Monday, January 18, 2010

A Celebration Fit for a King

The auditorium at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington was packed for the 10th Anniversary Interfaith Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. The celebration, which was attended by the entire Arlington County Board, was organized by my parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace, in collaboration with Mount Zion Baptist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.

In keeping with tradition, the service began with "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" and ended with "We Shall Overcome". It featured beautiful music selections from the adult choirs of the three churches involved as well as a couple of numbers performed by a combined children and young adults choir.

Two young people from Queen of Peace, Devon Hogan and Caitlin O'Grady (daughter of Monique O'Grady who emceed) read a narrative weaving together Dr. King's final speech with the Biblical story of the Transfiguration.

Reverend Mary McKinnon Ganz, Minister of Community Building for the Unitarian Universalists offered a stark assessment of where the country has come since Dr. King's day: "The color of one's skin may mean less, but the color of one's money reigns supreme." She said that we need to become "creatively maladjusted" to the extreme capitalism of our time and immoderate in the pursuit of justice.

Fr. Tim Hickey, the pastor of Queen of Peace, offered an inspiring homily on Dr. King as a prophet and asked those assembled to reflect on where God is calling them now in their lives. "We need to be the voice of those whose voices are ignored, to speak out for those who have grown too tired to speak." He asked us to envision a world in which people truly believed that everyone is the temple of the Holy Spirit and concluded: "Let us walk out of here committed to following the dream of Martin Luther King."

Fr. Tim's homily, which also stressed the urgent need to respond creatively to the crisis in Haiti, was frequently punctuated by "amens" from the audience, particularly from veteran Arlington community activist John Robinson (above), physically weakened from a stroke but still a strong and very much respected voice in our county on behalf of the poorest.

Fr. Tim left the podium to a standing ovation and we QOPers decided he didn't do too bad for being the "new kid on the block". We were pretty proud of our new pastor and I'm willing to bet that his homily inspired people to dig deep into their pockets when the collection plate was passed for Haiti.

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