Over the weekend I had the opportunity to, once again, attend much of the August Quarterly — both Saturday at the Tubman-Garrett Park and Sunday at the Chase Center for the church service and later at the park. For those who don’t know about the August Quarterly, the festival, sometimes called the Big Quarterly, is an annual celebration commemorating the founding by Delawarean Peter Spencer (who had been born in captivity) of the first independently incorporated African-American Church in the United States back in 1813. The Quarterly itself began the following year in 1814. Many slave owners in Delaware would give their slaves a 1-day “pass” to celebrate religious freedom with free citizens of all races in Wilmington. Imagine only one day in which to see friends and family as equals; rekindling your emotional bonds and your faith in God and humanity.
Move forward 196 years, and the festival has grown in size due to the dedication of many people, but one in particular stands out: Lawrence “Moon” Roane. He has worked long and hard for several years to grow the Festival and expand its ranks. This year, the weather really worked out for the Festival. On Saturday there was an “open mike” and some amazingly talented celebrants kept the crowd engaged in the positive message of faith. Sunday morning’s service was as jammed and celebratory as ever. From the opening processional, Sister Pat Butler’s Welcome, Rev. Livingstone’s introduction, and Rev. Bullock’s inspirational service (of course, music by the Canaan Baptist Church Choir punctuated everything); there wasn’t a person in attendance who didn’t feel moved and welcomed. Sunday afternoon had more performances at Tubman Garrett Park with a large crowd.
Anyway, for anyone who believes that religious freedom is a central tenet to the strength of our nation, you should stop by the August Quarterly next year and soak up the atmosphere. You won’t regret it, and you’ll be remembering Delaware’s leadership in religious freedom — a history too many have neglected.