By Esther Talbot Fenning St. Charles Post Special Correspondent
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
"I hate your . . . religious festivals . . . burnt offerings . . . noisy songs. Instead let justice flow like a stream and righteousness like a river that never goes dry." Amos 5: 21-24
According to Biblical lore, Amos was one of the first prophets to preach that for God, mercy and justice for the poor and oppressed takes precedence over government heads, religious rituals, and wealth.
The Rev. Alan Meyers, a religion professor at Lindenwood College, suggested that the story of Amos provided a perfect connection with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who would have been 66 on Sunday.
"King is the finest example in living memory of a religious leader who addressed the great public issues of the day from the pulpit. Like Amos, he criticized his society in the name of God," Meyers said. "Today most Americans seem to have forgotten that."
One St. Charles church hasn't forgotten. The Old Testament words of Amos will be read and discussed in a homily by the Rev. Nicholas Smith at 7 p.m. Monday at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 601 North Fourth Street, St. Charles.
The special prayer service is being held to remind people of all denominations to remember King's call for justice and peace.
Calls to 15 area churches indicated that although several - the Salvation Army, United Church of Christ and African Methodist Episcopal churches - have organized regional services in St. Louis this weekend, only Borromeo will observe Martin Luther King Day in St. Charles.
This is the first year Borromeo has commemorated King, Smith said.
"We thought it would be interesting to send out the word to our brothers and sisters and make it an ecumenical gathering - mindful of the fact that we're all called on to work for peace and justice in the world," Smith said.
Some pastors and social activists suggest that many area churches are still wrapping up the Christmas season, while other congregations may be skittish about tackling social issues or too young to appreciate King's contributions.
The Rev. Diane Windler, interim pastor at Grace United Church of Christ in St. Peters, said that although she plans to mention King and the civil-rights movement in her sermon on Sunday, she will not center the service on his life.
"I came here just last week, so I'm still learning my way around. But frankly, there are many preachers who are scared to death to take a political stand in the pulpit," Windler said.
"And it's difficult for us as a society to face the fact that despite so much hard work that was done in the '60s, in civil rights we're still not there," Windler said. "What's really sad is that the white community doesn't seem to claim Dr. King as ours. We give him to the black community, when he is an American hero whose life affected everyone. …