The history of our church is well known - founded in 1863 by twenty-one former slaves who were new immigrants to the city of Washington. Our history is not unlike that of many African American churches founded during that era - mostly slaves, or newly freed slaves bound by the common experiences of political unrest, struggle, and pervasive poverty. What is truly unique and remarkable about Shiloh's founding is that it was founded during the Civil War, when the majority of African American churches and other institutions were founded after the war had ended in 1865. Fisk (1866), Howard (1867), Morehouse (1867), Tuskegee (1881) were all founded after Shiloh. This speaks to the extraordinary resolve, faith, and courage of our founders to establish a church during a period of extreme uncertainty and national instability.
This year our country will also commemorate two other significant milestones in African American history - the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (1963). Notably, President Lincoln penned the proclamation at his cottage, less than a mile fro our church. Many who figure prominently in American's struggle for equal rights and freedom also loom large in Shiloh's storied history, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Carter G. Woodson; and more recently, Congressman John Lewis, and President Barack Obama.
Few could have imagined that a Sunday School started by a small hand of faithful servants would have grown into the religious, cultural, and civic institution that Shiloh is today. For all of these blessings, we rejoice. Again, thank you for sharing in today's service and we invite you to share with us throughout the year of celebration, reflection, and renewal.
The Reverend Dr. Wallace Charles Smith