Florida churches plan to observe MLK, Jr. Day



Editor’s Note: Additional ideas and resources for observing Dr. King’s legacy are available from UMC’s Discipleship Ministries. Click here for more information. 

The calendar says it’s time to remember the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Millions will celebrate how diversity has flourished in this country as the result of his work and that of many others more than 45 years ago.

Dr. King's birthday and civil rights advancements will be commemorated this month at religious and secular events across the state and country. But his legacy is apparent every day in church communities that understand the power of inclusiveness, such as Palm Coast United Methodist Church, First UMC Melbourne, Orlando’s St. Luke’s UMC and First UMC, Port St. John.

A man whose vision still lives today, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired many. Photo courtesy of Bigstock.

Forty countries are represented in the membership at Palm Coast UMC, a church where diversity is celebrated and welcome.   

Unity among different groups “happens in our church,” the Rev. Dr. Kevin James, senior pastor, said. “We have people from all backgrounds, ethnicity, color, race that worship together every Sunday.”

Palm Coast's inclusive, multicultural membership and the New York City Transit Retirees of Florida will host their annual celebration of Dr. King's life Monday, Jan. 16, at 11 a.m. at the church, 5200 Belle Terre Parkway, in Palm Coast.

This ecumenical service will bring together groups of officiants and audience members, diverse not only in age but also in race, culture and heritage. Elementary school through post-secondary students are expected to participate, along with their parents and grandparents. A diverse community choir is scheduled to perform. Emphasis will be placed on giving back to the community through community service.

“Our goal would be to appreciate and embrace diversity within our community and the world,” Rev. James said, “and to continue to inspire the next generation to do better than the previous generation.”

To that end, the speaker will be Dr. Earl Johnson, principal of Matanzas High School in Palm Coast.

Johnson, the first African-American high school principal in Flagler County, was named the county's principal of the year for 2017. A former player with the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints of the National Football League, Johnson has been honored many times for his commitment to excellence and leadership, Rev. James said.

First Church Melbourne – Bridge Walk

Members of First United Methodist Church of Melbourne and Greater Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church of Melbourne will gather at Front Street Park Sunday, Jan. 22, at 4 p.m. to walk together across the Melbourne Causeway and represent their belief in the importance of racial reconciliation. The two congregations will share a meal and worship together as part of the event.

This bridge walk is not only an important public display of unity between the two congregations. It also represents one of a series of actions being planned to strengthen the relationship between them.

“We hope that our coming together as people of faith will welcome others to reach out across cultural and socio-economic lines and see that our commonalities greatly outweigh our differences,” First UMC Melbourne Pastor Dionne Hammond said.  

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

The bridge walk was conceived as a means of deepening relationships and vision in Melbourne faith communities and is an opportunity for both congregations to demonstrate a unified belief among the congregations that racial reconciliation is part of the process of being more like Jesus.

The two churches will also share in a pulpit exchange Jan. 15, with Pastors Craig and Dionne Hammond traveling to Greater Allen AME to speak in worship, while Rev. Lorzenzo Laws of Greater Allen AME—as well as other ministers—will be traveling to First UMC to speak at three services.

St. Luke’s – Interfaith activities

The City of Orlando held an MLK Candlelight Vigil and Interfaith Service Sunday, Jan. 8.

The vigil and march left City Hall at 6 p.m., and proceeded to First Presbyterian Church (106 East Church St.) for an MLK Interfaith and Multicultural Service. This year’s event highlighted the words of Dr. King: “Finite Disappointment and Infinite Hope.”

Sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and the City of Orlando Mayor’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, the event provided a natural catalyst for dialogue about the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the contributions of Dr. King, the advances made and the challenges that still remain, according to information provided to FLUMC.

Port St. John – Interpretive Dance

Members of First UMC of Port St. John turned to the arts and a local private school to remember Dr. King. A group of young people from The Life Center Academy in Titusville performed interpretive dance routines during Jan. 8 services. As dancers performed, members of the church read excerpts about Dr. King’s legacy.

Pastor David Charlton gave a sermon titled, “Jesus and the Pursuit of Justice.” It was based on Isaiah 42:1-4 and Matthew 12:15-21.  

--Ed Scott is a freelance writer based in Venice.


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