Honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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United Methodists from across the Northern Illinois Conference gathered together for several events over the long holiday weekend in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s legacy and life.


Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey

On Saturday, Jan. 17, more than 200 clergy and lay members participated in the annual Winter Warming hosted by NIC Reconciling Ministries. The Rev. Dr. Pamela L. Lightsey, an Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology, led a forum on Ferguson: Faith and Confronting Injustice. Rev. Lightsey went to Ferguson, MO to join the protests following the police killing of Michael Brown and live-streamed the unfolding events. She said she went searching for “God talk”.

“What I felt in Ferguson, is a depression among Black people. They were calling up God and wondering where God was,” said Rev. Lightsey as she encouraged continued prayers and action against racial injustice across the country. “Now is not the time for segregated vocal pockets. All our voices are needed to cry out for justice!


Rev. F. Willis Johnson from Wellspring UMC in Ferguson, MO delivered the sermon at the NIC annual MLK celebration. Photo courtesy: Aquilino Javier

On Sunday, Jan. 18, St. Mark United Methodist Church’s sanctuary was filled for the NIC’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration service. The Rev. F. Willis Johnson from Wellspring UMC in Ferguson, MO gave a powerful sermon titled, “It’s not your fault, but it’s your fight. A generational call to fight injustice”.

With his church just two blocks from the Ferguson Police Station, Rev. Johnson has been working as a peacemaker in the community and St. Louis area following the shooting death of Michael Brown. “Your fight requires you to participate, to seek systematic transformation,” said Rev. Johnson. He said we can continue honoring the life and work of Dr. King by living out the Gospel. Rev. Johnson challenged everyone to, “possess a revolutionary spirit. Christianity is a contact sport. No more weakness in our witness.”

On Monday, Jan. 19, United Methodists packed a theater in Warrenville, Ill., to view a special screening of the Oscar nominated movie Selma which is about Martin Luther King Jr.’s history changing campaign to secure equal voting rights in Alabama in 1965.

Nearly 200 people from across the conference attended a special screening of the movie Selma.

Nearly 200 people from across the conference attended a special screening of the movie Selma.

Following the movie, Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. Chris Pierson led a discussion saying as we near the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery we are faced with many of the same challenges today. The movie had a stirring response from many of the movie goers including the retired Rev. Ron Graham who studied with Martin Luther King Jr., in Boston and joined the march in Montgomery as a pastor from Chicago’s south side. “Martin Luther King Jr., urged us not to return violence with violence and not to return hatred with hatred,” said Rev. Graham who felt the movie was insightful and portrayed Dr. King’s message well.

Retired NIC elder John Alan Boryk met Dr. King in Chicago and felt compelled to travel to Selma and join the march in 1965. After watching the movie he said he was deeply moved. “It was a powerful reminder of God’s ability to free people from all that prevents them from being what God has called us all to be. I was most thankful to be with my sisters and brothers and be reminded of that powerful and life-changing experience.”

Others stated, “Selma is not over. Ferguson is not over. How will we respond?” and “We have much work to do.” Celina Roberts who marched for civil rights as a young high school student in Mississippi said the movie was especially meaningful to her. “It meant to me that what my aunt and parents went through was not in vain,” she said.

This is something that all of us are called to face and work side by side

Bishop Sally Dyck encouraged everyone to offer prayers in our churches and to continue the conversation beyond this one time event. “This is something that all of us are called to face and work side by side to make sure there is no longer institutionalized, systematic disadvantages given to any group of people,” she said. For resources and a toolkit to hold a group discussion on the movie Selma, click here. For resources from the NIC Media Resource Center on Dr. King and Black History month click here.


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