WNC Conference Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration
The Design Team for the Annual Martin Luther King Celebration reported to the venue bright and early (8:00 am) on Saturday, January 13, to execute final preparations for the day’s event. The Celebration was scheduled to start at 10:00 sharp. Anxiety built as 9:45 came and passed, when only a few dozen attendees sat in the large banquet room at the Global Learning Center on the campus of Bennett College. However, by 9:50 the floodgates opened and people were backed up at every one-of-four registration tables. The result was an overflowing crowd of 300+ celebrants.
The event began with greetings from the customary dignitaries: Dr. Phyllis Worthy-Dawkins, President of Bennett College, Bishop Paul Leeland, Episcopal Leader of the WNC Conference of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Nancy Rankin, Host District Superintendent of the Northern Piedmont District, and Honorable Yvonne Johnson, Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem and Bennett College Alumna. The Master of Ceremony for the day was Rev. Emmanuel Boyake-Yiadom, who set the tone and significance for the theme: 50 Years Later: “Reclaiming Our God’s Time.” This historical celebration marks the 50 year anniversaries of Dr. King’s death, the dissolution of the segregated Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the historic merger which created the United Methodist Church. The theme suggests that time itself belongs to God and is under HIS divine control. Therefore, if anyone ‘reclaims’ or ‘claims’ any victory during the past 50 years (time), it is ‘God’s Time’ and not ‘Our’s.’
Thus, the day was set for the plethora of engaging activities, including videos, table discussions, led by the Hispanic House of Study from Duke Divinity School, about modern immigration principles and policies; recognition of and awards presented to the Bennett Belles involved in the Sit-In Movement. Dr. Linda B. Brown, Bennett College Alumna and author of Belles of Liberty, also gave remarks regarding her essential writing and her experience with the civil rights movement. The morning culminated with the unveiling of a painting by Mr. Fredrick Jones. The inspired artwork was then presented to the WNC Bishop, Paul Leeland.
The pinnacle of the event was ushered in by a march from the Global Learning Center across campus to the Anne Pfeiffer Merner Chapel, and was capped with the keynote address by Rev. Dr. William “Bobby” McClain, Professor Emeritus, Wesley Theological Seminary and Interim Pastor of Union UMC, Boston MA. Dr. McClain’s remarks mirrored his own history as a teen-aged preacher in his hometown of Gadsden, AL when he met Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was pastoring in nearby Montgomery. Dr. McClain’s preaching was rich with history, humor, and Holy moments of clarity. His preaching fused the divide between ‘time’ and ‘eternity.’ Both belong to God and are given to humans as stewards of these precious gifts. On this day, Dr. McClain, practically and vividly, taught us how this event folds into the fabric of God’s Time to benefit all who maintain the hope of redeeming their time for God’s great glory.