For the first time in three years we will be gathering in person for an interfaith celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And for the first time in recent memory, that celebration will take place as a part of a Friday evening Shabbat service hosted by Beth David Congregation in Gladwyne. This allows for an incredibly helpful reminder that the fight for justice and civil rights is, of course, not an exclusively Christian one.
Our service this Friday evening will include reflections by leaders of more than nine communities of faith – Bahai, Quaker, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim. This particular week in the Jewish lectionary cycle introduces the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. This story has long been a significant one for the African American Christian community as they have articulated their cry for freedom from slavery in the United States and then for access to the full rights and privileges as free citizens in the decades since emancipation. We remember that underground railroad conductor Harriet Tubman was nicknamed Moses as she helped so many find their way to freedom in the North.
I am honored to be speaking alongside my colleague Rev. Carolyn Cavaness of Bethel AME Church in Ardmore as well as Asheq Fazulla, a leader in the Main Line Muslim community, to reflect on the ways that characters in the Exodus story can inspire our work for justice today. I continue to be grateful for the ways that our interfaith community in Lower Merion seeks opportunities to serve, study and worship alongside one another.
Dr. King himself deeply valued interfaith relationships, and his friendship with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is legendary. They marched arm in arm with one another in Selma. King was the keynote speaker at the public celebration of Heschel’s 60th birthday in 1963, and the rabbi was invited to give remarks at King’s funeral in 1968.
Rabbi Heschel in an essay entitled, “No religion is an Island,” wrote about the essential work of interfaith cooperation:
It is neither to flatter nor to refute one another, but to help one another; to share insight and learning, to cooperate in academic ventures on the highest scholarly level, and what is even more important to search in the wilderness for well-springs of devotion, for treasures of stillness, for the power of love and care for man. What is urgently needed are ways of helping one another in the terrible predicament of here and now by the courage to believe that the word of the Lord endures forever as well as here and now; to cooperate in trying to bring about a resurrection of sensitivity, a revival of conscience; to keep alive the divine sparks in our souls, to nurture openness to the spirit of the Psalms, reverence for the words of the prophets, and faithfulness to the Living God.
I hope you will be able to join us this Friday evening for a time of interfaith worship and celebration. May we continue to seek inspiration in our calling to work for justice, and may we continue to nurture partnerships and relationships that challenge and uplift us in this vital work. Details for the service are below, or you can click here for the flyer for the event.
Interfaith Service to Celebrate
the Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Friday, January 13, 6:30 p.m.
Beth David Reform Congregation
1130 Vaughan Lane, Gladwyne