Just over 50 years ago, in a speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on Aug. 19, 1967, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., asked the question "Where do we go from here?"
In a time of strife, racism, and poverty, he asked, what will people choose? Will they choose a way that makes for prosperity and peace for all? Will they work to loose the chains of injustice?
"I'm concerned about a better world," King said. "I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence."
Less than a year later, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
On January 15, 2018, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group will gather at 6:30 p.m. at Millbrook Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., to meditate on the same question — "Where do we go from here?" — by the light of the gospel.
"This is the third year we have held something like this," said Rev. Wayne Coleman, pastor at Millbrook. "The focus has always been to remind us as a church and a community to be agents of love and justice."
By joining together this year, said Coleman, people can speak as one voice against such things as the rise of white supremacy shown last summer in the rally at Charlottesville, Va.
"We need to address this issue of white supremacists causing a divide in our nation," said the pastor.
Joining with Millbrook in holding the event will be the CRC’s Office of Race Relations. The speaker will be Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners magazine and author of America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and a Bridge to a New America.
In that book, Wallis writes, "Race is about the American story, and about each of our own stories. . . . The story about race that was embedded into America at the founding of our nation was a lie; it is time to change that story and discover a new one."
The worship service at Millbrook will feature singers from area churches, led by local worship leaders Maurice Townsend, Satrina Reid, Emmanuel Phillips, Kenneth Henderson, and Nate Glasper.
"The worship will be led in a traditional African American style," said Coleman. "I hope this service reminds us that we are living in an important time in which, as Dr. King said, we need to be ambassadors of love in our communities."