On a bright, snowy January day, the Kuyper community gathered in the Vos Chapel to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day at a special service honoring Dr. King’s life and work.
The celebration opened with a moving video of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given on August 28, 1963, as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As the camera panned the crowd, march participants could be heard chanting “freedom,” reminding the Kuyper community of one of the key principles underpinning the Civil Rights movement.
Next was a reading of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” penned in April 1963 while he was imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama, for his civil rights efforts. It was a response to another open letter written by local clergy, urging locals to cease protesting and seek justice through the courts instead.
Kuyper students took turns rising from their seats to read passages from the letter, which contains criticisms and warnings for the Church that are still relevant six decades later.
Particularly striking for those in attendance was Dr. King’s observation that “The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.”
A video montage of images from the Civil Rights movement followed the readings, in which clergy could be seen standing in solidarity with the movement. This served as a powerful reminder to the Kuyper community of the potential the church has to be a force for justice in the world.
Attendees then sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, one of Dr. King’s favorite hymns, before Dr. Tim Howerzyl, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies and graduate program director, closed the gathering with prayer, thanking God for creating all people in His image and anticipating the coming reality depicted in the book of Revelation, where all people worship at the throne of God together.
“We pray that, as we leave this place, we might bear witness to all these things in our hearts, thoughts, and conversations, and that your Kingdom might reign over all,” he said.