Ebenezer Baptist Church

On this MLK Day, Remember to Honor His Mother

by kvscott

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

It was King’s mother, Alberta Christine Williams whose family tree would influence her son’s destiny. Her father, the Rev. Albert Daniel Williams was the son of a slave preacher. It was his destiny to take over the troubled Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, with just 13 members and no permanent structure for services. It was her father who would inspire a congregation and fill up the pews. After his death, her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. would become Pastor, eventually succeeded by her son, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. While away at Crozer Theological Seminary, King wrote:

“Your letter was received this morning. I often tell the boys around the campus I have the best mother in the world.”

[Continue reading article in its entirety at Me and My 1000 Girlfriends, That’s Who!]

Is Your Heart Right?
  • Is Your Heart Right?
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • 1968 Unfulfilled Dreams Sermon
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The Day Martin Luther King Spoke to Me as a Failed Man 

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Rarely are larger-than-life historical figures relatable as human beings. For me, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a character of history books and film strips. A man to be admired for his empowering speeches and his inspirational marches. Although I knew he was a towering preacher, a man of God, I never thought of him as a person wrestling with his own weaknesses, grappling with his own frailties and contradictions.

That is, until I heard this part of his “Unfulfilled Dreams” sermon (audio above) given in the final months of his life:

"The question I want to raise this morning with you: Is your heart right? If your heart isn’t right, fix it up today. Get God to fix it up. Get somebody to be able to say about you, "He may not have reached the highest height, he may not have realized all of his dreams, but he tried." Isn’t that a wonderful thing for somebody to say about you? "He tried to be a good man. He tried to be a just man. He tried to be an honest man. His heart was in the right place." And I can hear a voice saying, crying out through the eternities, "I accept you. You are the recipient of my grace because it was in your heart! And it is so well that it was within thine heart."

 I don’t know this morning about you, but I can make a testimony. You don’t need to go out this morning saying that Martin Luther King is a saint. Oh, no. I want you to know this morning that I’m a sinner like all of God’s children! But I want to be a good man! And I want to hear a voice saying to me one day, “I take you in and I bless you, because you try. It is well that it was within thine heart.” What’s in your heart this morning? If you get your heart right.”

 For a man without religious convictions or a spiritual mooring, I heard a sermon in that moment that spoke to my own vulnerabilities as a husband and a father, as a son and a friend. And he does it in the most honest way: by asking, at least in my hearing, for understanding and forgiveness from his congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church — the church his father founded — in Atlanta, Georgia.

You see, I’ve never been all that comfortable with the language of sin. It’s often wielded as weapon in one’s quest for a supernatural resting place. So often this language strips a man of his dignity, makes him feel small, inconsequential, a cog in a nasty machine.

But Dr. King in this sermon elevates the human spirit by making himself vulnerable. The language of sin is human frailty united with goodness and desire. We long to be more than we are, and stumble many times along the way. Dr. King expresses that goodness and frailty inside all of us. He points the finger at himself. He holds my hand and says come walk beside me and take stock of your life. He tells me not to shrink but to acknowledge, repent, and stride forward. He lets me know that being one of the fallen is to be a divine creature. He lets me know that striving to be a good man, a good father, a good husband, is part of the journey — that one’s quest to be more than his basest self is redeeming, and flawed.

Dr. King’s context was the 60s and civil rights. You hear a gentle leader at his most prescient; he would be killed a month later in Memphis, Tennessee. The tension and anxiety in this sermon are palpable, thick with a foreboding awareness that his life’s work would be coming to an end.

His legacy today endures in so many ways. But, for me, it’s the preacher in the pulpit who called me back to my own humanity, rescuing me from abject despair. In that moment one spring night several years ago, he reminded me, “It’s alright. Keep on trying.” I want to be a good man.

Our colleagues next door at American RadioWorks just released a riveting documentary about the last year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life.

A shooting in a sanctuary

“Atlanta, Ga. - June 30, 1974 - Scene outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church after the shooting of Mrs. Alberta King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr. (Bill Mahan/AJC staff)” Alberta Williams King, 70, who was seated at the church organ playing “The Lord’s Prayer,” was killed, as was Deacon Edward Boykin, 69, by a visitor to the church. A woman in the congregation was wounded. The killer was sentenced to life in prison and he died of a stroke in a Georgia prison cell in 1995.

Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Pastor Raphael Warnock Kicks Off New Baptist Covenant Summit; Challenges Black, White Baptists to Move Beyond Comfort Zones of Race

Pastor Raphael Warnock Kicks Off New Baptist Covenant Summit; Challenges Black, White Baptists to Move Beyond Comfort Zones of Race

Raphael Warnock preaches during the opening session of the New Baptist Covenant Summit in Atlanta. (BNG photo by Bob Allen)

The current pastor of the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr. challenged a movement called the New Baptist Covenant to move beyond comfort zones of race and theology toward a “covenant community” characterized by “creative and redemptive agitation” necessary for…

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MLK’s Mother Was Also Assassinated #BlackHistoryYouDidntLearnInSchool

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Alberta Williams King (left) was assassinated just 6 years after her son Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee. On June 30th, 1974 Mrs. King was playing the organ in Ebenezer Baptist Church – the very church her son was baptized and later became co-pastor in –…

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Vanderbilt Forum to Feature Dr. Raphael Warnock in Discussing the 'The Divided Mind of the Black Church'

Vanderbilt Forum to Feature Dr. Raphael Warnock in Discussing the ‘The Divided Mind of the Black Church’

A Feb. 28 forum on social justice hosted by the Kelly Miller Smith Institute (KMSI) on Black Church Studies at Vanderbilt University will feature the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. (more…)

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Holder announces plan to target racial profiling

ATLANTA (AP) – In the wake of clashes at protests in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says new Justice Department guidance will aim to end racial profiling and ensure fair and effective policing.

