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Aspiring to reach King's dream

January 18, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Thirty-six years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told America of his dream.

He said he dreamed that one day "all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last."

Thirty years ago, the faith community of Chambersburg set out to fulfill that dream.

On Sunday, as black fingers intertwined with white, Hebrew scripture blended with Catholic prayer and Protestant sermon in voices that filled The Presbyterian Church of Falling Spring with harmony, the group of men and women in the sanctuary showed his dream was not only alive, it was possible.

While race, gender, religion and creed fell away during the service, outside the walls of the church, King's dream of equality has yet to be fulfilled, said the Rev. John Dromazos, pastor of First United Methodist Church.

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"The job is not done," he said. "There is still racism, prejudice and evil in this land."

Progress toward that dream, however, is being made, said the Rev. Manny Diaz, pastor of Brethren Fellowship Church.

Like King in 1963, Diaz urged those in the room to not "sleep through the revolution," which he said will start anew Tuesday when the U.S. inaugurates its first black president.

"This history will bring change and we cannot sleep through it," he said. "We are living among a period of great social change that has not yet fully developed."

Frances Webb of Chambersburg lived through great change during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

She said she can scarcely put into words the change she has seen in the decades since.

"He (King) gave many of us the freedom to stand tall," she said.

While many of those gathered for the service can remember listening to King's speech, his words did not stop that day, but have lived on, still having an impact on each generation, said Dr. Yvonne Taylor, professor at Shippensburg (Pa.) University and coordinator of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Essay Contest.

"If Martin Luther King were alive today ... he would use his skills to unite people all over the world and make sure everyone had the opportunity to live their dreams," wrote third-grader Stephen Swain in his winning essay about King.

"Any race, any place," wrote fifth-grader Blair Orndorf in her winning essay. "I chose this as a motto to show that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted not only whites and blacks but all races to be treated equally."

As a nation, we have not accomplished King's dream nor have we created the world envisioned by the young writers, said the Rev. William Harter, retired pastor of Falling Spring Presbyterian Church.

"We have lots to do," he said. "We need to love more and care more."

Rabbi Sharon Ballan of the Congregation Sons of Israel urged those in attendance to treat others with dignity.

"Even so, as we face the difficulties of tomorrow, I still have a dream," King said in 1963. "I have a dream today."

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