We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

“Fight on Amos”

Many people now read King’s classic “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) in college and like the Apostle Paul, King did some of his best work in jail.

King’s Birmingham Campaign began on April 3, 1963 with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The non-violent campaign was coordinated by Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

On April 10, a blanket injunction was issued against “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing”. Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On Good Friday, April 12, King was roughly arrested with others. The day of his arrest, eight Birmingham clergy members wrote a criticism of the campaign that was published in the Birmingham News, calling its direct action strategy “unwise and untimely.”

King’s Letter has been called one of the most significant works of the Civil Right movement. You can read it here – and was addressed to the eight clergymen that opposed his action.

In the letter King applied Amos to his situation, quoting from Amos 5:24. Amos gave his message to the Israelites in 750 BCE. Amos warns the people of Israel that the Lord is displeased with their behavior. People are overly concerned with earthly possessions, bodily desires and there is a shallow adherence to their religious values. Amos tells the people that God will soon judge them for their sins.

King wrote “But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”

He also quoted Amos in the “I Have a Dream” speech, 5 months after the above letter – Dr. King declared, “we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”

King had used the message of love when during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956 when white supremacists firebombed his house while he was away and an angry crowd gathered at his home. He told them to go home, saying “We must learn to meet hate with love.”

Five days later, he received a telegram from Julian Grayson, an undergraduate classmate at Crozer Theological Society who had become a Methodist minister. It read simply, “FIGHT ON AMOS GOD IS WITH YOU.”