St. Augustine’s hosts prominent speaker for MLK Day

The crowd that gathers at St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church next week will have plenty to say, and plenty to sing.

The church’s Peace Fellowship is sponsoring the seventh annual “Blessed be the Peace Makers” event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16. The Peace Fellowship has invited Ora Houston, an Austin, Texas resident and a prominent member of the Episcopal Church, to be the guest speaker.

The church had an inside connection through a retired priest in the parish who once worked with Houston.

Houston is well-known for her community activism in her home state.

She was educated in segregated schools in Austin and worked for Texas state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, in addition to testifying before the Texas State Legislature and the Austin City Council.

“They all had good things to say about her, and she’s been quite active both within the church and with the state senator in Texas,” said Dick Hall, the event coordinator and fellowship member.

Last year, Hall estimated more than 150 people attended to honor the lessons of King’s legacy and the sacrifices of those on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. The annual event attracts a diverse crowd — both church-members and not — from across the island. And though the celebration is held annually at the Episcopal church in Freeland, the remembrance is meant for everyone.

“It’s a community event, as opposed to a church service,” Hall said.

In addition to Houston’s message, the gathering will sing Civil Rights anthems and African American spirituals, led by Trinity Lutheran Church’s music minister Karl Olsen.

The service will include an interactive reading that features the Freedom Rides, which were used to desegregate public transportation. They began in 1961, and the experience of the bus rides was chosen in honor of its 50th anniversary. Someone will narrate the events and readers in the audience will recite quotes from Freedom Riders and Pres. John F. Kennedy.

“The goal is not just King, but the whole movement who were preachers, parents and students,” Hall said.

At the end of the afternoon event, the group will read King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and sing “We Shall Overcome.”

The day begins at noon with a lunch of sandwiches, salads, fruits and beverages provided by the fellowship’s members, and the events start at 1 p.m. and run about 90 minutes. Childcare will be available.

Houston will also meet with Whidbey Island youths at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15 in an ecumenical gathering and informal discussion.

St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church is located at 5217 Honeymoon Bay Road in Freeland.



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