We Shall Overcome: Re-Envisioning a Beloved Community
With the theme of “Re-Envisioning A Beloved Community: Expanding the Kingdom of Love and Justice,” the 2023 MLK worship service was timely and necessary for this time in United States history.
Clergy and laity alike came together with worship, music, prayer, and poetry, on January 16, at Quayle United Methodist Church and livestreamed on the conference website.
The presence of the Lord was strong at the event, running the gamut from poignant to joyous to solemn. Multiple speakers shared their stories and experiences of love, justice, and community.
Leaders from multiple denominations gathered to worship and create beloved community. The large crowd was diverse, with multiple ages, races, and denominations participating and attending.
Speaking on justice, Andrew Jordan, a spoken word lyricist and graduate of Langston University, said, “For a society to be impartial is not possible. But what is possible is love.” He ended with a simple proposal: “Practice love.”
In his letter to Dr. King, Rev. Dr. Victor McCullough expressed, “We have seen great strides in American history since the Civil Rights movement,” yet, he continued, “we’re seeing around us significant setbacks.” Since the death of Dr. King, McCullough described conditions of oppression and racism, like economic depression, food insecurity, mass incarceration, and the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement.
McCullough further suggested we re-envision King’s vision to turn our broken world into a beloved community, “because the spirit of God will fire us up to expand the kingdom of love and justice for all.”
Sister Joyce Henderson said, “I taught history. And when I was teaching history, I did not know I would become history.” As a 16-year-old traveling by bus to the capital, she personally witnessed the “I Have a Dream” speech with Clara Luper, her teacher and mentor.
The keynote speaker at the event was Rev. Dr. Michael L. Bowie, Jr. Bowie is the national executive director for the United Methodist Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.
His more than 20 years of experience as a United Methodist pastor benefit multiple United Methodist conferences and churches in their growth and transformation.
“This looks like the what the kingdom of God is going to look like,” Bowie observed as he surveyed the diverse crowd.
On the topic of Dr. King’s last written work, titled Where Do We Go From Here, Bowie started with where we are now.
Bowie listed continuing issues facing people of color, including political divisiveness, systemic racism, the splintering of the United Methodist Church, the lingering effects of Covid-19, white supremacy, mass incarceration, voter suppression, and more.
He urged congregants to pray for oppressors and practice love, as Jesus did.
He pondered the fact that Dr. King wrote about the things people lacked, like housing, jobs, and equality, and that people are still striving for today.
Similarly, Jesus died for conditions people are still suffering today.
“All we need is access and opportunity to change the world,” said Bowie, citing the examples of Venus and Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, and Viola Davis.
He discussed the problem of privilege, and how difficult it is for those who have it to let it go. “We don’t want to change anything for anybody; we just want our piece of the pie.”
To be a part of the beloved community, all must continue to speak out for hungry children, the unhoused, those suffering with domestic violence, police brutality, and mass incarceration, which is often determined by a child’s zip code, rather than their grade point average.
People of privilege need to say something, implored Bowie, to stand on the front lines and to speak for those whose voices are oppressed.
“The bible said you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” said Bowie.
The beautifully-wrought service is on the Oklahoma conference Youtube channel, and readers are encouraged to go to the video and experience it for themselves.