Holder said in a speech Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor – that he will unveil details of the plan in the coming days.

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Reverend Raphael Warnock and Eddie Glaude Jr. Discuss Why the Black Church Still Matters In Troubled Times

Reverend Raphael Warnock and Eddie Glaude Jr. Discuss Why the Black Church Still Matters In Troubled Times

A woman raises her hands during an interfaith service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach.
David Goldman/AP

African-American clergy, academics and activists will hold a march on Washington this week, protesting the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City and call on the federal government to intervene in the prosecutions of…

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At home on Auburn Avenue

“Atlanta, Ga. - Jan. 14, 1982 - The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. participates in a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was pastor. (Nick Arroyo/AJC staff) 1982.” Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. was Ebenezer’s third pastor. He took over from the Rev. A.D. Williams in 1931. He also married Williams’ daughter, Alberta. King Sr. retired in 1975. He was a guest preacher from time to time. His last sermon was Jan. 15, 1984. He died on November 11, 1984 at the age of 84.

Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Day 18: All of Atlanta on foot on MLK Day

January 21, 2013

In the grand tradition of perfectly timed (utterly by accident) Walkabout stops (see Jackalope Pub Crawl, Rock Chalk Jayhawk and Mardi Gras), my one day in Atlanta landed on Martin Luther King Day.

Atlanta was in full swing celebrating its favorite son.

My host, Makia, lived in Boston for 7 years, but is an Atlanta native. On top of that that, she is a Spelman alumna, practices medicine at Grady Hospital and teaches at Morehouse School of Medicine. She knows Atlanta like the back of her hand. And she had a full day planned.

I was in great hands.

To kick off the day, we drove in from Decatur and parked at Grady Hospital, which is a short walk from the Sweet Auburn district and the MLK Historic Site at the center of the day’s festivities.

Sweet Auburn is a historic business district filled primarily with black-owned businesses. And there is a lot of history there.

Among other things, we passed the Odd Fellows hall, and Southern Christian Leadership Council’s W.O.M.E.N. Building

…while walking toward Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. followed in Martin Luther King Sr.’s footsteps to become pastor:

Ebenezer is an unassuming place, which makes it feel even more significant and plays directly into a key message of the MLK Historic Site next door. Martin Luther King was a man with an ordinary seeming church who accomplished extraordinary things through force of will, intelligence and belief in himself, his community and his country.

And guess what: you can too!

We went to the museums at the Historic Site next and I overheard 3 or 4 different schoolteachers telling their kids exactly this.

"You can do this. You are your own Martin Luther King."

That’s a powerful message anywhere. In the context of Martin Luther King’s own church on Martin Luther King Day, it was hopeful beyond measure. It got me.

And lest you worry that the spirit of service has been lost in a sea of reverence for MLK, we came across a beautiful community garden called Truly Living Well. Volunteers of all ages everywhere:

Whew…that was just the first two hours. Did I mention that Makia had a full day planned?

Next stop…Five Points and Underground Atlanta:

Underground Atlanta is a subterranean mall right in the middle of downtown. They celebrate Coca-Cola everywhere and Underground Atlanta was no exception. Makia also smoked me at arcade basketball down there. People were laughing at me.

Having spent quite a while in Boston, Makia appreciates walking like I do. Hardly anyone else there does. So we were the weirdos walking everywhere. It was great.

We walked to Centennial Park, World of Coca-Cola ($27 to get in!!!!) where we posed with Coke creator John Stith Pemberton:

We walked to CNN (it was a portrait taking kinda day):

We walked (with some help from MARTA) to Georgia Tech, where they have a marked running trail that is exactly Pi long (buncha nerds (I love it)). We walked to The Varsity and peeked in. We walked to Atlanta University Center, home of Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta University.

Spelman is a historically black women’s college. They are very strict about letting men on campus, so we had to explain to a guard that Makia was showing me the circle (basically the quad) and that she was an alumna. Kinda funny.

Here’s the alumna of the hour:

And here is the archway on the circle:

It is considered bad luck to walk under the archway before graduation, so no one does. Which of course makes it super exciting to get to walk through as a new graduate!

It had been a long day, so on the way home we drove through Little Five Points and the Emory campus and then grabbed a bite to eat in Atlantic Station.

Early to bed my peeps. I had a long one set for Day 19!

To come: Tiny Kathleen, GA, Savannah and an all out ridiculous dinner in Charleston!

States covered:

  • Georgia

States covered total: 18

Eric Holder to Speak at Interfaith Rally and Prayer Service regarding Ferguson at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta

Eric Holder to Speak at Interfaith Rally and Prayer Service regarding Ferguson at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta

V-103 and WAOK will join Pastor Raphael Warnock and Ebenezer Baptist Church at “The Community Speaks ATL” service/forum on Monday, December 1.  All young people in the Atlanta Metro area from high school and college and young adults are invited to participate. (more…)

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