Written by Anthony Moujaes
"Faith," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
Congregations throughout the United Church of Christ will honor that legacy as they celebrate the life and works of King, who continues to inspire the quest for true equality 43 years after his assassination in 1968.
In Washington, D.C., the site of some of King’s most historic moments during the Civil Rights Movement, the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell will be Sunday’s guest preacher at First Church UCC.
The focus of her sermon mirrors what King advocated for: "Bringing light into dark places," said Girton-Mitchell, appointed by President Obama in December 2010 to Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, part of the U.S. Department of Education. She is the former head of the National Council of Churches D.C. Office.
"The message [Sunday]," addressing the outlook of the nation's capital during the four years, "is no matter how dark things look, we as people of faith can bring about a beloved community," Girton-Mitchell said.
Girton-Mitchell brings more than 30 years of experience to the Department of Education from her work as a teacher, legal counsel and minister. The goal of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) is to link schools and community-based organizations to enhance student achievements.
While this is the first time Girton-Mitchell has advocated for the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries, she is familiar with the UCC’s justice work.
When First Church asked her to preach during the holiday weekend, she felt compelled to accept. Because Martin Luther King Day and the inauguration of President Obama fall on the same day, Girton-Mitchell said she is drawn to be a "personal witness to say, ‘Yes, I am willing to be that voice.’"
The opportunity to preach at the event to celebrate the justice work of the UCC and First Church "seemed to be appropriate," she said. "As a minister, I feel I’m called to do that."