Community celebrations this holiday weekend will celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and, in the process, honor his life and legacy.
Among the special events will be a pair of programs on Sunday night, Jan. 14, and Monday night, Jan. 15, at two Topeka churches.
The annual Baptist Ministers Union service will take place at 6 p.m. Sunday at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 1100 S.E. Washington.
The Rev. T.D. Hicks, pastor of the Antioch church, said the service theme will be “Pursuing the Dream in Challenging Times.”
The guest speaker will be the Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver III, pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Mo.
A community mass choir will sing under the direction of Marcell Stewart, the minister of music at Antioch.
Also performing will be the Eisenhower Middle School step team.
The Baptist Ministers Union, composed of pastors from Topeka-area churches, meets monthly throughout the year and sponsors several community events, but none is bigger than the annual Martin Luther King celebration.
Hicks said new Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla and several other city officials are expected to attend.
Hicks, who is president of the Baptist Ministers Union, said he is looking forward to Monday night’s service, as it should help re-energize people seeking to continue King’s vision of equality for all people.
“I’m excited about this year,” Hicks said earlier this week. “We have various individuals who will be coming to share.
“Pastor Cleaver will be our guest speaker, and we’ll be giving out an award this year to a pastor for years of faithful service.”
Hicks wouldn’t divulge the honoree, saying it was a surprise and that it wouldn’t be announced until Sunday night’s service.
Like other services honoring King, the one Sunday night at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is open to the community.
“We want the whole community — everyone — to come and be a part,” Hicks said. “I think they’ll find it to be a refreshing time, and it will point them to focus on Dr. King’s dream.”
On Monday night, another service will take place at a Topeka church and will reach the quarter-century mark in the process.
This 25th annual “Whose Dream Is It?” Community Celebration of the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday at First Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, 1880 S.W. Gage.
The guest speaker will be Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action. A soup supper will precede the service at 6:30 p.m.
Monday’s service is sponsored by the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice as part of the Living the Dream program. It will take place on King’s actual birth date of Jan. 15. Had he lived, King would have turned 89 on Monday.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta and died at the age of 39 when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
In addition to his work as a key leader in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, King served from 1960 until his death in 1968 as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta with his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.
King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
The national holiday honoring King near his birth date was established in 1986.
Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/.