Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has led to some changes in American society, but there is still work to do, according to the speakers at a Jan. 17 interfaith worship celebration.
Sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Greater Rochester Commission, the service was followed by a re-enactment of a civil rights march, focus groups and lunch. The theme for the day’s events was borrowed from the title of King’s final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
“I consider Martin Luther King Day a holy day, and not a holiday,” said Father Robert Werth, parochial vicar of the Winton-Culver Catholic Community and a member of the commission. “Nobody should be laying in bed on that holiday.”
Father Werth served as master of ceremonies for the worship service, which was held at Rochester’s Eastman Theatre. The Rev. Dr. John S. Walker, pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Henrietta, spoke during the service.
“(King) imagined a beloved community without conflict or chaos,” Rev. Walker said, noting that King’s dream was feared because it threatened the possibility of war for profit. “To this point in history, it has been chaos, and in the space of 40 years, very little has happened to change humanity’s plight.”
Our society is in chaos because it is dominated by violence and full of economic injustice, oppression and poverty, he said, urging the crowd to stir and resuscitate King’s dream.
“Sisters and brothers, we have work to do,” Father Werth said at the conclusion of Rev. Walker’s presentation. The day’s events provide one way to begin that work, he said, encouraging those present to brave the cold, snowy day and join the march. “This weather is nothing compared to biting dogs and fire hoses.”
Youth representatives from various faith communities then stepped forward, explaining what the Golden Rule meant in each faith tradition and charging the crowd to go forward and continue King’s work. Although the rule was worded differently in each tradition, the meaning was the same — treat others as you would like to be treated.
The theme of the day’s events was critical, Father Werth said afterwards.
“We need to continue to address the chaos and work to build community. Things will never be different unless we do things differently,” he said, noting that it is not only the secular world that needs to change. “The church needs the gifts of the black spiritual experience.”
African-American spirituality was to be the topic of a Jan. 28 discussion by Dr. Diana Hayes at Nazareth College. Hayes holds degrees from several institutions, including the Catholic University of America and the Catholic University of Louvain, and is an associate professor of systematic theology at Georgetown University. As part of Nazareth’s William H. Shannon Lecture Series, Hayes was also scheduled to present a Jan. 27 lecture titled “Keeping the Faith: The Ongoing Challenge of Vatican II for a Church in Crisis.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: To become involved with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Greater Rochester Commission or to obtain a copy of Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? contact Father Robert Werth at 585/482-4280.