January 18, 2016: Hundreds of Adventist congregations in the United States will host special events remembering the famous Baptist pastor and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. Most Adventist schools are closed today because this is a national holiday.
Many of the congregations with events today or this past weekend are historically African American churches like Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. More than 500 people gathered there yesterday for a community worship service at 6 pm organized by the inter-denominational Pastors’ Council of Greater Springfield, reported The Republican-News local newspaper.
“As we reflect on the number of crises this nation has faced over the past year in race relations [this service] should underscore that Dr. King’s dream of racial equality, though severely tested, is still alive,” said Bishop Andrew C. Daubon, co-chair of the planning committee. Americans have seen the murder of blacks in a church service in Charleston (South Carolina) by a white racist in the last year, as well as a number of incidents in which police were accused of unfair treatment of blacks.
The preacher for the service was Dr. Mark Harden, dean of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. The event will also include a choir, hymns singing, sacred dance and testimonials from recipients of the scholarships that the Pastors’ Council sponsors.
Worthington Adventist Church in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, is typical of a number of historically white congregations that also participated in M. L. King Day events. At 11 am today the pastors and some members of the Adventist congregation joined other Christian churches at a service where the speaker was Janet Jackson, president of the United Way of Central Ohio, at the Worthington United Methodist Church.
Music was provided by the Capriccio Vocal Ensemble and Capriccio Youth Choir with sacred dance by the Joyful Inspiration troupe. A community luncheon will follow the service and donations collected for the community food pantry.
Southern Adventist University (SAU) celebrated M. L. King Day by canceling classes and asking students and faculty to participate in one of 30 community service projects, according to the institution’s Web site. Again, this is typical of the Adventist colleges and universities in the United States. The service day concept has spread widely as a way for young adults to engage at a practical level with the need for social change around issues of poverty and race.
Among the projects that SAU students and faculty are helping with today is one in which volunteers assist individuals with disabilities ride horses at the Tri-State Therapeutic Riding Center. This provides both opportunities for physical therapy and to build the confidence of these individuals.
Some of the volunteers will work at the Samaritan Center near the campus, and Adventist social services agency with a painting of the Good Samaritan from the story Jesus told in its lobby. The volunteers will sort in-kind donations to the Gifts for Jesus program that helps low-income parents provide something useful to their children at birthdays and Christmas, assemble rain barrels for a community gardening program and work on the dock at the large food pantry operated by the center. Others will help with children at FLAG Camp and provide the homeless with a dignified “shopping” experience where food and basic necessities are distributed by the Salvation Army in Chattanooga (Tennessee).
The majority of Adventists in the United States are from ethnic minorities. There are three times the proportion of blacks among Adventists as in the general population. Issues related to ethnicity and social justice are very important to Adventists in America, although some express other views.
The estimates of the number of Adventist congregations involved in M. L. King Day events was developed by Adventist Today from a Google search of the Web. More than 1,400 news clips and Web announcements were found mentioning Adventist churches, schools and institutions involved with the holiday. A random sample of these listings found the percentage that were local churches, schools, etc., and the percentage of duplicates.