By PAUL A. BARRA
JAMES ISLAND — On the eve of Martin Luther King’s 70th birthday, more than 200 people gathered in the Church of the Nativity to celebrate his life. They sang along with youth choirs from the host parish and from a neighboring Presbyterian church, watched a skit about a young boy’s dream, listened to Dr. King himself on tape and to inspired preaching by a Methodist minister.
The pastor of Nativity, Father Henry Barron, welcomed the crowd and told them that King was one of his heroes.
After a candle lighting ceremony and a dramatic reading of “Psalm of a political prisoner” by Nathan Dozier, the assembly prayed. They listened to a taped recording of King’s famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C. Then Eddie Jurgielewicz played the dream spirit of Seth Gilliard, who went to his grandmother, played by Rose Mary Bouvette, for an interpretation. Seated in the sanctuary in a rocking chair, Bouvette told the boy how black Americans were treated differently than whites in the south of the ’40s and ’50s and how fair-minded people didn’t know what to do about the inequities. She talked about the civil rights movement here and how King’s dream changed everything, even though he was jailed and killed for his views.
Rev. H. Sam Johnson, a black man in charge of the predominantly white Hibben United Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant, knew King when he was a student in the ’60s. He heard the Nobel laureate ask one searching question that has stayed in his mind ever since, and Rev. Johnson asked that question to the people in Nativity Church on Jan. 14.
“Where do we go from here, chaos or community? That’s what Martin asked. And we have to know our answer as we approach the new millennium. Our God’s will and way must be imbued in our living.”
Rev. Johnson railed against failed social justice efforts, saying that “Some of us take better care of our animals than we do of God’s children.” Then he spoke with heat and passion about healing the broken Body of Christ. He called ecumenism God’s dream.
“It’s an even greater dream than Martin had. You ought to be willing to walk with Jesus. He blesses us so that we might bless others in his name. God calls us, he calls us to be involved in the living of all his people,” the UMC minister said.
Rev. Johnson finished his talk by asking for the fifth time, “Where do we go from here, chaos or community?”
The St. James Youth Choir was directed by Crystal Brown, the Nativity Children’s Choir by Scott Atwood and Jon-Paul Hurt.