A Peace Service

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To Commemorate the life & work of
      Martin Luther King
                        A Peace Service
     to commemorate the life and work of Martin Luther King
           assassinated forty years ago on 4th April 1968.

Leader    We begin our service by reminding ourselves
          of the call and promise of God to his people:
          “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
           to the house of the God of Jacob,
           that he may teach us his ways
           and that we may walk in his paths.”
            For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
           and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
             He shall judge between many peoples,
           and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
           and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
           and their spears into pruning hooks;
           nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
           neither shall they learn war any more;
           but they shall sit every man under his vine
           and under his fig tree,
           and no one shall make them afraid,
           for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4: 2-4)

Opening Prayer:
          Let us pray.
          Lord of peace,
         give us in our worship your own peace:
         peace to this world,
         peace to this country,
         peace among our friends and our community,
         peace in our homes and among our loved ones.
          Give us the peace that comes
         from waiting on you,
         from longing for you,
         from remaining always in your company –
         the peace which the world cannot give. Amen.

Hymn: Peace is flowing like a river (Mission Praise 183)

Leader:         Martin Luther King was one of the church‟s great
peacemakers in the twentieth
         century – the most prominent leader of the civil rights
movement among the black people of the United States of America and
one who adopted and put into practice non-violent methods of countering
oppression and cruelty and of winning freedom and
dignity for a people who, for generations, had suffered insults and
injustice. In the midst of his activity he was shot dead forty years ago, on
the 4th of April 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, when he was only 39
years old. Since then the life and example of Martin Luther King have
exercised an enormous influence on all who have campaigned for social
justice, human rights, peace and the way of non-violence. The whole
world came to acknowledge that this man‟s message was relevant, not
only for his own time, but for every time.
  Martin Luther King‟s vision can be summed up in one word – freedom
– freedom for black people who had suffered oppression for generations,
but freedom too for white people from those things which made them
oppressors – greed, pride and a sense of superiority. His vision was one
of freedom for all – black and white. He successfully translated
Christian love into the way of non-violence and he lived to preach, to
teach and to practise what he saw to be the way of Christ.
  As a black man himself, and as a Christian minister, Martin Luther
King knew from first-hand experience about the sufferings of his people,
and he knew too that it was God‟s will that people everywhere should
live in freedom and peace. That is the theme of our Old Testament

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 58: 6-11

Response to the Word:

    In the midst of oppression and tyranny
     we celebrate the promise of freedom and well-being.
    In the midst of doubt and despair

     we celebrate the promise of faith and hope.
    In the midst of fear and betrayal
     we celebrate the promise of joy and loyalty.
    In the midst hatred and prejudice
      we celebrate the promise of love and brotherhood.
    In the midst of sin, rebellion and decay
      we celebrate the promise of salvation and renewal.
    In the midst of death on every side
      we celebrate the promise of new life in Jesus Christ.

A brief interlude of music – a negro spiritual or a similar suitable

Narrator 1: Martin Luther King was born on the 15th of January 1929,
the son of the
             minister of Ebenezer Church, Atlanta, Georgia. He was
given the same name as his father – Martin Luther. His grandfather on
his mother‟s side had also been a minister, while his grandfather on his
father‟s side had been a slave. He was brought up in very different
surroundings from the majority of black people in America, but he was
aware of racial prejudice and had many personal experiences of insults
and injustice. But his mother said him, „Martin, never think that you are
inferior to white people. Always remember that you are their equal.‟

Narrator 2: Both his father and grandfather had been active in
movements which
             aimed to secure justice for black people. After a highly
successful college career in Boston, Martin believed it to be his duty, and
that of others like himself who had received a better education than most
black people, to return to the South to lend their support to the civil
rights movement. In 1953 he married Corretta Scott who was to be his
main help and support throughout his ministry. Two years later he
received a call to be minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,
Montgomery, Alabama. Racial prejudice was rife in Montgomery, and a
storm was soon to break which was to effect all the southern states of

Narrator 1: One evening in December 1955, a black woman named
Rosa Parks was
            returning from work. She was tired, having been on her feet
all day. She sat in the section of the bus reserved for black people, but
the driver told her to surrender her seat to a white passenger. Rosa
refused. She was taken off the bus, arrested, taken to court and
imprisoned. The incident caused uproar among the black people and a
protest meeting was called by black pastors and was held in Dexter
Avenue Church.

