Episcopal dioceses, parishes to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with events and services

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jan 11, 2024
MLK at Berkeley

Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to a crowd of about 5,000 outside Sproul Hall at the University of California, Berkley, on May 17, 1967. Photo: Associated Press

[Episcopal News Service] The Jan. 15 federal holiday honoring the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be marked with a variety of activities and services by parishes and dioceses across The Episcopal Church.

King, who would have turned 95 this year, was the key leader in the nonviolent equality movement for Black Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Based in part on the impact of the 1963 March on Washington and King’s “I have a dream” speech, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and a year later the Voting Rights Act. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, during a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, to support city sanitation workers who were striking for better pay and working conditions. He is honored in The Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts calendar on April 4.

The following is a list of some events hosted by Episcopal churches and dioceses. Check online for additional events. All times listed are local.

Diocese of Los Angeles – The Rev. Ronald C. Byrd Sr., missioner for African Descent Ministries for The Episcopal Church, will be the featured speaker for the Diocese of Los Angeles’ annual celebration on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. at Christ the Good Shepherd Church, Los Angeles. A soul food reception will follow the service.

Trinity Church Wall Street – The retreat center of Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, New York, will host a free online retreat reflecting on King’s speech, “Our God is Marching On,” that will take place over five half-hour sessions beginning Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. via the Trinity Retreat Center Facebook page. Registration is not required.

 Diocese of West Missouri – The Diocese of West Missouri will host a service on Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, Missouri. The preacher will be U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, representing Missouri’s 5th district. The service also will be livestreamed.

All Saints Cathedral – All Saints Cathedral, Atlanta, Georgia, will offer a variety of events on Jan. 14. The 9 a.m. service will feature a jazz/gospel ensemble and guest preacher Joel B. Kemp, assistant professor of Hebrew Bible at Candler School of Theology. At 10:20 a.m., Kemp and the Rev. Natosha Reid Rice from the cathedral will lead a conversation on race, religion and the law. At 4 p.m. a jazz/gospel concert entitled “Sounds of Freedom – Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King” will be hosted by Tony McNeil.

Washington National Cathedral – On Jan. 14 at 11:15 a.m., Washington National Cathedral’s service of Holy Eucharist will feature as preacher the Hon. Andrew Young, a civil rights leader and confidant of King’s. Young also served as a member of Congress, the first Black U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. The service will include music and prayers honoring King’s life and legacy, and the Denyce Graves Foundation will join Cathedral musicians. The service will be livestreamed.

Grace Cathedral – Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California, will host an annual interfaith service remembering King on Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. A forum will follow at 4 p.m. Hosted in partnership with the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation, this year’s event theme is “Beloved Community and Social Justice.”

St. James’ – St. James’, Richmond, Virginia will host an Evensong on Jan. 14 at 5 p.m. The annual tribute will feature St. James’ choirs and the concert choir of Norfolk State University, with a special appearance by noted church musician Carl W. Haywood. In addition, there will be live readings of King’s speeches, including his “I have a dream” speech, by Ronald Crutcher, president emeritus of the University of Richmond. A reception will follow.

All Saints – All Saints, Pasadena, California, on Jan. 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. will be the site of a daylong community reading of King’s speeches, sermons and writings entitled “Let Freedom Ring.” Anyone can take part either as a reader or listener, and texts will be available in English and in Spanish. The event will be livestreamed.

St. David’s – St. David’s, Bronx, New York, will host the annual Bronxwide King celebration on Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. New York Bishop Coadjutor Matthew F. Heyd will celebrate and preach.

St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s – St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan, will be the site for the 21st annual Detroit MLK Day Rally and March on Jan. 15 from noon to 3 p.m. Invited speakers include U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents Michigan’s 12th district, and United Auto Workers International President Shawn Fain.

St. Peter’s – St. Peter’s, Hebron, Connecticut, will host a dinner and reading of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on Jan. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. Discussion and reflections will follow, and pre-registration is required.

In addition, the Rev. Mary Frances Curns, priest-in-charge at All Saints Berkshires in Adams, Massachusetts, will receive the Peacemaker Award given annually as part of the Northern Berkshire MLK Day of Service on Jan. 15 beginning at 9:30 a.m. The award recognizes someone who has contributed substantially to peace in the region. Curns’ nomination for the award noted her leadership of the church’s tent ministry and her collaboration with other area Christians to address community needs.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.