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.