Rev. Elsa Cook compassionately shares ideas and resources for honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday, January 17, not merely as a “nice” white discussion about diversity, but as a boldly prophetic and intentional step toward racial equity and ending white supremacy culture. (You can find additional resources for this in our Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday lib guide; see especially Church Anew’s full worship service.)

All that is needed to turn this into a community-wide event is to invite the community.

Where Rev. Cook wisely suggests “giving the floor” to members of your congregation who have participated in riots or protests – historical or recent – do so – and/or broaden that invitation to members of your community. Find folks who have been there and done that. Invite them to speak. Cook offers beautiful, simple prompts rooted in Sunday’s Psalm and allows space for three guests to speak. Develop a relationship with these folks by walking beside them as they prepare to speak – not to remove the hard edges or challenges to white ears, but to build confidence in delivery, hone for timing and awareness of the audience, and develop a trust that enables guests to speak their truth freely and clearly.

Deepen that community engagement and commitment by inviting guests to participate in studies and workshops inspired by the Sunday worship: Rev. Cook suggests some excellent books to read together. You can find other suggestions throughout our Racism: Young Adults & Adults lib guides, including (but not limited to) the History of Race in America, MLK and the Civil Rights Era, Past & PresentAntiracism, and Restorative Justice – just to name a few. You can also find antiracism books and studies for Tweens & Teens and Children and Parents.

Contact The Ministry Lab to find the right book or training for your setting – we’re happy to hone these searches for you!

Inviting community members to speak in these discussions can further strengthen community ties and encourage broader community members to participate. Pick a theme for African American History Month (February), develop a full-congregation journey for Lent, commit to a next step before embarking on the first, to ensure momentum. Let Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend be a time to jump start or renew your personal and congregational commitment to this essential work.

Thanks to Rev. Elsa Cook for her excellent suggestions and gracious offerings. We hope only to build on the solid footing she has established!