Welcome - Leader1

Call to Worship - Leader2

Leader2: In 1963, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior gave a speech before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with which many of us are familiar. Please stand, as we read together part of that speech:

Leader2: I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment,
Congregation: I still have a dream.

Leader2: It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

Congregation: I have a dream...
Leader2:...that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

Congregation: I have a dream...
Leader2: ...that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

Congregation: I have a dream...
Leader2: ...that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

Congregation: I have a dream...
Leader2: ...that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Leader2: I have a dream today.

Leader2: Please remain standing as we sing hymn # 593: "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Hymn # 593 Lift Every Voice and Sing - Congregation

Readings - Leader4, Leader1, Leader3 & Leader2

Leader4: Micah 6:8--God has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Leader1: To see what is right and not do it is want of courage. --Analects (Classical Confucianist text)

Leader3: Amos 5:24--But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Leader2: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. (Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963)

Why Are We Here? - Leader 3

Leader3: We are here this evening because we want to see justice and love in the world, and we believe that people of faith can contribute greatly to that. Today we observe the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose name is synonymous with civil rights; but work for civil rights did not begin in the 1950s. It began with women who could not even vote working for the abolition of slavery, and then realizing that if abolition was going to be a reality, it would probably be necessary for women to vote and to have all of the legal rights only enjoyed by men at that time. In 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY, the first conference on the rights of women was held. When at that conference, Elizabeth Cady Stanton suggested that to give women the justice they deserved, they should be able to vote, there was an uproar even among people who did not agree that husbands should virtually own their wives and daughters and keep all the wages they earned. Finally, Frederick Douglass stood to agree with her and to support the right of women to vote. One oppressed people helping another....And in the 1950s and 1960s when freedom riders went down South to sit in at lunch counters and to face the police dogs and firehoses with those who were denied basic human dignity through Jim Crow laws, women went, though many of them still had no expectation of ever supporting themselves if they married; gay men and lesbians went, closeted, living in a country where every state had sodomy laws; Jews and atheists went, into a born-again Christian South which had institutionalized Christian Bible reading and prayer in the public schools and the legislature, and which still has this in many places. Oppressed people, not free themselves, but still helping other oppressed people to be free. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

Hymn # 437 We Shall Not Give Up the Fight - Congregation

Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls, 1848 - Leader1

Leader1: Some of the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848: "Voices" were the visitors and advisers of Joan of Arc. Do not "voices" come to us daily from the haunts of poverty, sorrow, degradation, and despair, already too long unheeded. Now is the time for the women of this country, if they would save our free institutions, to defend the right, to buckle on the armor that can best resist the keenest weapons of the enemy -- contempt and ridicule. The same religious enthusiasm that nerved Joan of Arc to her work nerves us to ours. In every generation God calls some men and women for the utterance of truth, a heroic action, and our work today is the fulfilling of what has long since been foretold by the Prophet -- Joel 2:28: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." We do not expect our path will be strewn with the flowers of popular applause, but over the thorns of bigotry and prejudice will be our way, and on our banners will beat the dark storm clouds of opposition from those who have entrenched themselves behind the stormy bulwarks of custom and authority, and who have fortified their position by every means, holy and unholy. But we will steadfastly abide the result. Unmoved we will bear it aloft. Undauntedly we will unfurl it to the gale, for we know that the storm cannot rend from it a shred, that the electric flash will but more clearly show to us the glorious words inscribed upon it, "Equality of Rights."

Excerpt from a Letter from a Birmingham Jail - Leader4

Leader4: Dr. King wrote from jail in Birmingham: One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." ...Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. .....consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Soulforce - Leader2

Leader2: Satyagraha [Soulforce], Gandhi wrote, "is the vindication of truth not by the infliction of suffering on the opponent but on one's self." The opponent must be "weaned from error by patience and sympathy." ....Satyagraha received its first test when the Transvaal Government Gazette of August 22, 1906, published the draft of an act requiring all Indian men and women, and children above the age of eight to submit to official registration and fingerprinting on pain of fines, imprisonment, and deportation from the province....Gandhi told a mass meeting in the Imperial Theatre of Johannesburg on September 11, 1906, that this law was directed against Indians and was therefore an affront to them and India......he called on the audience of three thousand to pledge defiance of the ordinance and go to jail or, if need be, die. He warned them that the struggle would be long, "But," he emphasized, "I can boldly declare and with certainty that so long as there is even a handful...true to their pledge, there can be only one end to the struggle--and that is victory."--Louis Fisher

Readings: Leader3, Leader1, Leader2 & Leader4

Leader3: For centuries, countries around the world had laws against Jews engaging in certain activities or living anywhere but in ghettoes. One of the first things the Nazis did was to register all "undesirables," to document Gypsies, Jews, gays and others, just as the South African government documented Indians thirty years earlier. Dr. King also wrote from jail in Birmingham: "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.

Leader1: It was seventy-two years from the 1848 Seneca Falls meeting until women got the vote in 1920. Much of the opposition was religious.

Leader2: It was almost one-hundred years after the end of the Civil War that Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking before the Lincoln Memorial. Much of the opposition to civil rights for African Americans was religious.

Leader4: It's been over fifty years since the Holocaust, and still, even in America, it is difficult to be a religious minority. Jews are targeted for conversion, elected officials claim that we are a Christian nation, public school districts teach, practice, and encourage majority religious beliefs, and violent religious extremists deface, burn, and kill.

Leader3: Almost a year and a half ago, Matthew Shepard was killed, and thousands of people across the country turned out for memorial services and vigils, and became aware of the violence targeted against gays and lesbians. Those who decried the attention paid to Matthew Shepard pointed to their religious beliefs as the reason.

Leader1: Same-gender couples still can't get married in any state in this country, and even if they could, their marriages wouldn't be recognized at the federal level. The religious beliefs of the people and of their legislators demand this. Is it the role of religion to oppress, or to set free?

Leader2: Join me now in the prayers which are printed in your bulletins:

Prayer for Recovery and Renewal - Congregation

Congregation: Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters. Lord open our ears, that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Lord, open our hearts, that we may love each other as you love us. Renew in us your spirit. Lord, free us and make us one.
--Mother Teresa

Prayer for Peace - Congregation

Congregation: This we know, all things are connected, like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
--Chief Seattle

Prayer for the Dead (Kaddish) - Congregation

Congregation: Extolled and hallowed be the name of God throughout the world which God has created and governs according to God's will. Just is God in all ways, and wise are all God's decrees. May God's reign come and will be done in all the earth. Praised be the Lord of Life, the righteous judge, for ever more. Whatsoever praise we would render unto God, howsoever we would adore the Most High, we would yet fail to give God the glory due to God's great name. Even in the hour of bereavement and sorrow, we feel the majesty of God and will give thanks, for God's manifold mercies. May the God of peace send peace to all who mourn and comfort all the bereaved among us. Amen.

Offering and prayer circle - Leader1

Leader1: We will now take up an offering to support the work of [Insert Charity]


Hymn #588 Let Justice Flow Like Streams - Congregation

(carrying the hymnals, gather in a circle at the front of the sanctuary)

Leader1: Dr. King wrote from jail in Birmingham: Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

Striking of the prayer bowl - Leader1

Leader1: Let us remember those who have died in the struggle for freedom, and those who still struggle. Let us pray.

Prayers of the people - Congregation

Leader1: Amen.

Hymn #570 We Shall Overcome - Congregation

An Interfaith Working Group Online Service