Norway’s First Universalist Church held a vigil celebrating Juneteenth last Fiday.

NORWAY —  Last Friday the First Universalist Church of Norway hosted its second vigil this month in support of racial justice.

The first vigil was held on Jun. 4 in commemoration with the funeral of George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide demonstrations demanding racial justice and equality.

Dorothy Raymond of Norway helped distribute absentee voter ballots at the Juneteenth vigil. Supplied photo

“When we gathered in support of Black Lives Matter, it was a somber event,” said Rev. Fayre Stephenson, minister for the Universalist Church. “We decided to honor the Juneteenth holiday as well, which is a much more uplifting and happy vigil.”

Juneteenth is an annual celebration of the date slaves in Galveston, Texas learned that they had been emancipated. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, but Blacks in Texas were unaware that they had been freed until notified by federal troops arriving to seize control from Confederate state officials in June of 1865, two months after the Civil War actually ended.

“With the temperature in the high nineties, it was a hardy group of people who came to commemorate the day,” said Stephenson.  “Overall, I believe we had about 35 participating. ”

To honor the tradition of eating red foods on Juneteenth, Joan Beal, a member of the church’s Social Justice Committee,  distributed red Popsicles to everyone in attendance. Zizi Vlaun passed out cold drinks from Fare Share Coop to help ward off the intense heat.


Tom Coolidge, the church’s music director, played gospel music from the church steps throughout the event.

“The music was terrific,” said Stephenson. “It helped make Juneteenth here a real celebration.”


Tom Coolidge of Bethel, Norway’s First Universalist church’s Music Director, at his keyboard. Supplied photo


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