CHARLESTON — Despite the cold weather and gusting wind outside, the inside of the Church of the Nativity was filled with warmth as people of various backgrounds came together to celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 19.
The theme of the church’s 12th annual Ecumenical Prayer Service For Unity was “Keeping the Dream Alive — Our Call to Action.”
The ceremony began with silent reflection as an audio of Rev. King’s voice echoed powerfully through the church. The congregation then stood and joined their voices for “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
This year’s service also featured the first Martin Luther King Jr. Children’s Mass Choir. Children from four churches from James and Johns Islands and Charleston were directed by Yvette Sellers.
Father S. Thomas Kingsley, Nativity administrator, delivered the opening prayer and Gospel lesson.
Georgette Mayo, the director of the Avery Research Center for African-American Studies and Culture at the College of Charleston, was the guest speaker.
She set the tone of her speech by talking about the election of the first African-American president in the United States. She reminded the attendees to take a look at the life of Rev. King and the many leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Mayo noted that these events helped pave the way to the historical election of President Barack Obama.
Mayo reflected on one of King’s most important messages, “We could all live together in peace and harmony.”
The speaker also praised Septima Clark, a civil rights activist from Charleston who fought for educational equality, such as the right for blacks to be principals.
“Many times it takes leaders to awaken us,” Mayo stated. “At the end of the day, it’s not about leaders like MLK, Obama … it’s about us.”
She encouraged the congregation to do their part to keep the dream alive by following their call to action.
“We know what happens when we do nothing,” said Mayo. “Obama is asking us to work with him, this involves change. We as a people are ready.”
Father Kingsley said the music and prayer service were full of joy. He noted the lesson that people must not lose their fervor for promoting peace is particularly relevant in today’s world.
“I thought it was very uplifting, especially since the next day was such a historic day for our country, with the inauguration,” he said.