Thursday, December 9, 2010

potential MLK day service


the assignment for class today was to create and comment on a service for a secular holiday and I enjoyed the work so much I've decided to post it.



Order of Service
Sunday, January --, 2011

Processional: Recorded excerpts from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, 1963 March on Washington (1)
Welcome and Announcements
Lighting the Chalice: (in unison) Love is the spirit of this church and service is its law. This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.
[James Vila Blake]
Opening Words: From Virtual Faith by Tom Beaudoin (2)
First Hymn: “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” number 149 (3)
First Reading: From The Spirituals and the Blues by James Cone (4)
Time for All Ages: My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringgold (5)
Sing children to Religious Education with “Go Now in Peace,” number 413
Community Sharing: This is the time we give to voice those things that give us pause, events that make us smile or make us cry, situations that lift us up or drop us down. We sit in respectful silence of others. Please be brief.
Second Reading: From “Only Justice can Stop a Curse” by Alice Walker (6)
Offering: We give willingly of the bounty of our lives to help this congregation.
“From You I Receive,” number 402 (7)
Third Reading: “The Network of Mutuality” by Martin Luther King, Jr., number 584 (8)
Homily: “Everywhere We Look, There is Work to be Done” (9)
Meditation
Congregational Dialogue
Final Hymn: “We Shall Overcome,” number 169 (10)
Benediction: From “For MLK” by Toni Vincent (11)
Extinguishing the Chalice: (in unison) “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith; be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
[1 Corinthians 16] (12)



REFLECTION
My first memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., is of my parents’ response to his death. They weren’t a part of the Civil Rights movement but they had friends who were black and on what must have been April 5, 1968, I remember a conversation they had at breakfast centering on the reactions of some of those friends to “The News.” I didn’t quite get what had gone on but I understood that Someone Important had been killed and that a lot of people were as upset and angry about it as when John Kennedy had been killed five years before. Prior to that I think MLK had been pretty far under the radar for me, which wouldn’t have been unusual for a small white boy in industrial New York.


But my mother told me to watch his funeral as it was “history.” I remember little of it beyond the grainy films and somber mood and weeping and the many, many, many black faces congregated together. I don’t think I’d ever seen that many black people before or been more than peripherally aware there were that many in the country. It was something of a revelation that there was that much going on with that many people outside my experience.


I think my experience was, if not indicative, then similar to that of a lot of white folks in the late 60s. We were suddenly brought face to face with the grief and pain of a large number of our neighbors and friends that previous to that we could choose whether we recognized. Since his death MLK has become the patron saint of both What is Wrong with America—the repercussions and towering injustices of slavery and its aftermath—and What is Right with America—the willingness to stand up in opposition to that overwhelming injustice with nothing more than a voice—and it is in the spirit of the latter role that we celebrate his birthday.


1. I think it’s important that people be reminded of that voice and its power. There is nothing better for doing this than MLK’s words themselves.
2. Beaudoin relates a remarkable story from his undergraduate days when a professor breaks down in class after playing a short excerpt of MLK’s March on Washington (“I Have a Dream”) speech. The professor had been a marcher years before with King in Birmingham.
3. This familiar work both relates MLK to the previous generation’s Worker’s Rights movement (which was the focus of the March on Washington) and features the words of James Weldon Johnson whose 1922 collection The Book of American Negro Poetry introduced many early black poets to American literature.
4. Last year I was introduced to the theology of James Cone which was in some ways inspired by MLK. Much of his work is a bit heady for reading on a morning of celebration but his evocation of what it means to people to hear their own experiences reflected in song is inspiring.
5. Ringgold’s short children’s picture book is a good introduction to who MLK was, what he was fighting against, and what he means for many people who aren’t black but benefit from his work. The pictures ought to be projected onto a screen so everyone in the congregation can experience them.
6. Alice Walker’s essay is a meditation on the experiences of one teenage black girl in the Civil Rights movement of the Deep South. This selection focuses on the epiphany she received when a young white man whose presence she’d previously been cool to places his body and the protection it suggests literally on the line with her.
7. At the congregation I served in Menomonie I started a tradition of this being sung during the offering. I think it’s especially apt for a day celebrating MLK.
8. One can’t celebrate the man without taking note of some of the incredible words the man wrote. This selection, from the UU hymnal, is meant as a call-and-response in the manner of black church tradition and the congregation can use it in that way, but it’s also powerful given a single, clear voice.
9. I like homilies, opportunities to tie up the loose ends of a message, and I thought this title, from a sermon I wrote in 2009 after Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, was appropriate.
10. The tune everyone associates with MLK and his movement, it is no less necessary for current generations to experience its power and message, as it remains relevant in the contemporary world.
11. A brief reiteration of MLK and his impact on people and what his message means for those born after his death but whose lives were touched by him and his work nonetheless. Its invocation also charges us as we leave with the sense that we need to remember the lessons this celebration of his life may have given us.
12. This admonition from 1st Corinthians has always struck me as an accurate encapsulation of the lessons MLK tried to teach us.

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