Sunday service celebrates King

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 22, 2014
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Those at the Sunday Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative service at Long's Chapel in Lake Junaluska hold hands as they sing "We Shall Overcome."

During a communitywide commemorative service Sunday at Long’s Chapel, the Rev. Chuck Wilson told the story of how Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech was one that almost didn’t happen.

King was in the midst of his remarks to as estimated 300,000 people gathered on the Washington mall in the nation’s capitol on Aug. 28, 1963, when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was on the stage behind him, said six words that perhaps changed the course of history.

“Tell them about the dream, Martin,” she whispered. Wilson recounted that nobody in the crowd heard the suggestion, but those six words prompted the renowned civil rights leader to abandon his notes and begin speaking extemporaneously.

The result was a speech that not only mesmerized those at the event, but has endured the test of time. The Sunday service, which was part of the MLK weekend events in Haywood County, included King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as well as many of the songs that marked the civil rights movement.

The Rev. Reginald Eldridge of Harris Chapel AME Zion Church in Canton delivered the Sunday message “A Different Kind of Man.”

Eldridge told the crow of several hundred that “Michael King” as he was called at birth, became Martin Luther King Jr. after his father changed his own name to that of famed reformation leader.

King had to have been touched by God as he strived to make the world a better place, not just for black folks, but for while folks, too, Eldridge said.

“We’re in this together,” he said to thunderous applause. “If you are to be a soldier in the army of God, you have to stand for justice.”

Eldridge emphasized that to whom much is given, much is required.

“What upsets God the most is when you see your brothers and sisters in a downtrodden state,” he said. “How can you say you love God if you do nothing?”

The Sunday ecumenical service has become a tradition of the weekend events in Haywood County, along with a Saturday march through Canton or Waynesville, and a Monday breakfast at Lake Junaluska.