Alumna Leads Parishioners to 50th Anniversary March on Selma

Milly Morrow and GroupBy Sam Humphrey, Staff Writer

EDS alumna Milly Morrow (MDiv ’10) is always searching for opportunities to develop her young parishioners as Christians. When the chance came to take them to Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of the civil rights movement, she knew she could not pass it up.

Earlier in March, Morrow, who is the Canon for Missional Formation and Youth and Community Engagement for All Souls Cathedral in Asheville, North Carolina, took a group of 60 people from churches across the Diocese of Western North Carolina on a pilgrimage to commemorate the marches.

“When I, as a missional formation canon, look for opportunities for people to be formed as Christians, I look for moments for people that tie into reconciliation,” Morrow said. “Selma was an opportunity for the youth and adults that allowed them to be plugged into a movement that has happened . . . and remember our original call as Christians, to move toward reconciliation and justice.”

Before embarking on the pilgrimage, as Morrow calls these journeys, the group watched the movie Selma and met to discuss race relations in Asheville, and what they could do when they got back.

In Alabama, they were hosted by St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Selma and its rector, Jack Alvey. St. Paul’s is the church that Episcopalian martyr Jonathan Daniels attended while he was working to secure voting rights for African-Americans in Alabama.

“The people I stayed with felt a connection between Jonathan Daniels staying with them, and now hosting me,” she said. “That was really big for them.”

During the march, her group didn’t know exactly what they’d be doing. But just by being there—waiting in line for food, waiting to hear President Obama speak, waiting to march—they were able to connect with other pilgrims.

“I think the youth walked away realizing a movement of any kind is made up of moments of waiting. In a movement, you’re doing a lot of listening, a lot of praying, a lot of waiting,” Morrow said.

The pilgrims heard stories and learned from the perspectives of people who were there in 1965, and who had come to commemorate it in 2015. Morrow said it was a great opportunity for the young people to learn, reflect, and connect with each other in a different way, and to put the civil rights movement into a context for themselves.

“When we have pilgrimage experiences, we don’t know what the fruit [of that experience] will be in the moment. It shapes us in ways we cannot even comprehend in the moment, but come to us later,” Morrow said. The youth “have a context now, after walking over the [Edmund Pettus] bridge and hearing stories about the civil rights movement that makes it personal to them. What they do with that information depends on how God calls them to use the experience they gained through pilgrimages, and we give them the tools they need to discern that calling.”

Morrow thinks the 1965 marches, and the need to remember them even fifty years later, hold important lessons for theology students, too.

“We’ll always live in a world where we must deal with injustices. We must learn the importance of nonviolence and mindfulness, as they were central to Jesus, and to the civil rights movement . . . and must become essential for us as Christians in 2015,” she said.

Pilgrimages, like the one she led to Selma, are a profound part of learning what it means to be a Christian, according to Morrow.

“No matter how much we study the scripture, or how well we know the story as students, really understanding God’s call to us as Christians is not a cognitive process . . . As pilgrims, we take our whole selves out of our comfort zone and into new, perhaps uncomfortable experiences, and in that way we seek holy discomfort,” she said. “Only then can we get a whole formation experience that’s deeper than knowledge. It becomes deep, embodied wisdom.”

The 2015 Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage: August 12–16, 2015

Join EDS as we honor the life and work of Jonathan Daniels ’66, a student at Episcopal Theological School (predecessor institution of Episcopal Divinity School), who was shot and killed in 1965 while working for civil rights in Alabama during the height of the civil rights movement.

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