JAMES ISLAND—The Church of the Nativity held its 13th annual ecumenical prayer service for unity Jan. 18. The theme was “Then and Now—Mobilizing for Healing and Change.”
Jack Bass, a historian, journalist, and professor at The Citadel and College of Charleston, was the keynote speaker. He has co-authored and authored seven non-fiction books, several of which have won awards.
Bass spoke about the American South and the Civil Rights era. He told the audience that all the events are connected. Civil Rights’ events in South Carolina had an impact on the larger movement, he said, recalling the fallout of the Orangeburg Massacre.
Bass told the audience that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would probably be proud to sit in the congregation and see that much of his dream has been fulfilled.
“King once said that the church supported the status quo but to see churches coming together, bringing people together, and being leaders in their community would make Dr. King proud I think,” Bass said.
He discussed the volatile political climate during the Civil Rights movement when Fritz Hollings was governor. Hollings realized that South Carolina “must adjust to changing circumstances,” Bass said, adding that the state took the path of accommodation instead of confrontation.
When he was a journalist, Bass heard Rev. King speak at an A.M.E. church on Calhoun Street.
“It was an experience. I mean here was this great mythical figure, but when he started talking he sounded like any other Baptist preacher,” Bass said.
The prayer service at Nativity included lighting candles and an audio recording of part of Rev. King’s “I have a dream” speech, which was played during a moment of reflection.
The James Island United Congregation Church Choir roused the congregation to their feet as the audience clapped along. The deep voices of the men dressed in mustard-colored suits kept the service moving.
James Craven gave the first reading, followed by a prayer for peace and a Gospel reading by Father S. Thomas Kingsley, pastor of Nativity.
The Porter Gaud Upper School Choir sang three selections accompanied by Hugh Knight on the piano. Two girls were presented with certificates of appreciation for their essays and poems about Rev. King. The First Baptist Church Mass Choir sang a selection that had some members in the congregation swaying on their feet.
Tori Seymour wrote an essay on how she “learned how to live and love everyone no matter who they are. [And that] we must first learn to love each other before there can be peace.”
Samantha Smiley summed up Rev. King in a poem by saying he “taught us to defend and pursue, [he] taught us to believe … [he] lifted hope with words.”