Service honors MLK's religious heritage

The people gathered inside Central Christian Church lifted their voices Sunday night to praise a man they say led change in this country as he followed the word of God.

With songs, a sermon and prayer, members of various Lexington church congregations celebrated the religious heritage of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a service that filled the downtown church.

The program, presented by the group Disciples for the Dream, is in its 19th year.

Throughout the program, speakers acknowledged the role of faith in the actions of King, whose national holiday is celebrated Monday. King's life was grounded in worship, said the Rev. Guy Waldrop of Central Christian Church.

"We are here tonight as sisters and brothers" because of the civil rights activist, Waldrop told the crowd.

The multiracial group of worshipers filled the pews during the celebration and participated in the festivities. They sang Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing along with more than 60 singers who composed the Martin Luther King Community Choir. They rose and welcomed one another at the beginning of the service. And they shouted "Amen" during the litany, which quoted King: "I have also decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love."

King, "a man who had a dream and talked about love and talked about a community," was guided by God when he helped break down racial barriers in the country, said the Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, who delivered the sermon at Sunday's event.

Hamlin also spoke of the inauguration Tuesday of President-elect Barack Obama, an event for which King paved the way, she said.

"We thought we'd been dreaming. Some of us right now are asking our neighbors to pinch ourselves because we can't believe this is happening," she said of the first African-American to be elected president of the United States.

The messages of hope and change that Obama and King delivered echo what God says in the Bible, Hamlin said.

"We have seen a community rally around a message of hope," she said.