Wednesday would have been Martin Luther King’s 85 birthday and on Monday our neighbours to the south will celebrate Martin Luther King day. So, this Sunday our worship will commemorate the life and witness of this martyr of the faith. I know that there are some who say that as Canadians we don’t celebrate MLK Day. However, the gospel reading assigned for tomorrow includes Jesus’ early followers first attempts to figure out who Jesus was and hints at what it might mean to follow Jesus. While we have many images of what a follower of Jesus looks like, the life and witness of Martin Luther King, Jr. provides a concrete example of what it actually looks like to follow Jesus. We will spend some time exploring what our lives might look like should we have the courage to follow Jesus.
We will sing as our Hymn of the Day what was once known as “The Negro National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice and Sing. I have known a good many people who insist that “white people” ought not to sing this particular hymn. For a time I shared their reluctance, knowing that I have absolutely no idea what it means to live as a person of colour in a predominately white culture. However, over the years I have been convinced that Left Every Voice and Sing speaks to Dr. King’s dream of a world in which we are all freed from the shackles imposed upon us by the colour of our skin. The empathy engendered by this powerful hymn opens us to the possibilities inherent in Dr. King’s dream.
This video of the ‘ Negro National Anthem’ was originally screened at the historic African-American Church Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC on January 18th, 2009. Many of the esteemed individuals featured in this video in attendance and we presented with the ‘ Keepers of the Flame’ award for the monumental contributions to social justice. This version of the song was performed by the Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, conducted by Derrick James. While Canadians might balk at the overtly “American” images, we would do well to remember the history we share with our American cousins and the work that both countries need to engage in in order to move us closer to realizing Dr.King’s dream.
I include this pdf of tomorrow’s worship bulletin here, which includes preambles to some of the music we will be singing. Worship begins at 10:45am
Dear Pastor Dawn, Thank you for this post. I typed a long comment that somehow got erased when I also clicked on to be on your e-mail list. I’ll just repeat the part that I cut and pasted from my Episcopal church bulletin for tomorrow”
We sing “From God Christ’s deity came forth” at the Sequence today. While not yet
among the most familiar hymns in our hymnal, it deserves to be sung often. It is a pair
ing of one of Christianity’s oldest texts (Syrian, 4th-century) with one of our newest tunes
(by Ronald Arnatt, born 1930). The text is packed with scriptural references: ten from the
Gospels, three from Paul, one each from Psalms and Hebrews. The stanzas are formed of
two parallel lines followed by two related parallel lines capped with a refrain of praise.
The tune enlivens that form by repeating a brief musical phrase on ever higher pitches
that lead inexorably into the praise refrain. Arnatt writes, “The tune was written on May
4, 1984, in the study of our house in Salem, Massachusetts, which directly overlooks the
harbor—a lovely spot for thinking and working.” Hence the tune’s name, Salem Harbor.
We sing “Lift every voice and sing” as our concluding hymn in procession today in honor
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Johnson brothers wrote this song in 1900 at the request
of a group of young black men in Florida who sought to pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln,
our President who had signed the Emancipation Proclamation thirty-seven years earlier. The
song’s joyful message of hope, coupled with its compelling musical setting, quickly made it
a favorite not only among black Americans but among groups of all races who seek libera-
tion from oppression. What’s more, with its images of the “rising sun,” the “bright star,” and
being “led into the light,” this hymn is perfect for Epiphanytide