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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Presbyterian Center in Louisville holds an online service on a historic day in America

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

the Rev. Timothy Findley, Jr.

LOUISVILLE — With this admonishing quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminding worshipers that “power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love,” the online worship service commemorating King’s life and legacy began Wednesday for the Presbyterian Center.

The theme for the service, “The Power in Love & Justice,” is from King’s final book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?The service was held on the same day that the first woman and the first Black and Asian woman became vice president of the United States.

Carter Anderson II in his melodic baritone voice rendered a moving rendition of James Weldon Johnson’s Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Following Anderson, a series of poignant readings was shared, including one from the Rev. Edwin Gonzalez-Castillo, who read an excerpt from King’s speech to the Interamerican University, which was founded by missionaries of the Presbyterian Church. King delivered the speech in 1962 during his first visit to Puerto Rico.

In his remarks King reflects on the lack of a role of the church in condemning segregation, words that echo in our time. King said, “I think though that there is a new awareness, at least a nagging of consciousness on the part of many ministers and many Christians. They are coming to realize that the church has failed to stand out in its witness at this point and many are trying to do something about it. So, there is a ray of hope even amid the darkness, and the fact that they have not stood out in the past.”

Another powerful point is the service was the Prayer of Confession, created by the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, who chaired the committee that developed the service, and read by the Rev. Carlton D. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Edward J. Thompson. During the reading Johnson and Thompson stated, “We confess that we have allowed racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to often dictate how we exist. We confess that we have far too often fallen short of being the beloved, healing, reconciling, welcoming, inclusive and life-giving community that Christ has called us to,
that God ordained, and that the Holy Spirit has sanctioned. “

The preacher for the service was the Rev. Timothy Findley, Jr., senior pastor of Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The community activist has been on the frontline in the peaceful protest for justice for Breonna Taylor. Preaching from Luke 7:11-14, Findley titled his message “The Church Must Interrupt.”

Findley said Jesus was an interrupter. He reminded worshipers that when Jesus saw a need, he was moved to act. As Christians we have a moral and spiritual responsibility to interrupt.

“As we talk about Martin Luther King and his legacy, and where we are in the world today, what really grabbed my attention about this situation was that Jesus was an interrupter,” Findley said. “Jesus sees this funeral and is moved to act. I believe that we have a moral and spiritual responsibility to be interrupters. Just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was an interrupter on more than one occasion, we have a moral and spiritual responsibility to interrupt.”

“One of the truths that undergirds my response to many atrocities that we see today is a quote by Frederick Douglass,” he said. “Douglass says that power concedes nothing without demand.”

Findley says the he believes wholeheartedly that we all must be interrupters. “I believe that we all have to resist injustice,” said Findley. “When you look at the words of Martin Luther King and the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ one of the things that he lamented was that there were so many moderates, there were so many people who were privy to the injustices. They were privy and saw the injustices that were going on in the world,  yet they sat silently by.”

“After 250 years of slavery, after 90 years of Jim Crow, after 60 years of separate but equal and after 35 years of a racist housing policy, it was resistance and interruption that brought change in those areas. It is resistance. It is interruption. It is protest that brings change,” said Findley.

“As we look at the life of Jesus Christ and we look at the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe the precedent has been set for the church not to stand by or sit by idly, but it is our Christian responsibility to demand change and to be interrupters.”

Findley pointed to statistics impacting the country today. “When you look at, for instance, the persistent earning gap that has made it even more difficult for African Americans and Hispanics to catch up. When you look at that in 2010, the median earnings for Black males were 32% lower than the median earnings for their white counterparts. When you look at the earning gap between white and Hispanic men and how it grew from 29% to 42%, when you look at the fact that we live in two different Americas, that since 1980, the racial and ethnic disparities and poverty in the United States that  have remained largely unchanged result in what the researchers characterize as two Americas,” said Findley.

“These are not opinions, but these are facts. What is the church to do? When we look at one in four Blacks or one in four Native Americans, or one in five Hispanics are classified as poor, but by contrast one in 10 whites and one in 10 Asian Americans are poor. When you look at the disparities that arise in part because of racial and ethnic gaps in employment and health and wealth. When you look at the COVID-19 virus that is gripping the nation, and the fact that African Americans are impacted at a rate two and a half times higher than other ethnic groups. What is the church to do?” Findley said. “I believe that God has called us to be interrupters. Just as Jesus saw something on that day and was moved to action, we cannot see injustice and say that’s someone else’s problem.”

“Martin Luther King, Jr. has laid out for each and every one of us that we have to be interrupters,” said Findley. “We have to interrupt that which is painful and that which is wicked. We have to call out the things that are wrong. Just as Jesus spoke to that young man and breathed life back into his body and into his circumstance and situation, I believe that it is our responsibility to breathe life back into these neighborhoods and to speak against those who would misrepresent Christ. That’s what Martin Luther King did.”

Following Findley’s remarks, worshipers shared in a spotlight on community justice from Kentucky Representative Attica Scott, who serves House District 41 in Louisville.

Kentucky Rep. Attica Scott

“The 200 days and the movement for justice for Breonna Taylor has looked like love in action. It has looked like standing together against police violence and racial terror,” Scott said. “It has looked like feeding one another and providing shelter to people who are houseless. It has looked like following the leadership of young Black people who are on the front lines protesting, who are now grassroots lobbyists, getting legislation passed at the local and state level and who plan to run for office in 2022.”

“If we are to achieve true progress for all of us, it is beyond time for young Black Kentuckians to see themselves represented in their own government,” she said. “It is time for Blacks in Appalachia and our urban cities and everywhere to know that they have a say in the laws that are governing them.”

Scotts says her election to office would not have been possible without the people who fought for her rights as a Black person and as a woman.

“So now I am called to be a champion for the people who have been decentered in Kentucky, for the people who have been told that you are not welcomed, you are poor.  And, for the people who have been told that you are a stranger and therefore we cannot take them in, this is why it matters that you stay connected to your state and local elected officials,” she said.

“My faith calls me to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God after being tear gassed and in my ears assaulted by long-range acoustic devices and unjustly arrested. I have decided that I love my people far too much to stop now.”

The service committee members included Edwin Gonzalez-Castillo, David Gambrell, Betsy Ensign-George, Anisha Hackney, valerie izumi, Carlton Johnson, Jessica Kelley, So Jung Kim, David LoLeng, and Gail Strange.

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