Free at Last. . . .

I was there – live and in person – when Martin Luther King delivered his speech which ended with the words “free at last, free at last, thank God a’mighty we are free at last.” It was an amazing day – but it was not at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. It was in Miami Beach in 1961.

When I was 14 years old, the American Lutheran Church Luther League Convention was held in Miami Beach, Florida, August 15-20, 1961. St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect sent a contingent of “Hi Leaguers” to this august August event. And I was one of them. Dr. King was the keynote speaker.

Dr. King’s speech was recorded – and transcribed – and can be found at https://soundcloud.com/user-238560644/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-speaking-at-the-alc-luther-league-convention-in-1961 This last few days, I revisited the transcription of that speech 61 years ago. “Powerful” is an understatement. They are words that we would be well advised to remember. And incorporate into our lives. A few examples which apply today. . . .

The world in which we live is a neighborhood, and we face the moral responsibility of making it a brotherhood. We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.

All life is inter-related and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny so that whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

” . . . there is a voice crying through the vista of time saying to every potential Peter ‘put down your sword.’ History is replete with the bleached bones of nations. History is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that fail to follow this command.”

And he quotes John Donne – “No man is an island entirely of itself — every man is a piece of the continent – a part of the main.

The words of Dr. King are worth reading. And re-reading. Perhaps one day, “all of God’s children” can join hands – and be “free at last.

The Ushers

[A repeat from July 9 2017] When I was growing up, I attended St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect, IL. It was a big church offering three services on Sunday morning: 8:00; 9:30; and 11:00. The 8:00 a.m. service was relatively new. And as you might imagine, it was sometimes a challenge to staff the early service with ushers.

The head of the ushering program – Mr. Wendt – would often attend all three services – filling in as needed.  Finally, perhaps in desperation, he approached the head of the church’s youth program — and asked if there were some high school boys who could “help out” with the early service.  The answer?  “Sure.”  So Chuck, Wayne, Randy, Dave and I — were tapped to usher the 8:00 a.m. service — every Sunday.    

On the first Sunday, the five of us showed up early.  Suits.  Ties.  We each donned a white carnation and got an ushering lesson from Mr. Wendt.  He guided us through the service offering a running commentary (“smile”greet people by name if you can” “when collecting the offering, walk backwards – never turn your back on the altar“).  After a few weeks of this, the five of us had the protocol down pat.  And  a few weeks later, Mr. Wendt said “keep up the good work, boys” and he never showed up again. . . . .  

The Ushers

When I was growing up, I attended St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect, IL. It was a big church offering three services on Sunday morning: 8:00; 9:30; and 11:00. The 8:00 a.m. service was relatively new. And as you might imagine, it was sometimes a challenge to staff the early service with ushers.

The head of the ushering program – Mr. Wendt – often had to attend all three services – filling in as needed.  Finally, perhaps in some desperation, he approached the head of the church’s youth program — and asked if there were some high school boys who could “help out” with the early service.  The answer?  “Sure.”  So Chuck, Wayne, Randy, Dave and I — were tapped to usher the 8:00 a.m. service — every Sunday.    

On the first Sunday, the five of us showed up early.  Suits.  Ties.  We each donned a white carnation and got an ushering lesson from Mr. Wendt.  He guided us through the service offering a running commentary (“smile”greet people by name if you can” “when collecting the offering, walk backwards – never turn your back on the altar“).  After a few weeks of this, the five of us had the protocol down pat.  And  a few weeks later, Mr. Wendt said “keep up the good work, boys” and he never showed up again. . . . .