I’m up early on this Independence Day, getting ready to drive to Charlottesville for a naturalization ceremony at Monticello. According to the website:
There is no more inspirational place to celebrate the Fourth of July than Monticello, the home of the author of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1963, more than 3,000 people from every corner of the globe have taken the oath of citizenship at the annual Monticello Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. It is the oldest continuous naturalization ceremony in the United States outside of a courtroom.
I wouldn’t have known about this ceremony were it not for my mother-in-law, Lu Treadwell, a retired history professor and a huge fan of Thomas Jefferson’s. But I probably wouldn’t have been as interested in going were it not for all those New Americans who have come through First Baptist Church in the last few years as part of a refugee resettlement program. I’ve met people from Bhutan, Iran, Nepal, and Afghanistan, who were trying to make a new life in this country, and who were getting help from people like FBC members Warren and Julie Pierce. Some of those New Americans are still with us at First Baptist.
Some of them have become new believers.
I love the picture of Kanchi Monger’s baptism on our website. There she is, this beautiful young Bhutanese woman who grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal, standing waist deep in the James, the most American of all rivers, holding on to the tiny gold cross around her neck as she prepares to be dipped under the water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a picture of one of those moments when the Kingdom of God is just about to come to Richmond, Virginia, and a moment later…it did.
If the Apostle Paul had been standing on the bank to hand Kanchi a towel when she came up out of the river he might have said to her what he wrote in Galatians 5: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
That’s a good thing to remember on this Independence Day.