Christ Church has been holding special services around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday since the late 90’s. In those days we ran about 300 a week in worship and were anything but racially diverse but we had a dream.
In the early years we participated with our friend Rev. Sylvester Weatherall and the good people of the Washington Park UMC. We did symbolic marches from Grace Church to City Hall, had church and shared a lunch. Forrest Bevineau and I sang the “Reconciliation Song” every year.
When Sylvester moved to Springfield in the early 2000’s, the next January came around and there was no Metro-East celebration to attend. I found the silence deafening. After a one year silence, God spoke to my heart to pick things up at Christ Church. I didn’t feel qualified but the line was non-existent and I did feel called so we began holding annual services and events right here at Christ Church.
Our MLK Service has been graced over the years with Bishops, Scholars, Educators and Judges. We have been blessed by incredible music, poetry and prose. We received new insights and understandings from our incredible Associate Pastor Troy Benton. We have learned that MLK Day is not a Black Holiday, it is an American Holiday! I rejoice in the vision and courage of Martin Luther King Jr. and the new America he helped to build and we continue to build. His was a dream of America in keeping with what our forefathers found to be “self evident.” The simple notion at all men (and women) were created equal and deserve equal opportunity, protection, respect, access and yes, responsibility. I share that dream!
Such egalitarian notions are deeply rooted in the Christian tradition (and my Methodist tradition and that is why I feel Christ Church continues to be a wonderful place to celebrate, remember, worship and be re-membered.
I have long dreamed of a time when Sunday morning is not “the most segregated hour in America” and Christ Church circa 2019 is an example of that prophecy fulfilled!
Gathering together on a special Sunday when we connect to those things most noble, most humane and most Christian is simply a marvelous idea. We will remind ourselves of how far we have come, how far we have yet to go and of the goodness of God.
We will celebrate, lament and dream!
This year our special guest will be IGRC Bishop Frank Beard. I can’t wait!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.