Christmas and Easter. Every church I've ever attended has had Christmas and Easter services. Most have had special services for Thanksgiving, as well. In fact, I can't think of a church I was ever involved with in my youth -- even the ones my father was not the pastor at -- that didn't have a commemorative service for any of the religious or civic holidays, even (increasingly to my chagrin) the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. I even think I recall one week that Sunday happened to be December 7th and we had a Pearl Harbor remembrance worked into the service.
But I'd never been at a church that had a special service the the Sunday before the third Monday of January. My particular offshoot of the Brethren aren't really into pushing the non-violence anabaptists are traditionally known for, and I've never been in a Grace Brethren Church that celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I was blessed this morning to be in a Mennonite Church observing a national holiday.
Today I sat in a service in which white privilege was explained from the pulpit, and we were implored to recognize it in ourselves. We intercut the service with clips from Dr. King's "The Other America" speech at Stanford in '67. We sang Precious Lord, Take My Hand. We wept for John Crawford III and Tamir Rice and others.
I followed up the service by listening to and reading the whole of The Other America then going to see Selma.
It has been an emotionally draining and fulfilling day.
I've been helped through it by my friend Steev Richter, who spent yesterday afternoon in studio recording music he's written over the last 15 or so years. A newer one hit me just right, filling a hole I'm only beginning to learn is there. Soren's Song:
Don’t be frightened by the fire
Bullies and the liars
Only fight in fear
There is freedom for the taking
Love is for the making
Love has brought you here
And I’ll let my heart shine on
Love lead the way
Only Love can be found
Only Love will bring us around
We could be free if we wanted to
And, if they won’t, there is still me and you
Press on. Just keep swimming, so to speak. Or as Dr. King put it: "If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving." Our struggle is "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers", and we need to keep struggling even as we realize that we may ourselves be members of those powers.
Love. Please love.
Even if the world won't love with you.
And so I can still sing "We Shall Overcome." We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward Justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right, "No lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne — Yet that scaffold sways the future." With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.