Home » History - Civil Rights Movement » “The Love That Forgives” – Remembering September 15, 1963

“The Love That Forgives” – Remembering September 15, 1963

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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Persecution of Christians is not a phenomenon that only touches the lives of believers in other parts of the world, but is a sad part of our own nation’s history. Fifty-two years ago today Denise McNair looked forward to a special Sunday. She would participate in her church’s Sunday morning service, which would conclude with the sermon, “The Love That Forgives.”


She dressed carefully for the day. The case above includes her purse, Buster Brown shoes, a Ten Commandment bracelet, and the piece of brick removed from her skull, a fragment of the explosion that claimed her life and three of her 14 year-old friends, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson.

Earlier that morning, dynamite and a timer were laid under the steps of Birmingham, Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist Church near the basement area where the girls were changing into their choir robes.

Denise dreamed of a career in the field of social justice. Instead, her life was taken from her by men violently committed to white supremacy and racial oppression.

Media coverage of these young girls’ deaths aroused indignation throughout the country, and moved the nation closer to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. As the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church showed earlier this summer, America’s sad legacy of racial violence toward African American Christians continues. I’m grateful for the many African American Christians that bear witness to The Love That Forgives.

The Denise McNair exhibit was one of the many moving displays Lynne and I saw earlier this year at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  A 3 1/2 hour drive from Jackson, I recommend taking the time to tour this testimony to the struggle for civil rights and racial equality.





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