2020 MLK, Jr. Commemoration Recap

January 29, 2020

By: By: Rev. Tamara Z. Ingram. Convener Religion and Race, WNCC

Phenomenal, inspirational, powerful, exceptional, these are some of the adjectives that attendees used to describe the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Day held on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Winston Salem, N.C. As churches across the Conference gathered, the day was a combination of reflection and action. The theme, Embracing the Beloved Community: Persevering Despite Adversity, was crafted to sound the alarm that the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr,’s vision of a Beloved Community is unfulfilled; yet can become a reality as all of God’s children work together for liberty and justice despite hardship and obstacles. 


It was as if America’s most prolific civil rights hero was looking on as the day progressed in a Godly and reverent manner. There were more than 300 in attendance to hear welcome addresses given by Bishop Paul Leeland, host pastors, Rev. Donald Jenkins, Rev. Dr. Glenn Kinken III and the Yadkin Valley District’s Vitality Associate, Rev. Randy Blanchard. Exuberant praise was the order of the day as the combined choirs of St. Paul and Centenary United Methodist Churches blessed the service with uplifting music. Special music from one of America’s youngest chosen vessels, Caleb Serrano was a joyful part of the day, as was the celebration of Holy Communion and the luncheon table talks. 

The event’s Drum Major for Justice Awards recognized the ground breaking work of the Poor People’s Campaign and Greensboro’s Beloved Community Center. These two community icons work to bring together diverse parts of our community to discuss the relevant injustices of our day and to bring about social action that will make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision come alive. Additionally, five of our Conferences’ finest youth were awarded with certificates and cash prizes for writing timely essays and creating a picture that focused and elaborated on meaningful MLK Jr. quotes. These amazing youth are: Harper Lanier (3rd grade), Jessica Lewis written & art (3rd grade), Joshua Lewis (8th grade), Benton Felton (10th grade), Jada Norris (10th grade) and Donovan Withers (11 grade). 

The keynote speaker, Ms. Clara Ester, did not disappoint the waiting congregation. Her resume includes being a civil rights activist from an early age and an eager college student following the sanitation workers’ strike in 1968. She rushed to the side of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he lay dying on the Memphis balcony of the Lorraine motel that fateful April day. Yet in spite of the tragedy she witnessed, her message spoke of the importance of love in our quest for Beloved Community. She gave a challenge to the attentive people saying, “all of God’s children, especially people of faith must think of other people and love other people like they think of and love themselves.” She sobering recounted that the people of God have been “asleep” too long and that we all must “wake up” and work for a world of justice and equality for all and a nation where our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to live fruitful and productive lives. 

As the day came to a close, and the energy was tangible, attendees left the event more than ready to go back to their faith communities and share what their hearts felt, what their ears heard and what their eyes saw. The adjectives: Phenomenal, Inspirational, Powerful and Exceptional were perhaps understatements. God was present from the beginning to the very end and, thanks be to God, God’s will was done. 

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A Summons to Witness, Protest, and Promise

We give thanks for this Summons to Witness, Protest and Promise written by the cabinet of the North Carolina Conference.  In our ongoing collaboration, we affirm these words alongside them.  Across our state, we invite all United Methodists to be a part of building “the new world God promises as heaven in time descends to earth.” (Revelation 21)

A Summons to Witness, Protest, & Promise

We, United Methodists in The Western North Carolina Conference, join our voices with The North Carolina Conference in witness, protest and promise in these times of violence against our Black brothers and sisters.

We believe. . .

We believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed poured out upon all people.
We believe that in baptism, we are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation, and commissioned to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in whatever forms they present themselves.
We believe that God’s intent for humanity is community, compassion, and holiness, and that justice has been marred by the history of enslavement and racism.
We believe that repentance is urgent for the historic and ongoing violence against Black girls and boys, men and women.
We believe that in the wounding of Black bodies we see Christ crucified.
We believe that those who have been steeped in white privilege, through repentance, can be transformed into humble servants of the living God.
We believe we are called to work for the day when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

We protest. . .
We protest violent murders of Black men and women, most recently Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
We protest the narratives of fear and suspicion that divide people from one another.
We protest our historic failure to ensure all our churches are places of hospitality, welcome, and belonging for our Black brothers and sisters.
We protest the historic and continuing suppression of voting and other basic rights.
We protest all incendiary public leadership in this time of crisis and turmoil.
We protest the lack of will in our communities, our state and our country to protect the lives of our Black brothers and sisters, and especially the most vulnerable, the young and the old.

We promise. . .
We promise to use our voices, resources and power to dismantle white privilege and racist systems, especially within our own United Methodist Church.
We promise to read the Scripture with ear and eye attentive to the continued call toward God’s will for all people.
We promise to exercise the right to vote and to work against voter suppression.
We promise to create around ourselves at all times hospitable space for all people.
We promise to name prejudice when we see it and to receive the correction of others who see prejudice in us.
We promise to be life-long learners, to constantly make adjustments in the way we use our power and influence, to be active participants in the building of the beloved community, and ultimately growing always in holiness toward the perfection we see in Christ.


Bishop Paul Leeland
Laura Auten
Carl Arrington
Michael Bailey
David Christy
Amy Coles
Bev Coppley
Beth Crissman
Otto Harris
David Hockett
Kim Ingram
Linda Kelly
Mark King
Melissa McGill
Samuel Moore, Jr.
Dan Pezet
Mark Ralls
David Snipes
Caroline Wood
Jane Wood

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
Tim Russell
Edie Gleaves
Ray Broadwell
Gil Wise
Gray Southern
Mike Frese
Kenneth Locklear
Randy Innes
Linda Taylor
Dena White
Tara Lain
Ismael Ruiz-Millan
Jon Strother
Beth Hood
Lisa Yebuah
Greg Moore
Steve Taylor

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