In Communion With Change Reverend Doug McCusker
Let Freedom Truly Ring
Lori Izkowski “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.” Major General Gordon Granger June 19, 1865 With these words, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War, the slaves of Galveston, Texas, learned of their longdelayed freedom. Since that day, Juneteenth (as it came to be known) celebrations in Texas have long marked this significant moment in African American history, and today Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Locally, Eunice Haigler and Ainsley Brown have organized a special
Juneteenth celebration, to be held at the New City Fellowship in Fredericksburg. Haigler and Brown are members of the Race Coalition of Fredericksburg, a group comprised of local citizens from Virginia Organizing, NAACP, UMW and area churches determined to initiate conversations about race and racism following the events in Ferguson, Missouri. They hope the upcoming event will be another step forward in the group’s
Join Race Coalition of Fredericksburg and community members at New City Fellowship, 200 Prince Edward Street, on Saturday, June 20, at noon for this 150 th anniversary celebration of Juneteenth. Juneteenth.com efforts to have open, honest and respectful dialogue in this area about issues surrounding racism.
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Earlier this year, the Race Coalition held two workshops. The first was a morning-long gathering with several break-out groups and a lunch to follow. The second workshop was longer, encompassing an all-day gathering and consisting of a Eunice Haigler (left) and Ainsley Brown white caucus (discussing what they Juneteenth Organizers are willing to do in order to be allies to the Fredericksburg police officer and UMW black community) and a black caucus student. (discussing what they need from white Join Race Coalition of people who want to be allies.) When the Fredericksburg and community members groups came together at the end of the at New City Fellowship, 200 Prince Edward day, they found that they had created Street, on Saturday, June 20, at noon for similar lists of ideas. One of the this 150th anniversary celebration of overarching themes was the importance of Juneteenth. All food and entertainment is blacks and whites coming together as a provided, just bring something to sit on community and developing relationships and a willingness to get to know your based on honesty and respect. larger community. “The future of “I don’t understand where the Juneteenth looks bright as the number of hate comes from,” Haigler muses. She and cities and states creating Juneteenth Brown feel that bringing members from committees continues to increase. Respect different backgrounds together for a and appreciation for all of our differences family friendly event is an excellent grow out of exposure and working opportunity. “The goal is to celebrate together. Getting involved and supporting unity and peace,” says Haigler. “It is Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds similar to our national Independence Day, of friendship and understanding among but in recognition of the freedom that us.” (Juneteenth.com) came so late to slaves in Galveston, Texas.” The event, free to the public, will have many components: speakers, music, dancing, games, food, and information booths. Included in the entertainment Lori Izykowski lives and works in Fredericksburg, and is an occasional line-up will be: Cleo Coleman portraying contributor to FP. Harriet Tubman, music by Christian
Change. It’s a word that strikes fear into many hearts, especially when life is strolling comfortably along minding its own business. However, situations sometimes call for a shake-up, as Fredericksburg’s newest face about town, Reverend Doug McCusker (with wife, Marie above), knows all too well. After a long career as an IT expert for the Department of Defense, McCusker took a leap of faith into a new job as a minister, landing at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg in Chatham. McCusker’s seemingly diverse shift in careers may seem unusual, but he
says that the signs that a change was nigh were all around him. He elaborates, “I started feeling a discord between the values that I was deeply developing at church and the things I was called upon to do at my job. To remain in the job and balance it with my values, I convinced myself that I was supporting the troops and developing products that were keeping people safe. While I was receiving awards and accolades, and I was consistently going above and beyond in my job requirements, it felt like I was rationalizing.” In the meantime, McCusker had begun serving as a youth advisor at a UU fellowship in Burke, VA. He found teaching adults and youth satisfied a calling that he was not able to address in his IT job. While defense work was task oriented with specific objectives and leadership
responsibilities, ministering to people at church offered McCusker a community rich with sharing and trust. McCusker explains, “That is what I thought ministry was about, fostering that kind of community and being a part of it. Then that pervaded into all the things I was doing in the church, including being a leader on the board and the president of the congregation. That put the bug in me, and people were coming up to me asking if I’d ever thought about ministry?” It was a scary question, because McCusker was comfortable in his job. He made a comfortable salary. He received a comfortable level of respect from his colleagues. In short, he felt he would be crazy to leave the security of a life he had worked so hard to build. McCusker says, “Even so, I recognized that I was competent to a certain level, but I never considered myself an IT person. I could go so far, but then my technical skills sort of fell off a cliff. As long as I kept it to the people side, I was okay. In some ways, I felt like a duck out of water, but when I was at church with the youth and adults I didn’t feel that way. I felt authentic and genuine.”
People were beginning to take note of that authenticity, and when his daughter and wife assured him that they supported him one hundred percent, McCusker knew it was time to make a move. He says, “I was denying it because it was a big change. The path was under me, but I wasn’t looking in the right places. It was obscured by fear, but it got into the head and the heart.” McCusker has shared the story of his dynamic career shift with many people, and he has learned he is far from alone. He explains, “It was my values and deeper moral compass telling me what to do. When the people I love most threw in their support, I felt this change was part of my spiritual journey. When you don’t listen to that little voice, it can have detrimental consequences; when you do, you find your life’s passion.” McCusker looks forward to taking the lead at UUFF on August 1, 2015.
A.E. Bayne is a writer an artist who has lived in FXBG for the past 17 years.
contemporary recording artist Derrick Kearse, and Richard Arline speaking on his experiences as an African American
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