The annual religious service to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. was held Monday at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenton. Now in its 32nd year, the celebration is usually held on the January federal holiday honoring King, but was delayed this year because of concerns around the pandemic.
“COVID thought it had the victory. Amen?” Mount Zion Pastor Keith McCullough told the small crowd gathered in the church (in-person attendance was restricted due to public health protocols) and those watching the livestream online. “But just like oppression couldn’t keep the Rev. King down, a pandemic can’t keep us down.”
The keynote speaker, Pastor Tyrone Green of Hearts Delight Baptist Church in Catlett, and others focused on Christianity’s role in “pursuing unity daily,” the event’s theme. “We are Christians,” preached Green to applause and shouts of “amen!” “We are not Black or white. There is no color. We are saved by the blood of Christ.”
Added McCullough: “We recognize we are all connected by our creator. … We are all created in the image of God. We must remember this.”
Mount Zion Deaconess Paulette Garner read a poem she wrote for the occasion. “Years of oppressive systems, the misery of poverty and the suffering of lack conjure up the image of Atlas with the globe on his back,” the poem says. “Hope seems small, fragile and weak. Unity’s prospects seem bleak. But a remnant clings to hope, willing to protest, stand up and speak.”
Green, who also serves as a chaplain with the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, challenged listeners to address racial injustice using the Christian faith as their foundation. “I am the great, great grandson of a slave. … And I am a slave. But let me clarify: I am a slave for Jesus Christ.” Green challenged Christians to have courage to stand up to injustice, even when it’s inconvenient or not culturally popular to do so. “You can do nothing without courage,” he said.
Noting ongoing racial disparities in health outcomes – and the disproportional impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Black Americans in particular – and incarceration rates, Green said: “It is the church that blessed slavery. It was the church that blessed segregation.” He urged Christians to address current issues of what he described as systemic racial prejudice in the United States.
Green also decried what he described as certain factions of Christianity becoming associated with political parties in the present day. “The church of Jesus Christ doesn’t have a party,” he preached.
He was hopeful, however. He referenced the 1976 novel “Roots,” which chronicles a fictional story of a Black African man being captured and sold into slavery in Virginia, eventually starting a new life as a free man after the Civil War. Green turned to the audience. “If there were a part two to ‘Roots,’ it would show you. You have overcome.”
As he has for more than three decades, the Rev. L.A. Montgomery of Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Amissville led the community choir assembled annually for the event, performing rousing spirituals like “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Video of the service is posted on Mount Zion’s Facebook page.
Reach Coy Ferrell at email@example.com
2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Awards
Each year, a committee selects local individuals or organizations for particularly outstanding service to the community in five categories. This year’s award recipients are:
- Business: Peter Beale
- Community Service: The Rev. Vinicent Holland
- Education: Melissa Bland
- Political action: Hearts Delight Baptist Church in Catlett and its pastor, the Rev. Tyrone Green
- Religion: The Rev. Verdice Stribling, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Broad Run