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Minnesota Historical Society, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Minnesota Historical Society, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Making the ‘Dream’ a reality: Why churches should celebrate MLK Day


The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief in a 'beloved community' — a community characterized by justice, equality, and love — was deeply rooted in his Christian faith. 

King was mindful of the power and responsibility of the church in healing the divides of society. He was also well aware of challenges hindering churches themselves. On March 31, 1968 — only days before his assassination — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. uttered these words in a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.: “We must face the sad fact that at eleven o’clock on Sunday morning when we stand to sing ‘In Christ there is no East or West,’ we stand in the most segregated hour of America.”1 

As United Methodists, our foundational belief in the sacred worth of all persons compels us to "work toward societies in which each person's value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened" (Social Principles, The Social Community, "Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons," United Methodist Book of Discipline).

Acknowledging, celebrating and discussing MLK day is a step forward in the pursuit of this belief. As Bishop Woodie White says in his 2017 letter to King, "Our goal... is not merely a better, more just America. We Christians strive for a more beloved community, for what we sometimes call the reign of God."

Below you will find resources to help you commemorate and celebrate the MLK holiday in your congregation.

1Becoming an Anti-Racist Church: Journeying toward WholenessJoseph Barndt (Augsburg Fortress, 2011), p. 1.


Social media graphics celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s tireless advocacy for equality was shaped by the biblical witness of justice and compassion. Today, we honor his legacy and remember the work yet to be done. Read More

Bishop Woodie White composes his annual letter to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in advance of the civil rights leader's Jan. 15 birthday. The 2009 letter, his 33rd, celebrates Barack Obama’s election as the first black American president of the United States of America. Now retired and serving as bishop-in-residence at United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, White was the first top staff executive of The United Methodist Church's racial equality monitoring agency, the Commission on Religion and Race. A UMNS Video image. Photo #090022. Accompanies UMNS story #014. 1/13/09.

Bishop Woodie White’s 2017 letter to Martin Luther King Jr.

In his annual birthday letter King, Bishop Woodie White urges striving for a more beloved community in the face of exclusiveness and division. Read More

The Lorraine Motel (now a museum) is the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D., Creative Commons, 2012.

James Lawson: Befriending James Earl Ray After MLK’s Death

A United Methodist pastor and close friend of Martin King's explains why he reached out to the man accused of killing the civil rights icon. View

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington was dedicated by President Obama on Oct. 16, 2011. A UMNS photo courtesy of Maile Bradfield. Accompanies UMNS story #018. 1/13/12.; A UMNS photo by Maile Bradfield

Resources for Martin Luther King Day

Churches and individuals can honor the civil rights leader and learn more through prayers, articles, and quick links to historic information. Read More

Ronald Southall joins in the singing during worship service at First Grace United Methodist Church. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.; A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

Would Martin Luther King Jr. be right today?

Is the worship hour on Sunday still the most segregated time in America, as Martin Luther King Jr. noted, or are we entering an era of change? Read More

Different hands hold up the Cross and Flame of The United Methodist Church. Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

25 ways to affirm diversity

Find insightful ideas for promoting a culture of acceptance and justice in your church. Read More

3 ways to boost giving, increase diversity and glorify God

Most giving campaigns are geared towards a narrow demographic, but research shows us that this could be a major flaw. Learn how to increase diversity and giving for the glory... Read More