Church honors Martin Luther King Jr. with sermon about ‘showing up,’ doing things for others

MORGANTOWN — Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t become who he was by simply dreaming.
He galvanized a movement by doing.
That was the reminder Sunday afternoon during his annual tribute service at Greater St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The doors of the tiny church with the red roof were opened wide on the cold, gray afternoon.
People filled the pews to pray, sing, laugh and occasionally brush tears in remembrance of the civil rights leader — whose voice was silenced by an assassin’s bullet in 1968.
Today is the national holiday that bears his name.
Sunday’s service at St. Paul wasn’t necessarily about King’s “I have a dream” declaration.
Instead, it hinged more on a  question, one he would pose just as famously from behind a pulpit or in front of a reporter’s notebook: “What are you doing for others?”
That query was his bedrock-call to service, St. Paul’s church pastor the Rev. Georgia Morrow said.
After all, she said, if you want to make a better world, you’d better get used to the idea of doing some unselfish, heavy lifting to get it done.
Of snow shovels and showing up
Morrow, who commutes from her home in Wheeling to minister at the church on Beechurst Avenue, turned that serious riff into a comical aside as she talked about her early start of the day Sunday.
Mother Nature bestowed her driveway with substantial ice and snow overnight, she said.
She recounted the story as the congregation laughed.
“I said, ‘I did all this shoveling at 5:30 in the morning, so I’m going somewhere.’ ”
In other words, she said, she showed up —  which, she added, is what King did every day of his life cut short by the ideology of hatred.
Hatred was the exact opposite of what ensued at St. Paul during the service sponsored in part by the Morgantown-Kingwood Chapter of the NAACP.
WVU student lawmakers advancing the cause of racial equity also spoke.
Choirs sang, and Abigail Mallow and Demarcus Bandy, who attend Mylan Park Elementary School and Mountaineer Middle School, respectively, read from their award-winning essays on King’s life and times.
Abigail wrote about how surprised a then-young King was a cruel parental rebuke: The father of his childhood best friend (who was white), didn’t want his son associating with King because of the hue of his pigment.
Demarcus, meanwhile, was struck by the sanctioned bigotry of the commonplace that came in the form of water fountains and restrooms that were either “Whites Only” or “Coloreds Only.”
Working the dream
Like Morrow and her snow shovel, meanwhile, Greater St. Paul AME has been showing up since 1871.
From post-slavery to Jim Crow to Black Lives Matter, the church has been a beacon and oasis to Morgantown’s black community and anyone else wishing to worship there.
Keynote speaker Meshea Poore, who is vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at WVU, likes that parallel between the church and King.
After earning degrees from Howard University and Southern University Law Center, the native of Charleston’s West Side returned to her hometown to practice law.
Two years ago, she was named president of the West Virginia State Bar, the first black woman ever to hold that office.
“There’s a reason we’re still talking about Dr. King,” she said.
“He wasn’t just about dreams. He was a man of action.”
Poore will also speak at this morning’s Unity Breakfast at WVU. That gathering is at 8 a.m. in the Mountainlair Ballroom.
Other “Day of Service” events will take place across the county. Morgantown’s annual King observance will be 2 p.m., at the Metropolitan Theater downtown.

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