Creating 'A Beloved Community' Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rabbi Andrea London
Rabbi Andrea London quoted from Martin Luther King's 1958 comments when he visited the Evanston, Ill., synagogue she now serves.

North Park community, high school students urged to seek pluralism, new 'narratives'

CHICAGO (January 22, 2013) — Focusing on the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and what he meant to them, speakers at the 2013 North Park University celebration of the civil rights leader's life spoke of his dream of 'a beloved community," a pluralistic society in which people celebrate and honor their differences.

Worship, prayer, inspiration, performance, and discussion highlighted the University's Martin Luther King Day celebration, "Created in God's Image," in Anderson Chapel. One speaker, Rabbi Andrea London, senior rabbi of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, Evanston, Ill., began by stating that the University values pluralism, a dream of King's. "Pluralism means to celebrate our difference, to honor that difference, and to see that those differences make us stronger," she said.

London noted that at age 28, King spoke at Beth Emet when he was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala. In his 1958 comments, King spoke of great hope and optimism, she said, and of his dream of real integration, where differences are honored and celebrated. He would later call this "the beloved community," London said. Despite segregated neighborhoods, prejudices, and stereotypes that exist today, she said the present day is also filled with hope, and said "the new world order" King spoke of can still be realized. "Our communities and our lives will be enriched by honoring and learning from the unique image of God that is stamped on each of our faces and souls," she said.

She concluded by quoting King from his Beth Emet comments: "'God is interested in saving and freeing the whole human race, a world where all men will live together as brothers … and all women will live together as sisters,'" London added.

Speaking as "a witness," Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung told how his personal and professional life was inspired by King. DeYoung, professor of reconciliation, Bethel University, St. Paul, Minn., said at age 12, he saw a television documentary on King's life that focused his attention on the civil rights leader and the realities of racism, poverty, and segregation. For DeYoung, it began a lifelong fascination with King, and a desire to learn more from mentors, students, and others, by bringing their "narratives" into his own life experience.

Through King's writings, DeYoung said he learned of the significance of social justice in Christianity. He said he has witnessed King's global influence in places such as South Africa and in the Middle East.

The Bethel professor encouraged the audience to bring a "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) and their diverse narratives into their lives, too. "As a witness, I say invite King's narrative into your life. Read King. Understand King. But don't just stop at King. Invite those other folks who have walked ahead of us and have worked for social justice and reconciliation, and let them shape your journey." DeYoung later addressed students and staff at North Park Theological Seminary.

After worship, about 40 students from Evanston Township High School and New Trier Township High School, Winnetka, Ill., led by North Park students, held discussions on justice-related topics. The students, most of whom are members of Beth Emet, also learned about "Sankofa," the University's educational program that focuses on the struggle for racial justice during the civil rights era and its contemporary implications. Chaperones discussed challenges in education, including charter and public school options, for people living in underrepresented communities.

The program included comments, creative expressions, and responses by University students Brandon Wrencher and Deima Thompson; Rev. Debra Auger, Seminary dean of students and community life; Dr. Daniel White Hodge, assistant professor of youth ministry and director, Center for Youth Ministry Studies; and Dr. Joseph Jones, University provost. Student Tatianna Hughlett led a closing song. The Minianka Afrikan Drum and Dance Ensemble, Chicago, performed.

North Park University's 2013 observance of Martin Luther King Day was organized by the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Programs, and the Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning.

Use @npunews to follow North Park University News on Twitter. For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.

Next Steps

Learn more about student organizations organized through the Office of Diversity and Intercultural programs.