GUEST BLOG: Jim Putnam shares about the Pilgrimage to Alabama

The following is special guest blogger and Episcopal Church of NH Trustee Jim Putnam's reflection on his time in Alabama this week as part of the St. James, Keene, Youth Group Pilgrimage for Jonathan Daniels. He and Bishop Rob, along with St. James parishioners, are spending this week visiting historic sites and doing service projects as part of the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Jonathan Daniels' assassination. 


Dear Family and Friends,

Today, I traveled south to Birmingham, Alabama to join the JMD pilgrimage with Bridget Hansel and her twin sister, May Prichard. Bridget is a dear friend and Warden at St. James where Judy and I worship and which was Jonathan Daniels' home church. May works at the Pew Charitable Trust in Philadelphia. The Hansel's lived across School Street from the Daniels' house when Judy and I came back to Keene from Brazil in 1978 and we've been friends and Keene activists together ever since.

As I have the time and energy and something to say, I hope to write to you like this as well as Tweet (@JPutnam) and post photos (Flickr and iCloud Sharing) during the day. If you're using Twitter you'll know how to follow me. If you're interested in seeing the photos let me know and I'll invite you to the photo sharing site(s.)

The decade of the 1960s (my age 15-25) was a formative time for me.  The first 5 years had a few high points:  JFK's election in 1960,  MLK's "I have a dream" speech in 1963 and LBJ's signing the Civil Rights Act in 1964.  But the drumbeat of violence drowned out these optimistic notes.  Assassinations (JFK-1963, Malcom-X and Jonathan Daniels-1965, MLK and RFK-1968) not to mention all the others killed while working for the rights of blacks or the rising death toll of war in Vietnam all reached a crescendo before the decade's end.  

My political and faith persuasion was molded by these events.  It was also guided by a few thoughtful teachers who helped me read Bonhoeffer, Frankel, H. R. Niebuhr and Arendt.

Like Bonhoeffer and others who died taking action in response to the unjust world they found themselves in, Jonathan Daniels lived out the Christian existential life.  My path was much less courageous, some might say cowardly, as Judy and I left the scene and joined the Peace Corps.  However, Jon's murder struck close to home for me and continues to be an important guidepost and example.

On this pilgrimage, I'm hoping to reconnect with the events of my first 25 years and find inspiration for the last 25.

After our arrival we had lunch with four other pilgrims (three from DC and one from NH) while waiting for rooms to be ready and before the first official event at 6.  The conversation ranged from first hand accounts of the election of the first black Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, on the first ballot at Convention this summer and the plans for his consecration at the National Cathedral this fall to Peace Corps stories and personal accounts and thoughts about life in America today.  There was general agreement that little progress has been made since the civil rights movement of the 1960s and there is much to be done.

Time to get ready for tonight, Jim