The Emancipation Proclamation

Jonathan Brownson

READ : Luke 4:16-19

The Spirit . . . has anointed me . . . to let the oppressed go free. (v. 18)

Businessmen led, women participated, and power shifted as a result of prayer at the Fulton Street prayer gatherings. And it didn’t stop there. One local paper described it this way:

Another of the most encouraging prayer meetings in the city . . . is held near “the Tombs,” in Centre Street . . . The neighborhood has a large colored population, many of whom attend; and who, to the astonishment of some very Christian church members, take seats among their white neighbors, and are treated with equal respect and attention. In fact, such is the cordiality and catholicity of the managers of the meeting, that even the lowest classes of society are freely welcomed . . . A general awakening, like that which now exists, has never occurred in this city.

People of “color” take their seats “to the astonishment of some very Christian church-members . . . among their white neighbors.” “Even the lowest classes are freely welcomed.” Authentic prayer leads to awakening, and awakening prods us toward justice. The Holy Spirit descended on New York in 1857 the same way the Spirit descended on Jesus, “to let the oppressed go free.”


O God who sets all people free, we confess our part in putting others into bondage. We join with you in hopes of one day seeing a many-colored, multi-lingual church together in worship and witness.