Juneteenth worship service

To top off a weekend of activities commemorating Juneteenth, the Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition is joining with Franklin First United Methodist Church to hold the city’s first “Emancipation Worship Service” Sunday morning at 8:30.

Coordinated by Walter Simmons, pastor of Empowerment Community Church and co-founder of the FJEC two years ago, the service will be held in the church’s worship center and will feature Simmons and a handful of other speakers bringing a range of perspectives. It’s open to the whole community.

“Attendees can expect a wonderful day, especially with it being on Father’s Day,” Simmons said. “We are going to be uplifting and celebrating the Father God. You can expect some great teaching, history, relationship building and reconciliation for our community.”

The main celebration for Juneteenth will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown Franklin, featuring food trucks, more than 100 vendors, a kid zone, live music and special appearances, among other activities. It’s the second year that the FJEC has coordinated the event, which is being presented by Mars Petcare and hosted by Church of the City.

Since last year’s Juneteenth had such impressive attendance, Simmons and other pastors thought it appropriate to include a worship service and hold it in a facility with ample seating. 

“Historically,” he explained, “the Primitive Baptist Churches in town would get together and have a full Juneteenth weekend. It would start off Friday night with a block party, then a celebration on Saturday. On Sunday, there would be a worship service with a foot washing in Hard Bargain.

“We wanted to reach back into our history and legacy, and bring it back into the forefront of the community here in Williamson County and Franklin.”

Simmons had met with Vona Wilson, senior associate pastor at Franklin First, about the church possibly hosting the Emancipation service. The original plan was to hold it at the church’s historic sanctuary in downtown Franklin, but decided the more spacious worship center at the main campus at Franklin Road and Mack Hatcher Parkway would be more accommodating for a larger crowd.  

“What I love about it is, it’s a sacred space but it’s also a very neutral community space,” Wilson said.

In addition to the practicality of Franklin First UMC hosting the worship service, there is a tie to history. In the late 1700s, a bishop with the Methodist church, Francis Asbury, had ordained Richard Allen as the first African American pastor. Allen later founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“It’s interesting,” Wilson said. “There’s a history that’s way beyond our generation that kind of connects this. 

“The Lord always works across time and with different people. We just happen to be the group that gets to see this one.”

Simmons will be presenting the Emancipation message. Other speakers will be Bill McAlilly, bishop of the Nashville Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church; Bryant Herbert, pastor at New Birth SDA Church; Chris Williamson, pastor at Strong Tower Baptist Church; and Bryan Brooks, senior pastor at Franklin First United Methodist Church.

All are invited to attend. The church is located at 120 Aldersgate Way in Franklin.