Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY People of Colors Sing Praise, Pray and Share in the Dream White, Black Churches Unite to Honor Message

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY People of Colors Sing Praise, Pray and Share in the Dream White, Black Churches Unite to Honor Message

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler, Times-Union staff writer

The crowd sat and hummed quietly as the soft chimes of Amazing Grace were played by the St. Paul's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church's bell choir.

Then the Hope Chapel Christian Assembly choir broke into several gospel tunes, including Total Praise and Rock Angels. And many in the crowd stood and danced.

The contrasts in the two musical groups were as apparent as the churchgoers who came to St. Paul's in Jacksonville Beach yesterday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

They came together as one to pray and further a unity project that began five years ago.

The project, Reconcile Jacksonville Beaches, combines the congregations of the predominantly white St. Paul's church and the St. Andrew African Methodist Episcopal Church. Yesterday's service, which drew about 250 people, is one of several annual events involving the two churches, including social events.

"You get to know each other as human beings," said Mike Borno, a St. Paul's member who organized the event. "This [yesterday's service] strengthens and brings forward his [King's] message so that we all appreciate what he lived for and what he died for."

Those attending the two hours of song, speeches and prayer said they were happy to celebrate King's birthday together.

During the service, King's voice, heard in tape-recorded excerpts of his sermons, echoed off the walls of the large sanctuary. At one point, two white youths and two black youths took turns reciting parts of King's famous I Have a Dream speech.

"It shows that we may have different skin color and different personalities, but we can survive together," said Mable Bass, 62, who attends St. Andrew. "I think it's important to show the unity between the communities."

Frances Wiggins, 75, of St. Paul's, said such events help promote racial harmony in the Jacksonville area.

"It's one of my favorite things. I come every year," Wiggins said. …

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