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King extolled, dream deferred

February 02, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

One of the questions students were asked in the annual essay contest for the Chambersburg Community Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service was what they might change at their schools if the civil rights leader were to visit.

One winner among the 640 entries was by Matthew Rines, a fourth-grader at Coldbrook Elementary School. He earned applause from a crowd of about 200 people at the Chambersburg Church of the Brethren when he said King should be able to judge for himself the reality of racial progress in America 36 years after his murder.

"It is what it is that we want him to see, not what we want it to be," Rines said.

Postponed two weeks because of foul weather, the 25th annual community memorial service was held Sunday, the first day of Black History Month.

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"Some would question the wisdom of having this service on a Sunday when they are playing some sort of game," said the Rev. Roger Wilmer of St. Peters AME Church in Shippensburg, Pa., referring to the Super Bowl. He thanked those who came together on a "Super Sunday as we honor a super gentleman ... who gave us hope more than anything else."

National politics received an oblique mention from Manny Diaz, the church's pastor, who noted the media attention paid to Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's reaction to his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, referred to as the "'I have a scream' speech."

"The man who had the most to scream about only had a dream for a better world," Diaz said. "Our purpose today is to continue that dream."

This was not just the delayed celebration of a national holiday, but a church service, something the Rev. Haru Carter of Zion Baptist Church in Hagerstown was quick to remind those in attendance.

"Even though we're coming to celebrate a great man, God is greater," the guest preacher said. "I know I've come for a designed purpose, but the Gospel is my main purpose.

"We being many, are one body in Christ," Carter said, quoting the apostle Paul from Romans. "It doesn't matter what color you are, what nationality you are, we are connected in the body of Christ," he said.

"If there's no coming together down here, I won't see you up there," Carter said. "This is where you get ready."

King led nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 that were met by violence by police using attack dogs and fire hoses. Carter likened King, who was jailed in Birmingham, to Paul, who was jailed for preaching the gospel.

Later that year, King marched on Washington to deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech before a multitude at the Lincoln Memorial. Carter, then 17, marched near the front - "a stone's throw away from Dr. King" - and remembered carrying a sign calling for more jobs and equality for all.

King, the 1964 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, could look around today and see that much progress toward equality has been made, but also would see that churches are among the most segregated places, Carter said.

Sarah Finley, a second-grader at Mary B. Sharpe Elementary, Aubrey Fry at third-grade student at Scotland (Pa.) Elementary and Falling Spring Elementary fourth-grader J. Luke Miley won U.S. savings bonds for their entries in the essay contest. Miranda J. Rhone of Chambersburg Area Senior High School was judged best among the 211 entrants from that school.

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