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A zeal fit for a King

By: Kate Perry, The Record
January 20, 2003

Guest preacher Rev. Linda Thornkill preaches during the King observance at Bethel Baptist Church. (J.S. Carras/The Record)
TROY - At the interfaith worship service at Bethel Baptist Church on Sunday, the message about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was clear - his legacy is for all people to learn from, and his words are exceptionally relevant right now.
The service, which was organized by Troy Area United Ministries, loaned the pulpit to leaders in the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Baha'i faiths, each of whom praised King for his righteous virtues.
Passages of scripture from the Bible and Koran were interwoven with many prayers, rousing musical interludes performed by the Fifth Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church combined choir, a speech by a scholarship recipient and recognition of several local residents who donate their time and talent to the church and community.
Mayor Mark Pattison also gave remarks to the congregation, recalling his participation in the event in past years.
"What is most inspiring to me about Martin Luther King's message is his appreciation for community," he said. "It is a great opportunity for all of us to recommit ourselves to our community each year."
While members of the audience were responsive to the speakers that graced the stage and stood, swayed and clapped with the choir, no one truly evoked their emotions like Rev. Linda Thornhill, the guest preacher from Fifth Avenue AME Zion.
Thornhill began her sermon in a strong but calm manor, proclaiming that King changed society and the world view and that was possible because he was a man of God.
She said because he was such a man, he knew that only love could cast out the hatred of those who resisted the civil rights movement, and that today that same love would be necessary to continue his work.
Thornhill, becoming more impassioned and vocal by the minute, stated that love, both for ourselves and for our neighbors, would be the key to defeating the "triple evil" - poverty, racism and militarism, and its companions, apathy, complacency and silence. She said love wasn't just a major part of King's message, but also said that love was a concept that was central to all religions.
Thornhill also highlighted King's vigilance as social activist concerned with poverty and health care and the importance of following his lead in those areas. She explained that without the basics, living a life of love and compassion could be hard.
"It is hard to love somebody when you are worrying about where the next plate of food is coming from, and it is hard to love your neighbor when you don't have a job; you may want to steal from them," she said. "Martin King was concerned about that, and we should be too."
On top of those responsibilities to each other, Thornhill wailed from the pulpit that America's current situation overseas was urgent, and that people needed to stand up to pending war.
By the time she stepped down, the crowd was stirred, and closed the service hand-in-hand with a heartfelt rendition of "We Shall Overcome."

©Copyright 2003, The Record (NY, USA)

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