Arms linked, Oberlinians both black and white swayed Monday as they sang the protest song “We Shall Overcome,” an anthem of the civil rights movement.
It was a fitting hymn to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr. in what would have been his 90th year.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right,” said Brian Wilbert, rector of Christ Episcopal Church, quoting a speech by King in February 1968 in Washington, D.C.
He said those words still apply 51 years later.
In a prayer, Wilbert called King “God’s prophet” and asked for guidance to follow the civil rights leader’s example.
So began Oberlin’s annual “Rededication to the Dream.”
Since 1991, the city’s people have gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park to commit themselves to the principles of peace and brotherly love espoused by King.
This year, snow and freezing temperatures pushed the Oberlin Area Cooperating Ministries event inside the Mount Zion Baptist Church fellowship hall, where about 150 gathered.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher and prophet, with a dream of justice and peace for all people,” said the Revs. Mary and Steve Hammond.
Those who crowded the hall answered back with King’s words voiced as one: “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Steve Hammond closed with a prayer of thanks for King’s ministry and a plea “for a troubled, troubled world.”
He said only looking to the past helps no one; people everywhere must work together to build a better future.
“We have seen how easily victories can be turned back, how quickly the forces that oppose what Martin Luther King was about will rise when they get the chance,” he said.