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Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration brings local faith communities together



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Art symbolizing the hope of race equality created by children Sunday evening.  Yulin Yu Buy Photos

Donning traditional African dashikis, five people sang “Let your glory fill this place” as they stood in front of a dreamcatcher. 

To the side, a tree made up of hand prints of children were hung on the wall. On each hand print, a child had scrawled their dream for the future. 

The song, the dreamcatcher and the handprints were parts of an interfaith commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr., which was put on by St. Mark’s United Methodist Church of Bloomington on Sunday. 

The event involved religious music, readings and speakers from 15 different faith communities. However, the central part of the service was the sharing of dreams from faith communities in Bloomington. From each community, a representative stood up to share a dream with the congregation. 

One of these representatives was Brian Besser, rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom. To Besser, the sharing of dreams was what formed the theme of the service. 

“We always have to keep an eye on the world as it could be,” Besser said. “The world that we live in isn’t the world that we want to be, so we always want to keep that vision and that dream for all of our communities.” 

Mary Beth Morgan, organizer and pastor at St. Mark’s, said this vision for the future is reflective of King’s dream — a dream that was inclusive of all faith traditions. 

“His life and legacy speaks across faith traditions, across life experiences,” Morgan said. “I think it inspires us to bring people together because we are stronger when we are together. We want to do our part to embrace his legacy by bringing people together across divides.” 

Morgan said this congregation transcended religion, race, gender and other divides just as King’s own congregation had done during the Civil Rights Movement. This transcendence is what binds a community together, she said. 

“The more opportunities you have to get to know one another and understand and experience each other’s worlds, the stronger we are as a community and as individuals,” Morgan said. “Working together and sharing our dreams gives us a new strength and energy in the community as a whole.” 

Besser said this kind of strength is vital as we face the political climate and division of the United States as a whole. 

“It’s really important for us to counteract that and show that even if we have these differences, we can come together in unity,” Besser said. “We can come together and make the world what we want it to be and envision.” 

Charlie Nelms, speaker and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy and Drum Major for Service awards, said it is impossible to achieve the dream the congregation and Dr. King envisioned just as individuals. 

“It is a collective kind of pursuit, and we need to embrace that,” Nelms said. “We need to come together, regardless of religion or gender or race.” 

In addition to working collectively, Nelms said people must realize they are not powerless. 

“We really do have the power, but the question is if we’ll all come together and seize that power and use it,” Nelms said. “Only then can this hopelessness and helplessness be replaced by hope.” 

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