By Sharyn Dowd
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was designated a national holiday in 1983. Today, the King holiday serves multiple purposes: It honors the total legacy of Dr. King; focuses on the issue of civil rights; highlights the use of nonviolence to promote change; and calls people into public service. In Decatur, the city office for volunteer service organizes the volunteer efforts, which are focused on home repairs for senior citizens who cannot afford them.
First Baptist Decatur is committed to service to our neighbors, to civil rights and diversity, and to participating in service opportunities promoted by the Decatur community. Therefore, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a perfect fit with our mission.
One of our deacons, Mai Cavalli, organizes our participation every year. We promote the MLK Day of Service in all our publications and posters beginning with our December newsletter and ramping up with email blasts and all-church announcements in January.
Our deacons are charged with the responsibility for engaging the rest of the congregation in ministry, so this year at the deacons’ retreat, we asked them to recruit folks for this effort. People like to serve with people they know or would like to get to know. This kind of one-time service opportunity is ideal for newcomers and for people whose schedules do not permit their volunteering for any kind of regular weekly ministry. It gives our folks an opportunity to invite along friends who are not connected with our church or any church but who value service. This year the FBC Decatur team includes 15 women and men who will have an experience and develop relationships that they will not soon forget.
The Decatur MLK Day service projects are focused on helping elderly homeowners by making repairs that they can’t afford to make. Our team met the granddaughter of the homeowner. She was a young African-American woman who was fascinated with the idea that strangers would come out to help her grandmother. She found out we were from a church and asked, “Which church?”
When I gave her the name of our church, its location, and described the front of the sanctuary with its tall columns and big green lawn, she responded incredulously, “Oh THAT church! You mean THAT church is involved in Martin Luther King Day?”
So, yeah, we get involved to help folks and to honor Dr. King, but that woman’s response is the most fun reason we are involved in MLK Day of Service.
Sharyn Dowd is pastor for spiritual formation and mission engagement at FBC Decatur.
This column is Part 6 of the Dr. King and Beloved Community series here at CBFblog. Check out other posts in this series below:
Part 1 — ”Dr. King and Beloved Community — A CBFblog series” (by Aaron Weaver, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship)
Part 2 — “The The Spiritual Discipline of Martin Luther King Jr.” (by Doug Weaver, Baylor University)
Part 3 — “Celebrating Dr. King and the Separation of Church and State” (by Charles Watson Jr., Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty)
Part 4 — “‘Tell Them About the Dream, Martin!’” (by Patrick Anderson, Christian Ethics Today)
Part 5 — “Little boxes on the hillside — Dr. King’s Dream as part of God’s Dream” (by Lanta Cooper, Park Avenue Baptist Church)