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
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,
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.
Prayer for Peace - 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.
Prayer for the Dead (Kaddish) - 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
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
Hymn #570 We Shall Overcome - Congregation
An Interfaith Working Group Online Service