Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed on Christmas Day 1956, but the bombing's target, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, walked away virtually unscathed. The day before Shuttlesworth distributed instructions during a meeting of 1,500 blacks on how to ride city buses in violation of Birmingham's segregation laws.
"The day's about what he suffered and how he was delivered," the Rev. Thomas Wilder, Bethel's pastor since 1988, told the Birmingham (Ala.) News. "That kicked off the modern civil rights movement here. Sometimes miracles happen all around you. It was the thing that solidified his faith. It was a thing that made him strong."
Shuttlesworth, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, and Baptist Church of the Covenant Pastor Sarah Shelton were scheduled to speak during the service.
The old Bethel church building that was bombed sits near the new church, where the service was conducted. The historic red brick building, opened for tours Sunday, was bombed three times, including in 1958 and 1962, after Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati.