Resources for use in celebrating the life of the civil rights leader
Coretta Scott King:
Prayer was a wellspring of strength and inspiration
during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the movement, we prayed for greater
human understanding. We prayed for
the safety of our compatriots in the freedom struggle. We prayed for victory in
our nonviolent protests, for brotherhood and sisterhood among people of all races,
for reconciliation and the fulfillment of the Beloved Community.
my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength
that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.
I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress
that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of
that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many
we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin
had had enough.
After the call, he got up from bed and made himself
some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came
with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin
bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: "Lord, I am taking
a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership,
and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am
at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come
to the point where I can't face it alone.
Later he told me, "At that
moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him
before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: 'Stand up for righteousness;
stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'" When Martin stood
up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready
to face anything.
--Coretta Scott King from "Standing in the Need
of Prayer" as published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.
A General Prayer
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses
your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant
that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may
resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children
the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
-- source unknown
Gracious God, you create us and love us; you make us
to live together in a community. We thank you for Martin Luther King, Jr. and
all your children who have been filled with your vision for our lives and who
have worked to make bring your vision into reality. Fill us with your vision.
Guide us to live by your vision, working to build the beloved community where
everyone is welcomed, all are valued, power is shared, privilege is no more, and
all your children know wholeness and well-being. Through Jesus Christ we pray.
-- source unkown
Prayer for a Martin Luther King Day Celebration
God of our forebears and our God, who has summoned women and men
throughout the ages to be thy witnesses and sometimes martyrs for thee, we bow
before thee this day in remembrance and thanksgiving for the life and legacy of
thy servant, witness and martyr, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We thank
thee for his time among us, for his words and for his deeds, and for the quality
of his living witness which eases the pain of recalling the brevity of his years.
We rejoice in his example of obedient faith and the scenes and stations of his
life which inform and enrich our own faith journeys. And we beseech thee this
day for the strength, steadfastness and courage not only to remember but also
We remember the footsteps of Dr. King: walking everywhere in Montgomery,
Alabama, during the bus boycott; sidestepping snarling dogs, swinging billy clubs,
and torrential fire hoses in Birmingham; charting a King's highway in the desert
wastelands of bigotry and hatred from Selma to Montgomery, from Memphis to Jackson,
from Chicago to Cicero; walking ever and always where Jesus walked among the lonely
and the lost; the downtrodden and the outcast; those denied their dignity and
robbed of their rights. Lord, guide and enable us to follow his footsteps that
we too may be found in those places of danger, division, discord and sorrow where
love is so desperately needed but so painfully absent. Let us hear and feel anew
the words of the old freedom song beckoning us to faith commitment in community
with our fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, saying, "Walk together children,
and don't get weary."
We remember the gentle, patient courage of Dr.
King, as he made the teachings of Jesus the literal rule for loving: refusing
the temptation to render an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth but rendering
instead good for evil; nonviolently offering the other cheek to those who, blinded
by hate, taunted and loving those who chose to be his enemies and persecutors;
following his Lord in showing the greatest love of all by laying down his life
for others. Lord, give us the courage to live by what we say we believe and to
accept the teachings of Christ as codes of conduct rather than mere words of inspiration.
We remember the restless and unrelenting commitment of Dr. King, as he
refused to barter justice or compromise thy Word; insisting that the demand for
justice, freedom and human dignity applies to all thy children in Southeast Asia
as well as the South Bronx, and throughout the two-thirds of thy creation where
injustice and oppression preserve the privilege of the other third. Lord, save
us from the temptation to be satisfied with partial fulfillment and limited expression
of thy truth. Help us both to love our neighbors and also to see the whole world
as our neighborhood.
O God, fashion and mold our memories into a guiding
vision for active discipleship, so that we may not only long and yearn for thy
coming kingdom but may also recognize its arrival and presence in the risen Christ
Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, in whose blessed
name we pray. Amen.
-- The Reverend Dr. Randolph Nugent General
Secretary, Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Churck
Litany of Celebration
LEADER: Martin King had a dream. The ideals of
justice and freedom and the belief that all are created equal in the eyes of God
are noble principles. But they are meaningless unless they become the personal
possession of each one of us.
ALL: For Zion's sake I will not keep silent.
I will struggle with myself. I will not rest until the dream of justice and freedom
becomes my personal dream. I must realize that I am not an innocent bystander.
I can help realize the dream by my action, or delay it by in inaction.
Martin's dream of a day when people from all races and nations, eve the offsprings
of slaves and former slave owners, can sit at a table as brothers and sisters
and find ways of transforming their differences into assets. That was Martin's
dream. What is your dream?
ALL: My dream is that one day soon I will find
a way to stop just celebrating the dream and start living it. It must become a
part of my daily life; or nothing much will change.
LEADER: The dream is
not about an ideal world; it is about the real world. Martin King's poetic refrain,
"I Have a Dream," is a call for us to remember the real world where
ALL: When I am in the shelter of my home I must remember
the homeless. When I eat, I must remember the hungry. When I feel secure I must
remember the insecure. When I see injustice I must remember that it will not stop
unless I stop it.
LEADER: I have a dream!
ALL: I also have a dream.
I have a dream that the Holy Spirit will arouse in me that very flame of righteousness
that caused Martin King to become a living sacrifice for the freedom and liberation
of all of God's Children. Then I will be able to resist racial injustice everywhere
I see it, even within myself.
-- The United Presbyterian Church
Affirmation of Faith Based on the Writings of Dr. King
I refuse to
believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.
refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war, that peace, brotherhood
and sisterhood are not possible.
I believe there is an urgent need for
people to overcome oppression and violence, without resorting to violence and
I believe that we need to discover a way to live together in
peace, a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation
of this way is love.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
will have the final word in reality. I believe that right temporarily defeated
is stronger than evil triumphant.
I believe that peoples everywhere can
have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds,
and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
I believe that what
self-centered people have torn down, other-centered people can build up.
the goodness of God at work within people, I believe that brokenness can be healed.
"And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and everyone will sit
under their own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid."
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.