By Fred Koenig
Martin Luther King Jr. Day takes on a life of its own in many areas, as community organizers work to insure that the day isn’t just a day off. In Columbia, St. Luke UMC is a central part of the civic activities.
The day starts off with an event called the “Poor People’s Breakfast.” The event at T&H restaurant, and when the restaurant went out of business it was moved to St. Luke’s UMC. It’s a free breakfast that a committee puts on for anyone who wants to attend. The breakfast is organized by Almeta Crayton’s Community Programs.
Kentrell Minton, Crayton’s son, said everyone is there to have a good time. He pointed out social service workers and personnel from the Veteran’s Administration who were available to make contacts with people in need of assistance, and he encouraged everyone to extend good will.
“Let’s help each other get through 2015,” he said. “We want you to share your concerns here like you are sitting around your own kitchen table.”
St. Luke UMC Pastor Raymond Hayes was at the breakfast to kick things off. The past year was a tough one on Hayes. He had a stroke in May, which kept him out of the pulpit through September. He also lost three of his sisters. He has resumed his duties as pastor, and was at the breakfast when it started.
Hayes wasn’t the only pastor present, Rob Stewart, pastor of North St. UMC in Marshall and Elmwood UMC was there. In addition to sharing in the spirit of the day, Stewart had another reason to be out in the community – he was collecting signatures to run for Columbia City Council.
That evening, people gathered at Douglas High School, which was the African American school during the time of segregation. It now serves as a high school for at-risk students. Organizer James Gray began the march with a call for unity.
“We’ve come a long way, but have a long way to go,” he said. “There will be no black and white in heaven. Let’s come together for our children. Let’s come together for our schools. Let’s come together for our community. Let’s come together as one.”
People marched from there to St. Luke UMC carrying candles, and then participated in a service. The ecumenical service was organized by members of the Dr. M.L.K. Association. St. Luke UMC hosted the first service 42 years ago.
In addition to its role hosting civic events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, St. Luke UMC had just completed a busy Christmas season of community hospitality.
“We had a very successful Christmas dinner,” Hayes said. There were 80 people fed at the church, and 150 meals were delivered, including 53 to the homeless shelter.