On January 20, Friendship Christian School celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by holding a special assembly for all students and faculty. Mr. Nelson, along with two area pastors, spoke about events leading up to the historic Civil Rights movement, the history of the King Holiday, and what it means to truly celebrate the day as King would have wanted.
Pastor Jerome Gay Jr. (Vision Church, Raleigh) spoke on the history of the King Holiday. It was 15 years after his assasination in 1983 that Congress passed the bill and President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The federal holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to MLK Jr.’s January 15 birthday. The legislation passed in 1983, but the first official celebration was 1986. It was not until 2000 that every state observed the holiday.
Pastor Jerome also gave some historical perspective to King’s well-known and celebrated speech. Just four months before standing in front 250,000 and delivering the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King was alone in a jail cell as he wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail. It was April 16, 1963 when he wrote:
“My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’ Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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.”
“For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. When you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
“To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Pastor Jerome reminded the students about Imago Dei – “The Image of God.” Each one of us is distinctly made in the image of God. Every human has a soul that we should care about as God does (Luke 15). He also reminded us of God’s words in I John 2:9-11:
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
It is key that we not only say we love, but that our actions match our words (I John 3:18).
Mr. Nelson then spoke on an event during the Civil Rights Movement. After briefly recognizing Rosa Parks, he emphasized Claudette Colvin. She was a 15-year-old young lady that stood for her rights 9 months before Rosa Parks. Colvin challenged the law in court, being one of four women plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama. Mr. Nelson read some of her story in her own words.
He then discussed some important points about her story. It was pointed out that paying attention to Colvin is a healthy corrective, because “the real reality of the movement was often young people and often more than 50 percent women.” The images you most often see are men in suits.
Pastor Timothy A. Johnson (Bethany Community Church, Wake Forest) provided insights on how we can celebrate MLK and what this holiday meant to him growing up. As a child and through his teen years, the day was all about serving. He reminded us that January 20, 2020 is the 25th anniversary of the Day of Service. It was in 1994, that Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of a day off from work or school, Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action. The MLK Day of Service brings together people who might not ordinarily meet, breaks down barriers that have divided us in the past, leads to better understanding of ongoing relationships, and serves as an opportunity to recruit new volunteers for ongoing work.
Mr. Nelson finished the program discussing a few important items.
Equality – He reminded us again what Pastor Jerome discussed – Imago Dei. The Gospel is for all. We should be striving to become like the eternal church in heaven.
Revelation 7:9 “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
It is not just about gathering together and showing diversity. It is about doing this in order to glorify God.
Service – In one of the videos that was watched, Dr. King mentioned, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant — a new definition of greatness because everyone can serve.” Where did he get this?
Mark 10:42-45 – But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Every year Friendship Christian School seeks to provide opportunities for students to serve the city of Raleigh, the body of Christ, and even those spread throughout the world. Below is a list of service projects in which FCS has participated:
- Veteran’s Day / military care packages
- Christmas boxes
- Help with natural disasters – tornadoes and hurricanes
- Durham Rescue Mission
- Special Olympics
- Other churches
We will continue to prioritize each one of these items, and as we look ahead to the future, our goal is to annually come together as a school and complete one item of service that we will kick off on the Day of Service, MLK Jr. Day.