MLK interfaith service seeks to unite
For more than three decades, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Citywide Interfaith Worship Service, which takes place the day before San Antonio’s exceptional Martin Luther King Jr. March, has brought together diverse faiths.
Though the San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Board cancelled the city’s in-person MLK March for the second year in a row because of COVID-19, the interfaith worship service went on as planned — virtually.
This year’s service, which was held January 16 at Temple Beth-El, was the 35th interfaith service. Through this event, the religious community demonstrates how to interact and cooperate with others.
“We hope this event honors the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and inspires the community, challenging each of us to look for moments of grace in our lives and ways to help heal society’s fractures,” stated Judy Lackritz, chair of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Interfaith Service Planning Committee. “We read daily in newspaper and social media that Americans are fighting each other, and worse. It won’t be easy, but we must listen to each other and to develop more understanding and compassion.”
Members of the MLK Interfaith Worship Service Planning Committee come from religious groups with significant differences, Lackritz explained, adding, “Yet we come together in the spirit of King, setting aside our differences to plan a worship service that represents his ideals: to end poverty and racism, and to advance brotherhood and dignity for all people through nonviolence.”
The 2022 planning committee includes people of diverse faiths who are working to include individuals and traditions from all faiths and backgrounds. Keynote speaker at this year’s event was Lamont Jefferson, a commercial litigation partner with the law firm of Jefferson Cano.
The prayer service opened with a prelude from Dan Klein of Temple Beth-El, Rabbi Mara Nathan welcomed the congregation, and later at the gathering Kevin Epstein of Congregation of Agudas Achim, with Shane Epstein, sounded the shofar (ram’s horn).
The litany of celebration was given by Auxiliary Bishop Gary Janak. He said, “It is good to remember and celebrate the legacy of love of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May our faith lead us to always practice love and respect for all humanity and seek the higher ground of compassion and reconcilitation.”
The invocation was given by Rev. Otis Mitchell of Mount Zion First Baptist Church, host of the event last year. Mehmet Oguz, a Board member of the Raindrop Foundation, prayed the prayer of understanding; Byrd Bonner, a member of Laurel Heights United Methodist Church, introduced the guest speaker; Dr. Jack Reese of the San Antonio Interfaith Alliance prayed the prayer for peace; and Sister Addie Lorraine Walker, SSND, Ph.D., of the Sankofa Institute for African American Pastoral Leadership at Oblate School of Theology, prayed the closing benediction.
As in years’ past the Praise Dancers of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church garnered enthusiastic applause for their performance, as did Shivi Goyal from the Arathi School of Indian Dance, who was introduced by Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy. Daniel Salone served as soloist for the afternoon.
This gathering included American Sign Language interpreters and was broadcast on Catholic Television of San Antonio, TVSA, and also livestreamed on Temple Beth El social media.
MLK Commission Chair Renee Watson brought greetings from the organization to attendees, as did Lackritz.
“We would like to thank the MLK Commission for organizing a memorable event that allowed us to reflect and safely honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The legacy of Dr. King, Jr. draws attention to the continuing challenges and inequities that we face as a nation…” said District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez.
San Antonio residents, as well as those in surrounding areas, were asked to participate in related events virtually, in an attempt to remain safe with their families.
This included a COVID-19 vaccination event organized by the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on January 17 at Pittman-Sullivan Park, traditionally the end point of the MLK March.