I try to write these monthly articles with a good thought in mind or something that helps us engage meaning-making. This month is certainly no different, but instead of using my own words as encouragement or motivation I want to invite you to a couple of events that have inspired me so over the last eight years that I’ve lived here and help move me in the direction of King’s vision for the beloved community.
The 32nd annual awards program sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance Committee of Newton County will be held today at 3pm at Newton High School located at 1 Ram Way. This event includes awards presentations, remarks from community leaders, music from local choirs, a keynote speech, and more. This year’s keynote address will be given by my colleague and friend, Dr. Doug Hicks, the new Dean of Oxford College of Emory University. This event is free and open to the public. It is moving to see those in our community honored with these awards and to hear the gifts shared in spoken word and song from others in our community.
Later this week Oxford College will host its Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, which began in 1993 and has been held annually since. This event will be held Wednesday, Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m. at Old Church located at the intersection of Wesley and Fletcher Streets in Oxford. It will include participation from many areas of the college and community, including music from the college’s Voices of Praise gospel choir and a cappella choir, Oxappella, as well as the Newton County Martin Luther King Interdenominational Choir, which comprises local community members. Selected readings from King and other leaders of the civil rights movement will be read and greetings offered from the Dean of Oxford College and the Student Government president. This event is free and open to the public.
The keynote speaker this year is The Rev. Avis Williams a resident of Oxford and a 1978 graduate of Oxford College. Rev. Williams is a lifelong member of the Historic Bethlehem Baptist Church in Covington and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology where she is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry Program (Class of 2018). She is an advocate for justice, education, and health care as well as environmental stewardship and sustainability programs. She has served as the pastor of community transformation for Lake Oconee Community Church (LOCC) since 2007. In 2010 she organized the LOCC Youth Alliance in order for children ages 6-12 to participate in year-round historical, cultural, and educational enrichment activities.
Avis has become a good friend to me in my time as chaplain at Oxford College. She is also a colleague in ministry and in many ways the doctoral program at Candler School of Theology (I’m in the class of 2017). The ways in which she connects with the local community with people of all ages is one of the aspects of her life and ministry that inspires me most. She also knows this place, Newton County and Covington and Oxford, and she has an interesting story to tell that is sure to inspire those who attend this celebration.
No doubt there are more events happening over the course of this holiday weekend and especially tomorrow as we honor the legacy and vision of Dr. King. I am especially encouraged by his and many others’ vision for the beloved community, a community where nonviolence is the way of life and we work together to deeply connect our lives to one another no matter who we are or what we look like or where we come from. The events highlighted this weekend will surely help us move toward embodying this kind of community. Join me there, will you?
Rev. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University. You can find him running in the city of Oxford about three times a week.