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Another Perspective

Martin Luther King Day 2011

March 31st, 1968 was a Sunday. I was almost finished with my first year of seminar; was recently engaged to be married; and was getting ready to drive across country from Washington, D. C. to Portland, Oregon for training at Emmanuel Hospital in pastoral education. I was out of my comfort zone and full of anxiety, yet was totally unaware of all that I was feeling. Someone at the seminary the night before suggested I join a small group that was going to National Cathedral that Sunday morning to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. preach. With so much else on my mind, I was a reluctant recruit.

Attending National Cathedral is always a moving event, especially for a service. The grandeur of the place combined with the organ music makes for a strong spiritual experience. I was seated half-way back from the front and in the middle of the aisle. The procession that day was a long one and I thought it would never end. Finally toward the back came Dr. King. He did not appear to me to be all that comfortable with Episcopal ways, but had obviously done this before. His charisma was strong but it was the unexpected that I remember the most. Dr. King was a short man. All of the times I'd seen him on television or in the press gave me no clue as to his height. All of that energy was packaged in such a short man. Such a silly thing to remember about someone so filled with the Spirit of God. But I remember that first impression of him walking down the aisle better than I do his sermon. He'd set the bar so high when he spoke to crowds that I'd come prepared for such a message. When it didn't happen, I left glad I'd come but anticipating other times when maybe he'd speak in a more inspired way.

The following Thursday back at the seminary I remember hearing that some crazy man in Memphis had shot and killed Dr. King. I was as stunned as everyone else. His loss weighed heavily upon me. Then when Bobby Kennedy was killed in my home town of Los Angeles just two months later the world really seemed to be coming apart. Two months after Bobby Kennedy's death, I got married. later in the year there were riots in Chicago at the Democrat National Convention. In November, Richard Nixon was elected President. What a year 1968 was. If I wasn't in seminary, I'd have been in Vietnam for the worse battles of the war. I lost several college classmates there that year.

I am so glad I was motivated that Sunday morning to attend the ceremony at National Cathedral. It is a moment in time I will never forget.
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