2020 MLK, Jr. Commemoration Recap


Phenomenal, inspirational, powerful, exceptional, these are some of the adjectives that attendees used to describe the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Day held on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Winston Salem, N.C. As churches across the Conference gathered, the day was a combination of reflection and action. The theme, Embracing the Beloved Community: Persevering Despite Adversity, was crafted to sound the alarm that the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr,’s vision of a Beloved Community is unfulfilled; yet can become a reality as all of God’s children work together for liberty and justice despite hardship and obstacles. 


It was as if America’s most prolific civil rights hero was looking on as the day progressed in a Godly and reverent manner. There were more than 300 in attendance to hear welcome addresses given by Bishop Paul Leeland, host pastors, Rev. Donald Jenkins, Rev. Dr. Glenn Kinken III and the Yadkin Valley District’s Vitality Associate, Rev. Randy Blanchard. Exuberant praise was the order of the day as the combined choirs of St. Paul and Centenary United Methodist Churches blessed the service with uplifting music. Special music from one of America’s youngest chosen vessels, Caleb Serrano was a joyful part of the day, as was the celebration of Holy Communion and the luncheon table talks. 

The event’s Drum Major for Justice Awards recognized the ground breaking work of the Poor People’s Campaign and Greensboro’s Beloved Community Center. These two community icons work to bring together diverse parts of our community to discuss the relevant injustices of our day and to bring about social action that will make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision come alive. Additionally, five of our Conferences’ finest youth were awarded with certificates and cash prizes for writing timely essays and creating a picture that focused and elaborated on meaningful MLK Jr. quotes. These amazing youth are: Harper Lanier (3rd grade), Jessica Lewis written & art (3rd grade), Joshua Lewis (8th grade), Benton Felton (10th grade), Jada Norris (10th grade) and Donovan Withers (11 grade). 

The keynote speaker, Ms. Clara Ester, did not disappoint the waiting congregation. Her resume includes being a civil rights activist from an early age and an eager college student following the sanitation workers’ strike in 1968. She rushed to the side of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he lay dying on the Memphis balcony of the Lorraine motel that fateful April day. Yet in spite of the tragedy she witnessed, her message spoke of the importance of love in our quest for Beloved Community. She gave a challenge to the attentive people saying, “all of God’s children, especially people of faith must think of other people and love other people like they think of and love themselves.” She sobering recounted that the people of God have been “asleep” too long and that we all must “wake up” and work for a world of justice and equality for all and a nation where our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to live fruitful and productive lives. 

As the day came to a close, and the energy was tangible, attendees left the event more than ready to go back to their faith communities and share what their hearts felt, what their ears heard and what their eyes saw. The adjectives: Phenomenal, Inspirational, Powerful and Exceptional were perhaps understatements. God was present from the beginning to the very end and, thanks be to God, God’s will was done. 

Resources for Vital Congregations



Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor

GBHEM Leadership Resources


Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church

Englewood Book Review

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Ted Talks: The Golden Circle

Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability

Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability

Design Thinking

Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians


Be A Disciple

A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network

Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations


Living As United Methodist Christians

Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials

Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today

John Wesley Sermons: Anthology


Get Their Name

Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit

Canoeing the Mountains

Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People

Community: The Structure of Belonging


Institute for Emerging Issues

Congregations 4 Children


The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants

The Duke Endowment







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