Praising people who are peacemakers will once again be the theme at the 14th annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Freeland’s St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church. It begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 with doors opening at 3 p.m. for light snacks and socializing.
Called “Blessed Are The Peacemakers,” the program and service combines gospel and civil rights movement music with interactive readings.
It also melds the past and present in terms of threats to national values of justice, inclusion and multi-culture diversity, said Dick Hall with St. Augustine’s Episcopal Peace Fellowship that plans and hosts the event.
“The aim is to both educate and celebrate and connect the civil rights movement led by Dr. King in the 1950s and 1960s with contemporary themes and events,” Hall said.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood. He led the struggle for racial equality from the 1955 Birmingham bus boycott until his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
He received the Nobel Prize Peace at age 35.
The first Peacemaker event at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church took place on MLK Day in 2006. The idea sprang from Hall, a retired teacher from Prosser High School, where he taught racial and ethnic history and organized multi-cultural events.
Upon moving to Whidbey Island some 20 years ago, Hall joined the Episcopal Peace Fellowship which evolved from street protests against the Iraq War.
The title of the annual service is a Biblical quote from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
“Our goal is to educate about the civil rights movement, the power of nonviolent resistance and despite the push back and injustice we may feel today, provide hope,” Hall said.
The event spotlights King but also honors the entire Black Freedom Movement and nonviolent activism, Hall said. “We try to emphasize the “bottom up” tactics of the movement,” he added.
This year’s featured speaker is the Rev. Carla Robinson, who will speak on “The Emerging Beloved Community: a Jagged Arc Bending Toward Justice.” Robinson, a priest within the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, has presented at previous Whidbey Island MLK events in 2008 and 2011.
King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech will be played, a tradition of the annual tribute.
MLK Day this year comes during an unprecedented time — the longest partial federal government in history.
The suspension of payment to hundreds of thousands of non-essential federal workers will most likely affect Martin Luther King Day celebrations in the late civil rights leader’s Atlanta hometown.
Both King’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached have been closed to visitors since the partial federal government shutdown began Dec. 22.
The buildings are part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, that also includes a visitor center commemorating the civil rights movement and other social justice pioneers. MLK Day is usually the center’s busiest day.
During the Sunday program at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, music will once again be a key component of the service led by Freeland’s Trinity Lutheran Music Minister, Karl Olsen. He’ll be accompanied by Danny Ward on saxophone, Jim Nevermann, percussion, and Ron Russel on bass. Molly Felder-Grimm will also perform.
SOUTH WHIDBEY MARTIN LUTHER KING EVENTS
- 6:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18: Movie followed by discussion. “Dawnland” documents the government policy of separating Native American parents from their children by sending children to boarding schools or foster parents, a planned government policy of assimilation; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island, 20103 State Route 525, Freeland.
- 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20: Martin Luther King Jr., “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” community event; cookies, beverages and socializing from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Karl Olsen will lead the gathering in singing. Featured speaker is the Rev. Carla Robinson; St. Augustine’s-in-the Woods Episcopal Church, 5217 Honeymoon Bay Road, Freeland.
- 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22: Movie screening followed by discussion. “South Africa: A Rainbow People” produced by Dick and Arnelle Hall provides a historicalsocial-political window into post-apartheid South Africa. Langley United Methodist Church, Fireside Room, 301 Anthes Ave., Langley. Sponsored by the Northwest Language and Cultural Center.