The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
from his 1963 speech at the University of Virginia's Old Cabell Hall
Amid all of the political rancor and tragedy of recent days in our nation, let us pause to remember the birthday today of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and how he implored us to build a better nation based on love, freedom and respect.
St. Paul's Memorial Church was very much a part of the turbulent history of civil rights and the conflict over integration. When the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, ordered the schools to de-segregate in 1954, the public schools of Charlottesville closed rather than to allow black children to attend.
Shamefully the white churches of Charlottesville opened their doors to conduct school for white children only. One church, though, stood against the wind: St. Paul's and its courageous rector, Ted Evans, refused to cooperate with the whites-only "massive resistance" and called it for what it was: evil.
In the coming two weeks, the University of Virginia will host a series of events examining that era and commemorating those events. Civil rights veterans including Julian Bond will be on the grounds. On Jan. 23 at 2 pm I will be taking part in an interfaith prayer service at the Jefferson Theater downtown, a theater that once reserved the upstairs balcony for "Colored Only." Please come if you can.
To learn more about the UVA-sponsored events, please click HERE, and I hope to see you at some.
Let me leave you with this today: This is one of my all-time favorite hymns, and it has a hallowed history as the "African American National Anthem" bringing inspiration in moments of pain and joy. May we celebrate the triumph of the human spirit and God's faithfulness to us.