April 4 events mark 50 years since death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Church of the Brethren Newsline
April 7, 2018

Some Church of the Brethren members gathered for a photo during the ACT rally in Washington, D.C., on April 4: (from left) Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations; Joan and Orlando Redekopp; Tori Bateman, a Brethren Volunteer Service worker at the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy; and Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries. Orlando Redekopp is a former pastor at First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, and wrote a short history of the church that includes a special link with Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in the city: http://firstcob.org/fcob-history. More about the ACT rally can be found at www.rally2endracism.org.

The Church of the Brethren was represented at the “A.C.T.–Awaken, Confront, Transform–to End Racism” rally in Washington, D.C., on April 4 by Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries. Also in attendance were Tori Bateman of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and the denomination’s representative to the United Nations, Doris Abdullah, along with other church members from various parts of the country.

The event began with hundreds of people gathering, “then hundreds more, the crowd growing and marching in silence to the beat of a drum as dawn broke on April 4, 50 years to the day since Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered in Memphis, Tenn.,” reported a release from the World Council of Churches. Led by organizers from the National Council of Churches, “people moved past the memorial statue of King in Washington, D.C., finding their way to the downtown mall, where they spent the rest of the day trying to find the words to frame what have become crucial–and painful–questions about racism in today’s United States.”

Speakers and rally-goers emphasized the importance of developing moral capacity to not just fight racism but to go further and build a society that honors the dignity of every person, the release said. Among other speakers, it quoted W. Franklyn Richardson, chair of the Conference of National Black Churches, who said that racism remains a stain on the soul of America.

“When black and brown people seeing a better life in our country are cast as drug dealers and rapists, that stain is made visible,” Richardson said. “We cannot continue business as usual. We cannot wait any longer. We must move beyond our guilt.” Read the full WCC release at www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/dear-white-christians-what-now . More about the ACT rally can be found at www.rally2endracism.org.

Commemorations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life were held in a number of cities across the nation on Wednesday. In Chicago, First Church of the Brethren hosted “The Last March,” an event focusing on the last year of King’s life. Partner organizations were the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago and McCormick Theological Seminary. For some months in 1967, the First Church congregation hosted King and provided office space for him when he was fighting for open housing in Chicago. The April 4 evening event at the church engaged artists, clergy, scholars, and members of the community in contemplative reflection on King’s life and work during that last year before his death. Explained an announcement: “Memories of Dr. King tend to neglect his challenges of justice he articulated toward the end of his life.”

David Jehnsen of Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Columbus, Ohio, was one of the speakers at a commemoration event at the Ohio Statehouse. He had led a Chicago delegation to the famous 1963 March on Washington. “What we’re seeing today is a revival of the spirit of nonviolence,” Jehnsen said, as quoted in the “Columbus Dispatch.” “It’s young people who are taking the lead. Yes, they’re going to use different methodologies, different tactics, but it’s very important that we support them.” Read the Columbus Dispatch report at www.dispatch.com/news/20180404/ohio-mlk-ceremony-they-couldnt-assassinate-dream.

“To have met Martin Luther King personally in Selma at the service we had prior to the march–that was one of the high points of my life,” said Don Shank, now retired but formerly pastor of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill. He was interviewed in the “Courier News” alongside Nathaniel L. Edmond, pastor of Elgin’s Second Baptist Church, in an article that was posted on the website of the “Chicago Tribune” on April 3. Shank “joined members of his Elgin congregation for both the March on Washington in August 1963 and the march to Selma, Ala., in 1965,” the paper reported. “Both longtime Elgin ministers and activists are reflecting this week on the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , and how his death and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s continue to affect their lives today. The two have also become friends over the years. Since 2001, the two churches have come together on the last Sunday in January leading into African-American History Month.” Find the article at www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elgin-courier-news/news/ct-ecn-mlk-anniversary-elgin-st-0404-20180403-story.html.

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