Narrator 2: The meeting decided to take action against oppression and
ill-treatment and
              in particular to support Rosa Parks. One of the pastors said,
„The time has come for us to resist. We must protest openly and in a way
that will strike at the pockets of the owners of the bus companies.‟ It was
decided to hold a bus boycott and all black people were asked to walk to
work, to school, to town, or to share or borrow cars. The next step was to
elect a leader of the boycott. The one chosen was Dr. Martin Luther
King. Addressing the meeting Martin said,

Martin Luther King: Dear Friends. I am grateful for the trust you
have shown in me.
                       I did not expect to be given this privilege and this
responsibility. The task ahead is going to be difficult and we must be
ready to campaign and to sacrifice. We have suffered insults and
injustice over many years, but a time must come – indeed the time has
come – when people grow tired. We who are here tonight say to those
who have been ill-treating us that we are tired – we are tired out: tired
of the prejudice which separates black and white, tired of being kicked
under-foot by our oppressors.
 But in our protest we will not attack any white person. They shall be
unharmed. Persuasion, not coercion, will be our method of campaigning.
„Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who
persecute you.‟

 If we protest courageously, but in a peaceable, quiet manner and in a
Christian spirit, a time will come when historians in the future will say,
„There were remarkable people living in Montgomery – black people
who gave to history a new direction.‟ That is the challenge and that is
the responsibility which faces us. May the Lord bless us in our

Leader: This historic meeting in Dexter Avenue Church ended with the
         joining to sing, „Onward Christian Soldiers! Marching as to
war‟ – not a violent war, not a war to kill and maim and destroy, but a
war for justice, love and peace between people.

Hymn: Onward Christian soldiers! (Church Hymnary 480).

Narrator 1: The battle lines were drawn. Indeed, Martin felt that the
most important
              battle had already been won: that of getting black people to
stand up for their rights and to do so in an orderly, dignified and peaceful
manner. He was determined that they were not to use the methods of the
white people – the fist, the kick, the oath, the cudgel and the gun. He
taught them to act in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel, and he
spent long hours in training sessions and prayer meetings explaining the
demands and methods of this new way of campaigning for justice.

Narrator 2: But this was a difficult and costly way. The police
responded with ferocity
             and the authorities reacted in a heavy-handed manner. But
despite opposition and threats the people continued to walk for a whole
year rather than use the buses. The Montgomery campaign gave three
things to the black people – a new movement, a new leader and a new
method of campaigning. In May 1957 a great Pilgrimage of Prayer was
held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington which attracted thirty five
thousand people.

Narrator 1: As the movement grew in strength and confidence, so too
did the
            persecution and the retaliations. The police began to adopt
more violent methods of dealing with protestors and Martin Luther King
and his family were targeted with threats and abuse. A bomb was thrown
at their home, but neither Corretta nor the children were harmed.

Narrator 2: Despite the brutality used against them, Martin was
determined that he and
              his followers should continue to follow the way of non-
violence. He began to learn more about the power of non-violence by
studying the life and work of Gandhi. Although Gandhi never became a
Christian, he acknowledged his indebtedness to the New Testament, and
in particular to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.

New Testament Reading: Matthew 5: 3-12

Narrator 1: Two important issues arose from adopting the ethic of non-
violence. First,
             this was intended as a means of awakening the conscience of
the people of violence and of making them feel ashamed of their actions.
And second, the way of non-violence demanded strict discipline. All
who took part were required to attend intensive training sessions to
ensure that they could control their temper and would never strike back.
This is what Martin Luther King himself had to say on the matter of

Martin Luther King: ‘As I studied more deeply the philosophy of
Gandhi and the
                      teaching of the New Testament, my doubts
regarding the power of love to overcome hatred were swept away and I
came to see that Christian love, practised in accordance with Gandhi‟s
way of non-violent resistance, is one of the most powerful means of
gaining freedom for oppressed people.
  Blood is sure to flow in the streets of Montgomery before we gain our
freedom, but that

must be blood from our veins, not from the bodies of our white brothers.
We must take care that we do not harm one hair on their heads. But one
day – within a year, or ten years, or more – one day we shall overcome,
and then we will be able to live together, black and white, in unity and in

Song (Solo or Group): ‘We shall Overcome,’ Faith,Folk and Clarity,

          1. We shall overcome,
             We shall overcome,
             We shall overcome some day,
             Deep in my heart I do believe
             We shall overcome some day.

          2.   We‟ll walk hand in hand…
          3.   The Lord will see us through…
          4.   We shall live in peace…
          5.   We shall overcome…

Narrator 2: Martin Luther King was imprisoned on many occasions.
Often he was
              disappointed by the reaction of some churches and some of
his fellow ministers who accused him of bringing politics and social
issues into the pulpit. But churches and white people were not the only
ones to oppose him. There were some black people, especially the black
Muslims, who rejected his methods, claiming that the only way to gain
freedom and equality was by violence and armed conflict.

Narrator 1: Martin dismissed this criticism, insisting that they could
only win the day
             by following the way of Jesus Christ and of Gandhi. But he
knew too that this way had been for them both the way of the cross – and
that it would eventually be the way of the cross for Martin himself. All
the same, he clung to the way of non-violence. He used the stories and

themes of the Bible, together with negro spirituals, to teach and address
the people.

