by Fr. C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J.
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."
— Martin Luther King, Jr. quotation located on the MLK Memorial monument,
Over the weekend ahead, countless events will be held here in D.C. during which many Holy Trinity parishioners will take time not only to reflect on the ongoing significance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life, but to engage in programs inspired by his legacy. And they will do so with members of other local faith denominations.
Throughout his ministry of advocating for civil rights, Dr. King often found support, not only from his own Southern Baptist tradition, but by enlisting help from members of other religious denominations.
As one scholar described his efforts:
… King’s universal horizon transcended Jewish, Christian, and Muslim relationships. He did not believe in the metaphysical unity of religions. He identified both similar and dissimilar teachings across religions. He preached that Christian and non-Christian traditions provided resources for sharing and learning—especially for ethical values. Overall, King’s ecumenism contributes to debates about ethnocentric biases and admiration for different faiths…
Over the past week, as well as in the days to come, I, along with a group of Holy Trinity parishioners, will be engaged in interfaith events inspired by Dr. King’s example:
This past Sunday, at the Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park, parishioner Jean Johnson and I celebrated the 30th anniversary of Friendship Place. This interfaith organization is a national leader in offering clinical and social support services for thousands of people experiencing homelessness in the D.C. area. The two-hour anniversary program we attended engaged members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities.
This coming Friday evening, a group of Holy Trinity parishioners will join me at the Washington Hebrew Congregation’s annual commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. There we will encounter congregants from two dozen synagogues, churches, and mosques as we share in an interfaith Shabbat service. The guest speaker will be Cornell Brooks, the former president of the NAACP. Several choirs will join Jewish cantors as they lift their voices together in song to honor the ideals of Dr. King.
Then on Saturday, a group of Holy Trinity parishioners will participate in a MLK Day of prayer and service at five Georgetown locations. Plans for the event were finalized on Wednesday when an interfaith planning meeting was held by a group of us representing the Georgetown Clergy Association.
So folks, Martin Luther King weekend represents more than simply time taken off from work and school. For members of Holy Trinity Parish, it continues to serve as a time to recollect and reconnect with interfaith believers across the District who—55 years after Dr. King’s death—continue to strive to live out the ideals for which he lived and died.