MLK celebration calls Christians to confront racism

| May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments


The Minnesota State Baptist Convention Choir led music for “The Dream Continues” prayer service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis May 11 in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Church leaders, including Archbishop Bernard Hebda, who led prayers or gave sermons sat in the sanctuary throughout the prayer service. Courtesy Mae Desaire

More than 100 Christians and local church leaders gathered at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis May 11 to hear a scriptural vision of race amid the modern challenges of racism in society.

The service “The Dream Continues” celebrated the memory and dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated 50 years ago April 4 while defending the civil rights of African-Americans. Organized by a group of churches, including the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the service was rescheduled due to a blizzard April 3.

“I hope that the people that attended this start spreading the message that the dream needs to continue,” said Mary Noble, 70, a Basilica parishioner and organizing member of the newly formed Black Catholic Leadership Initiative. Group members ushered at the event.

The service included Scripture readings, music by the Minnesota State Baptist Convention Choir, sermons and an excerpt from King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” which he delivered April 3, 1968, the night before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. Speaking to a crowd at Mason Temple, King expressed his vision for serving God in ending racism and not fearing his own death.

At the Basilica event, spoken word artist Mariaha Dean reflected on that final sermon, saying, “Because off in a distance, I see you, mountaintop, and I’m going to go on anyhow.”

In his sermon, Bishop Richard Howell Jr. of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World reflected on racism at the time of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Howell also touched on how Jesus shows equal love for all of humanity.

“I thought the day had come in 1968, but I have seen the regression. All of us have. Not just in our society, but also across the churches,” Howell said about civil rights during the press conference that preceded the service.

Rev. Dee McIntosh of Lighthouse Church in Minneapolis said that people of color are projected to be the majority in the U.S. by 2040, but still face racism. She spoke of hte high suicide rate among African-Americans, a 71-percent jump since 2008, and the mass incarceration of African-American men. She also touched on poverty among African Americans, including their plummeting average household income, 75 from 1983 to 2013.

“It will take the average black family 228 years to accumulate the wealth of an average white family,” McIntosh said.

Father Erich Rutten, who helped organize the event, called racism a sin during the press conference. He said it goes back to the beginning of humanity.

“But as Christians, we believe we’re called to something new,” said Father Rutten, chairman of the archdiocesan Commission on Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs, and parochial administrator of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, an historically black parish.

Basilica rector Father John Bauer welcomed attendees at the beginning of the service, and Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered the closing prayer. Speaking of King, Archbishop Hebda prayed, “Loving God, inspired by this powerful example, we ask you to help us to respond to your loving call, to eradicate the sin of racism from our lives, to speak out when we see inequity [and] to act when there is injustice.”

Also presenting at the event were civic leaders, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion.

“Dr. King’s dream continues, and so does his work,” Frey said. “And we know that the precision of our solutions must match the precision of the harm that was initially inflicted.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story erroneously listed St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter as an attendee. According to an event organizer, he had been invited to give a greeting but did not attend. The Catholic Spirit regrets the error.

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