Martin Luther King celebration is Sunday

‘Our Communities — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’

By Paule Simone Brown - Contributing writer

Jerusalem Second Baptist Church in Urbana will host the Champaign County Ministerial Alliance’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.

Historically, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day always falls on the third Monday of January commemorating Dr. King’s birthday. That day was celebrated for the first time on Jan. 20, 1986. Urbana’s celebration takes place this year one day before our national holiday on Monday, Jan. 16.

Sr. Pastor of the Church, Michael Freeman said, “The purpose of the celebration on Sunday is to influence all of our community members to come together and celebrate who they are and what heritage they have. It is God’s design that there will be racial variation in the world. It was Dr. King who stood for all people and the civil rights movement was supported by all people. The importance of Dr. King’s role in advocating for peace for all of society sometimes is forgotten.”

It was from 1951 to 1968 when Dr. King led a movement to end racial segregation and discrimination. This Sunday, Freeman will pay tribute to some of the lesser-known White Americans who sacrificed and risked their lives by standing for Black Americans’ equality and justice:

Edgar Chandler was a congregational minister, navy chaplain, and active leader in the civil rights movement who worked with Dr. King.

Anne McCarty Bardin was a journalist and educator dedicated to racial equality. She and her husband bought a suburban house for an African American couple during Jim Crow.

Mary White Ovington was a civil rights activist, and one of the White American reformers.

“Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” is the theme of this year’s service. Freeman explained, “While we all celebrate all of our heritages together on Sunday, we should not forget what African Americans faced over the last couple of centuries.”

Freeman’s grandfather was a slave. As Freeman pointed out he could not even imagine what it was like for his grandfather. As a result of hearing stories about the past he believes it is important to understand the past as well as speak about the bright changes of today. He added, “the progress we have already accomplished today is not to be ignored, and the future looks bright as well.” He believes we should celebrate where we are going and appreciate the changes that we have already seen today.

The keynote speaker on Sunday is Reverend Eli Williams, president of Urban Light Ministries in Springfield. For over 30 years, Urban Light Ministries has focused on building stronger fathers in the Springfield, Ohio area. As Williams speaks, he will bring his desire and inspiration to have unity and harmony among communities. His message on Sunday will be a passage from Psalm 133. Scripture states, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” Reverend Williams’ passion for Christian unity led him to join in a ministerial partnership with a White friend Kevin Moehn in the early 1990s. Since then, they have initiated several ministries of preaching, teaching, and pastoring with the goal of breaking down walls between White and Black believers.

Williams is a pastor with Kevin at New Hope Church in Springfield. Williams is also a member of Simunye, a fellowship of Springfield pastors dedicated to building healthy relationships among Christ followers across ethnic, racial, cultural, and denominational divides for the glory of God and for a witness to the community.

Williams remarked, “Anyone can talk about unity, it does not matter what you say. People really want to see unity so it is a challenge for Christian leaders to demonstrate love, harmony and peace between sisters and brothers in Christ, across denominations, across political lines, and across cultural lines.”

He said his belief has always been, “In order to break down these walls of different cultures and different denominations we need more believers willing to sacrifice and enter into fellowship they are unfamiliar with and not what they grew up with, so we can break down these barriers. By doing this, we are giving people something to see and visualize and hopefully we can repair some of the deep damage between people that occurred during the slavery years, through the Jim Crow laws, among the different church denominations, and within the same church denominations.”

As a young boy, Williams went to an integrated school and was able to fellowship in a multicultural group of kids. He says, he believes his lifelong conviction to break down barriers in our communities was birthed from his childhood.

Members of the local community are invited on Sunday at 6 p.m. to celebrate with neighbors and be a part of these two inspirational pastors’ vision to bring unity and harmony to the communities.

For more information about the service, call (937) 653-8171. Jerusalem Second Baptist Church, where the celebration will be held, is located at 1036 S. High St. in Urbana.

‘Our Communities — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’

By Paule Simone Brown

Contributing writer

Reach the writer at [email protected]

Reach the writer at [email protected]