WALLINGFORD — As part of the Wallingford 350th+2 Jubilee, Faith Day and a Juneteenth Observance were held Sunday afternoon at Seymour St. John Chapel on the campus of Choate Rosemary Hall.
While the service was led by Rev. Aaron Rathbun, director of spiritual life at Choate Rosemary Hall – a private prep school, other clergy members from town participated.
“We are gathered here today from across our different houses of worship to unite on this special 350th anniversary of Wallingford to celebrate Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day and Jubilee Day” Rathbun said in his opening remarks.
Juneteenth commemorates when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered in the Civil War and about 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.
Last year, Congress and President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a national holiday. It was the first time the federal government had designated a new national holiday since approving Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Sajag Timilsina, Sheehan High School student and vocalist for the service, led participants in singing the hymn, “Lift Every Voice And Sing.” Jeanette Gross, from the First Congregational Church, accompanied Timilsina on the organ.
Then, representatives from various houses of worship and organizations made remarks. The group included Senior Warden Amy Foster, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; Jim Davidson, Choate Rosemary Hall; David Stein, Beth Israel Synagogue; and Father Andres Mendoza, Most Holy Trinity Church.
“The theme of today is freedom or emancipation,” Davidson said. “From the Buddhist perspective, freedom begins with the spirit of generosity. When that is practiced, it leads to moral living which in turn, leads to mindfulness, which is true awareness of oneself and others. This is what creates true freedom, an experience and a right that everyone must have or no one does.”
Rathbun also shared some thoughts about the theme of the service – freedom.
“Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom from this institution of slavery that kept so many in bondage for so long,” Rathbun said.
After prayers for peace and unity, Timilsina ended the service by leading participants in singing the hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Lorraine Connelly, co-coordinator of Faith Day, said she was happy with the turnout.
“The turnout is wonderful considering it is Father’s Day,” Connelly said. “... We have plenty of activities planned, but I really do think this service is just wonderful.”
Because Faith Day was planned for Juneteenth, jubilee organizers saw it as an opportunity to educate the community about the holiday.
“On the occasion of Wallingford’s 350th+2 Jubilee, it’s an opportunity for present day residents to acknowledge and honor the lives of all those who contributed to our modern-day prosperity – including the enslaved population of the 17th and 18th centuries,” Connelly said.
Reporter Jessica Simms can be reached at email@example.com