A chorus of “amens” followed in response from the congregation and community members in attendance. Washington’s organization, the North East Florida Leadership Council, sponsored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Service to memorialize King’s life, dream of equality and ministry.
The soul-stirring service rocked the church with singing, clapping and reflection on the life of the mostrecognized leader of America’s civil rights movement.
The congregation swayed to traditional hymns such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” many singing from their hearts without the assistance of the church’s crimson hymnals. Washington, vice-president of the council, soloed on “Usher Me Into the Presence.”
Pastor Ronald V. Walters began his keynote address by describing how King’s social work was influenced by scripture.
“King wasn’t just working for changes in the minds, but for change in the heart,” his words boomed. “Social change and legislation can’t force a man to love another, but the spirit of God can.”
Walters urged the audience to never forget the civil rights movement started at church. He also spoke about two problems with religion, one being conformity, and another reluctance. Both of these problems were also obstacles of the civil rights movement.
After Walters advised young people to pursue education where they wished, but to stop by “Jesus Christ University” for true knowledge, the church walls shook as fellow pastors jumped, clapped and shouted in agreement.
“If it makes you uncomfortable, it comes from God,” he said. “If it makes you uncomfortable, you probably need to hear it.”
Walters called for “reflection and honest assessment of where we are while making sure we are still sensitive to the history of the progress.”
He closed the service by reminding the congregation to continue to pray for the King family, as “Miss Coretta lost a husband, and the children lost their daddy.”
Abraham Scott and Samuel Thompson founded the North East Florida Leadership Council as a communitybased service organization that aids children with numerous fund-raisers and programs every year. The council started the parade over a decade ago and began hosting the commemoration service in the 1980s, Washington said.
“Today is a day for celebrating the contributions King made, and to realize that although we have not arrived to true equality, we are getting closer each day,” Washington said.
Joyce Walters agreed.
“We are making some progress, but we are not there yet,” she said. “I am grateful that we can be a part of this and teach our children about Dr. King’s dream. It is up to us to keep it alive.”
The federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was passed in 1983 after 15 years of lobbying following King’s assassination. The holiday went into effect in 1986.
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.