Narrator 2: On August 28th 1963, during the great Freedom March in
           Martin delivered his most famous speech of all: „I have a

Martin Luther King: „I say to you today, my friends, even though we
                       difficulties, I have a dream. It is a dream deeply
rooted in the American dream…
  I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit
down together at the table of brotherhood.
 I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state
sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed
into an oasis of freedom and justice.
 I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the colour of the skin but by the content
of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama…little black boys and
little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and
white girls as brothers and sisters.
I have a dream today!....
Let freedom ring from every hill and every mountainside…And when we
let freedom ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state
and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God‟s
children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and
Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old
negro spiritual,
           “Free at last, free at last!
           Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

(Alternatively a disc of the above could be played – from ‘Great
Speeches of the Twentieth Century: The Guardian’ – Compact Disc
Digital Audio 0044/1793/431300)

Narrator 1: Following the great Washington Freedom March Martin
Luther King
             became an internationally recognized figure. In the years
before his death he
campaigned against poverty and the war in Vietnam, as well as
continuing his struggle for freedom and human rights for black people.

 Narrator 2: Five years after delivering his speech in Washington,
Martin delivered
              another great speech in Memphis, Tennessee. He stated that
he had been to the mountain top and had seen the promised land. But to
reach that land they had to continue to stand, to suffer, and if necessary
to die for the cause. That night, on the eve of Easter 1968, he was shot
dead on the balcony of his hotel. Darkness fell over the hearts and minds
of the people of America. At the time people could see nothing but
hopelessness and the triumph of the powers of darkness.

Song (Solo or Group): Kumbayah, Faith, Folk and Clarity pg. 4; to
be sung quietly.

                    1. Kumbayah, my Lord, kumbayah! (x3)
                       O Lord, kumbayah!

                    2. Someone‟s crying, Lord, kumbayah! (x3)
                    3. Someone‟s dying, Lord, kumbayah! (x3)
                    4. Someone‟s praying, Lord, kumbayah! (x3)

Leader: It was to Jesus Christ and to Gandhi that the world was
indebted for the life and
          leadership of Martin Luther King. As people still seek peace
and justice in the world, the example and contribution of this man who
died forty years ago before attaining his fortieth birthday, continue to

challenge us and to call us to walk the best way of all, the way of the
love of Christ. After his death, his wife, Corretta King, paid this tribute
to his memory:

Corretta King: ‘Martin never hated. He never despaired of well-doing.
And he
                 encouraged us to do likewise, and so he prepared us
constantly for the tragedy. I am surprised and pleased at the success of
his teaching, for we can say, “Although he is physically dead, his spirit
will never die.” He gave his life in search of a more excellent way, a
more effective way, a creative rather than a destructive way. We intend
to go on in search of that way, and I hope that you who loved and
admired him will join us in fulfilling his dream. On the day that negro
people and others in bondage are truly free, on the day want is
abolished, on the day wars are no more, on that day I know my husband
will rest in peace.‟

Hymn: We lay our broken world (Songs of God’s People 113)

Voice 1: Let us pray.
          Lord our God,
          we thank you for creating us as your children,
          and for showing us that it is your will
          that everyone should live in harmony and peace.
           We thank you especially today
          for the life and work of Martin Luther King,
          and for all who, like him,
          have been instruments of your peace,
          witnesses to the gospel of reconciliation
          and servants of your kingdom:
All (to sing):
          Domine Deus,
         Domine Deus,
         Domine Deus,
         Grant us peace.

Voice 2: Lord our God,
         forgive us for our part in the violence and wars of the world,
         for our failure to pull down the dividing walls of hatred
         between people;
         for the spirit of enmity
         which separates people from one another;
         for the prejudice which causes oppression and injustice;
         for the lack of love and compassion
         which make us indifferent to the sufferings of others.
         Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.
All:     Domine Deus…

Voice 1: Lord our God,
         we pray for harmony between nations;
         for peace founded on justice;
         for a determination to renounce war and violence,
         and to acknowledge the rights of all.
          We pray for harmony between races;
         for a greater willingness to accept one another,
         to celebrate the rich diversity of the human family
         and to work for freedom and fairness for all:
All:     Domine Deus….

Voice 2:   Lord our God,
           we pray for harmony within ourselves;
           for release from sin and failure;
           from needless anxiety;
           from a desire for praise and status;
           from jealousy of the success of others.
            Teach us to rejoice in your love,
           to trust in the grace of the Lord Jesus,
           in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
           and so to discover harmony and newness of life.
All:        Domine Deus..

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father…

Notices and Offering

Hymn 322 Church Hymnary: Thy kingdom come, O God

       Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
       where there is hatred let me sow love;
       where there is injury, pardon;
       where there is discord, union;
       where there is doubt, faith;
       where there is despair, hope;
       where there is darkness, light;
       where there is sadness, joy;
       for your love and your truth’s sake. Amen.

           And now to him who is able to keep us from falling,
           and lift us from the dark valley of despair
           to the bright mountain of hope,
           from the midnight of desperation
           to the daybreak of joy;
           to him be power and authority,
           for ever and ever. Amen. (Martin Luther King)