619,” Bond said. “We need to acknowledge that they didn’t come willingly, that it was an action of human trafficking and that our Natchezian forebears were complicit and profited from those actions.”

The National Park Service and several historic houses and buildings in Natchez have worked in recent years to incorporate narratives of the slave history into tours.

“The National Park Service cares for extraordinary places and their stories,” states a National Park Service press release. “Our parks and programs can be places of healing and provide spaces for discussion and reflection of our shared American narrative.”

Sunday’s bell ringing event is being called “The Healing Day Ceremony” and will include four minutes of bell ringing, one for each century of African American history and culture.

The event also coincides with the anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service and NPS locations will be admission free Sunday, including Melrose Plantation in Natchez, Bond said.

The Rev. Bill Barksdale, pastor of Jefferson Street Methodist Church, said he believes the commemoration is important.

“Jefferson Street is pleased to honor the long history of African American heritage here in the Natchez area as well as the anniversary of the national park service,” Barksdale said.

Bond said acknowledging the contributions made to the nation by slaves and the history is important and asks people to take a moment of silence at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“I think that would be an appropriate response just to take that in,” Bond said. “It also would be appropriate to acknowledge that Melrose is a prime example of something that is an iconic part of Natchez that would not exist if it were not for the enslavement of human beings who created the wealth and who constructed these beautiful buildings and not by their own choice.”