By Jason Redick
I took my seat on the bus, excited to take the journey to Memphis, Tenn. The distance from Holy Covenant UMC in Texas to Centenary UMC is 453 miles, but that’s if you’re driving straight there. Like most journeys in life, this trip was longer than I expected. It started last January, when I attended my first Civil Rights Bus Tour, a weekend-long tradition for UMC Churches (primarily with youth) in the Dallas area. Reading and reflecting on “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail” cast a vision and drive within me that altered the course of my life in ministry for the past year. To arrive at Centenary UMC was a full circle experience. After his days with more notable campaigns in places like Selma and Birmingham, it was his efforts with the sanitation workers that drew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. Dr. King’s insistence on freeing the oppressed and liberating the marginalized drew him beyond work for racial justice, it moved him to work for people of all races, creeds, and classes. Where would this newfound inspiration lead me on this weekend that celebrates his birth?
In the summer of 2014, I was arrested in front of the White House as part of a non-violent act of civil disobedience to urge President Obama to end deportations of undocumented immigrants. For me, my inspiration was long and transformational relationships that date back 10 years with undocumented immigrants who have lived the American dream, yet continue to live in fear. During my time in D.C., I spent time in meditation at Dr. King’s memorial on the mall, drawn to quotes around it. I felt sure Dr. King would stand in solidarity with our action. This was not the only event that Dr. King inspired me to attend.
In the early part of the fall, I joined fellow Holy Covenant members as they marched in Dallas’ Gay Pride Parade. For me, the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ community by the Church stands in contrast to God’s love for all. By marching in the parade we are now able to say that there’s a small United Methodist Church in Carrollton, Texas, that has open doors! Many know that Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, has become a advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people, and, I believe, Dr. King would have joined her. The diversity present at the parade would have surely put a smile on Dr. King’s face. If only that diversity were present in our law enforcement offices and field.
Of course the recent events in Ferguson and other communities facing racial injustices by local police departments would have been an area that Dr. King would focus on. I can remember attending the various rallies and marches here in Dallas. The frustration and anger present at these events was something that Dr. King would have been accustomed to in his time, but it was new for me. Dr. King’s work is now being replicated, in a smaller scope, across the country; the commitment and drive it takes to sustain such a movement is incredible, but our will is strong.
To some, these various actions and events might seem disconnected. Supporters of one cause may cringe at the mention of another cause. But to me, my work in ministry is all connected. For it was Dr. King who said, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
When we pulled up to Centenary UMC in Memphis this past Sunday, I felt like I knew Dr. King in a more real way. Rather than an uncomfortable call to action, his words that I encountered throughout the weekend became nourishment for my soul–support and encouragement in this journey towards justice for all.
Jason Redick is a youth minister with Holy Covenant UMC. Jason will participate in GCORR’s January Twitter Chat on Jan. 22 at 9 p.m. EST.