Honor M.L. King’s legacy, dream this weekend

by John W. Coleman

Sunday, Jan. 15, is the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which our nation will also celebrate with a holiday on Monday, Jan. 16 this year. What will your church and community do to honor this occasion and its significance in the lives of all Americans? Please let us know at communications@epaumc.org or on our Facebook page or Twitter page.

For more than 47 years, First UMC of Germantown (6001 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia) has held special events to celebrate King, Jr.’s birthday. Swarthmore College president Valerie Smith, a distinguished African-American literature scholar, will speak at the church on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 11 AM. The worship service will include a selection of Spirituals and Freedom songs to honor Dr. King, and the church will present its annual Racial and Social Justice Award.

Berwyn UMC will be one of thousands of national sites to welcome volunteers on “MLK Day of Service” on the 16th seeking to do good works beyond mere celebration. The church needs volunteers, between 10 AM and 4 PM, to help load a Mission Central truck with computer equipment and medical supplies that they will collect on Saturday, the 14th, and to help assemble relief kits for UMCOR. They need materials for the various types of kits, too, or they will accept cash donations instead.

The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the largest King Day event in the nation, and Global Citizen, promotes year-round volunteer service and civic engagement.


Meanwhile, clergy and lay leaders of several Philadelphia-area UM churches will join others in a protest march for justice on Monday, Jan. 16, sponsored by POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild). Marchers will leave from several locations, including suburbs, and congregate at Mother Bethel AME Church, where the “first African American protest was held on U.S. soil” two centuries ago to reject a plan to exile free blacks back to Africa. The march and demonstration begins at 11:30 AM at the slave quarters on Independence Mall (6th and Market St) and will end at 2 PM. Please click here for more information.

“To honor and move forward the unfinished business of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we continue the push for a progressive agenda for the United States in these trying times,” say organizers. “The MLK D.A.R.E. Coalition calls on all those who believe in justice to join us in Philadelphia on January 16th for a Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment.”

“Philadelphians of all races, faith traditions, ages, sexual orientations and gender identities will gather at Mother Bethel again to stake our claim on United States and our role in determining its future,” wrote three leaders in a Philly.com commentary. One of them, the Rev. Greg Holston, pastor of New Vision UMC in Philadelphia, is the new executive director of POWER.

“As we march, we draw on King’s deep wisdom to guide our actions,” they explained, citing King’s opposition to racism, militarism and materialism as grave threats afflicting American society. For more on Monday’s march, email info@powerphiladelphia.org, visit powerinterfaith.org or call 215-232-7697.


Please write and tell us what your church will do to celebrate MLK’s birthday, whether on its own or in collaboration with other churches or community groups. Or, please tell us what you did, and send us photos, too.

United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers worship and historical resources for celebrating the courageous U.S. civil rights leader who taught, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” See resources.

BishopWoodieWhiteIn his annual “Dear Martin” birthday letter retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White, tells how he almost didn’t write this year because he needed more time “to navigate an array of emotions” after the recent Presidential election.

White was the first head of the denomination’s General Commission on Religion and Race, formed at the 1968 General Conference, just after King was assassinated. Until June 2016 he was Bishop in Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He quotes from Georgia Congressman John Lewis’ book Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change:

The most important lesson I have learned in the 50 years I have spent working toward the building of a better world is that the true work of social transformation starts within. It begins inside your own heart and mind, because the battleground of human transformation is really, more than any other thing, the struggle within the human consciousness to believe and accept what is true. Thus to truly revolutionize our society, we must first revolutionize ourselves. We must be the change we seek if we are to effectively demand transformation from others.

White ends his personal letter to King with, “Committed to continue the struggle and the journey with the assurance (that) We shall overcome.” Read letter.

Many other  United Methodists joined King in his march toward equality, and in his wake, those other United Methodist voices also continue to advocate for justice for all, informed by their faith. Meanwhile, his vision has influenced countless young people who reflect and give gratitude for how the struggles of previous generations have benefited them and shaped their lives.

People of all ages are grateful for King’s leadership and for those United Methodists who walked with him. Why not read UM News Service’s coverage, including past stories, as part of your holiday observance?

And please remember that Bishop Peggy Johnson asks pastors and churches to focus on social justice in 2017. She urges preachers to preach on this growing concern on Sunday, Jan. 15, to honor civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on his birthday.

“The coming of Christ is forever connected to fostering right relationships between people,” Johnson writes in her recent Bishop’s Blog essay, “and it is a key part of the gospel that we need to preach in our pulpits and model in our ministries. John Wesley, our Methodist founder, said, ‘There is no holiness but social holiness.'”   Learn more…

NOTE: We want to know about churches that are involved in any kind of dialogue or other activity that focuses on improving racial understanding and race relations. Please write to communications@epaumc.org and let us know. Thanks!