UCC congregations, pastors celebrate legacy of MLK
Written by Anthony Moujaes
January 17, 2014
As people around the country reflect on the life and work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, celebrating his accomplishments during the Civil Rights Era, one United Church of Christ congregation will ask youth members to think what the world would look like if history had unfolded another way.
First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C., is looking at King's legacy through a different lens. As an alternative to a worship service on Sunday, Jan. 20, the congregation will show a film titled, Our Friend Martin. The 60-minute animated program is inspired by King's life and poses the question, "What would our lives be like if the famed civil rights leader had lived?"
"I like to provide alternatives for the children," said the Rev. Barbra Hardy, pastor of First Congregational Church. "It's an animated film that has time travel about a 12-year-old boy who goes back in time to meet Martin Luther King."
The film, released in 1999, features voices of several notable actors and actresses, including Edward Asner, Angela Bassett, LeVar Burton, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Ashley Judd and Richard Kind.
"I like to say in the conversation, 'Are we done with civil rights?'" said Hardy, who is interested to learn what type of conversation the youth at First Congregational will have with each other.
"The young people always surprise me, but none of them believe because we have an African American president that the issue is no longer important," she said. "They still see discrimination, and they see reverse discrimination too, and are happy to talk about those."
The film at First Congregational is just one way congregations across the UCC will remember King's legacy this weekend. Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be celebrated throughout the nation on Monday, Jan. 21, marking 46 years after his assassination in 1968.
Another UCC congregation in Washington, Congregational United Church of Christ, is celebrating MLK Day and a 10-year partnership on Sunday. Congregational UCC and Adas Israel Congregation will gather and commemorate their 10 years of work together and commitment to social justice with music and stories that celebrate King and the Civil Rights Movement.
In Menomonee, Wisc., First Congregational United Church of Christ is the host for a community-wide gathering on Monday that brings together community members for poem readings and Civil Rights Movement music.
The Franklinton Center at Bricks, a UCC Justice and Witness Ministries conference and retreat center in Whitakers, N.C., plans to host the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast on Sunday. The event, sponsored by The Community Empowerment Alliance from Whitakers, will invite speakers to speak on the theme for the gathering, "Mandela and Martin: Peace and Justice Around the World."
In King's hometown of Atlanta, the Rev. Susannah Davis and the members of Kirkwood United Church of Christ will celebrate MLK Service Day during the entire weekend with thousands of their neighbors. This is the sixth year Kirkwood has participated in the community-wide event.
"One of our mantra's of his words that are important to us is his quote about how anybody can be great because anybody can serve," Davis said.
King's quote was, "Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
Said Davis, "That has meant a lot to us, and it means a lot to people willing to reach out, and are willing to have conversations about unity in July – not just this particular week.