King's memory, vision celebrated

January 20, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Rev. Nathan Bell said he hoped the union of races, religions and cultures at First United Methodist Church Sunday would last for more than just an afternoon.

"May this not be for one afternoon of togetherness," Bell, pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Chambersburg, said to the 200 people who gathered at the church for the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was a pioneer of civil rights. He recognized there was a oneness of the people of God," he said.


James Simmons, a 2002 Waynesboro (Pa.) Area High School graduate representing St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, brought the crowd to its feet and had strangers hugging one another and clapping and cheering his message.

Simmons, a freshman at Howard University in Washington, D.C., has been preaching since he was 9 years old.

"We celebrate what (King) has done. We do not celebrate because he had a blockbuster. We come to the sanctuary to celebrate him because he had a vision he would not let die," Simmons said, eliciting applause from the crowd.

"There must be, there shall be, there has to be change," he said.

Simmons pulled from speeches and letters King wrote to remind the crowd King's work continues in 2003, and there are still people striving to fulfill the dreams he spoke of four decades ago.

In addition to Simmons' remarks and readings from other clergy in the community, the South Central Community Choir performed and the winners of a student essay contest were announced.

The Chambersburg Area Community Improvement Association sponsored the contest, which asked students to express their ideas about King's life, dreams and legacy of equality.

In his winning essay, Christopher Little, a fifth-grader at Scotland (Pa.) Elementary School, talked about how he would befriend a minority and disabled student, even if other kids picked on him.

"I would explain to my friends that picking on him just because he is not like us is wrong. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that skin color shouldn't matter. Neither should physical problems like being stuck in a wheelchair," Christopher read.

Other contest winners included Kiana Jordan Thompson, a third-grader at Falling Spring Elementary School; Diondre Ross, a sixth-grader; Kaitlyn Ann Benedict, a sixth-grader; Kyle Jordan, a freshman; and Vonsharie Audiles, a junior.

The annual service is co-sponsored by the Chambersburg Area United Churches in cooperation with the Sons of Israel Synagogue, the Chambersburg Area Ministerial Alliance, the Evangelical Fellowship of Cumberland Valley and the Chambersburg Ministerium.

It got its start in the basement office at John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church in the 1970s when the Rev. John Rice, now deceased, a pastor there; the late Rabbi Robert Chernoff, of the Congregation of the Sons of Israel, and the Rev. William Harter, pastor at Falling Springs Presbyterian Church, talked about the importance of addressing issues of racial harmony and cooperation in the community.

Twenty-three years later, Harter said, "It is exciting to see the continuing fruition of that dream."

He said Sunday one of the goals of the service is "to make a place where no one is to be marginalized."

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