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Friday, June 14, 2024

Saint James Presbyterian MLK Day Service

By Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / January 18, 2024

While Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is most often recognized as a civil rights leader and activist, few can forget his start began in the pulpit of the church.
The 18th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Interfaith Worship Service at St. James Presbyterian Church continues to merge the social justice work with the spiritual message that King fought to share with the world.

Rev. Dr. Darryl Aaron of Providence Baptist Church served as keynote speaker and opened his sermon with that same sentiment.

“Too often we forget that Rev. King was a father, a son, a prophet, a warrior for justice and a man who was murdered for his business,” he said.
Aaron delivered a sermon with a message to “press on with prayer,” as King did.

“All of his life, Dr. King went to bed with a prayer on his tongue,” said Aaron. “America needed Rev. King because America was dying in her sins, and she needed to come alive.”

Aaron reiterated that King’s faith was a main component of his strength to press forward in the face of racism, oppression, and danger to his own life. Aaron also mentioned that the same issues that King talked about still affect the country today, such as war, poverty, homelessness and the rising homicide rates.
“Today is a good day to stick your foot in the door and say enough is enough.”

Aaron also referenced King’s notable visit to Greensboro in 1958, where he spoke at Bennett College.

“King pushed the city of Greensboro, and the state of North Carolina, and the nation to do better and be better. He pressed for human rights, women’s rights, and civil rights, knowing that the country had to stop making decisions that caused our Black brothers and sisters harm.”

Aaron noted that the life and legacy of King began with him asking an ethical question to the nation – Is this the best that we can do?

“Yes, King did say he had a dream, but he also said that the Negro is still not free,” Aaron said, adding, “Everyone in the room must stand up for what is right. Because I don’t believe that this is the best that we can do. Thanks be to God for our founding father, America’s spiritual leader, he pressed our nation to be its best,” said Aaron.

A host of city, county and state elected officials, community leaders, faith-based leaders and college presidents were also invited to address the crowd.

Bennett College, under the leadership of Dr. Willa B. Player in 1958, was the only place that would and could accommodate Dr. King’s visit to Greensboro. Current President Suzanne Walsh reminded the audience that King needs to be remembered as more than a symbol and a day.

“Dr. King is not a mascot. I think that every year you must make sure that you’re doing more than just celebrating a mascot. Every year we must think what is really behind the story, behind the man,” she said.

Pressing on also means exercising the right to vote, noted Sen. Gladys Robinson (NC-28).

“Dr. King said change comes with continuous struggle. I want to say to you today that we are in continuous struggle. While today is a great day to celebrate, we must do more today. Things have changed, but we still have work to do.”

Rev. Dr. Phanta Lansden, senior pastor of St. James Presbyterian, ended the worship service with a call to action to continue the social justice work and invited all to participate in the church’s initiatives to champion that message.

Rev. Lansden said, “Today we gather to worship, to be inspired, and to be led by the spirit; and then we continue to ask the question is this the best we can do? Whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly. As we work to reform systems, it will make a ripple effect in the fabric of our world, impacting all of us.”


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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