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‘Help make things better,’ urges pastor at Wichita MLK Day celebration (VIDEO)

Lance Watson, senior pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church of Richmond, Va., was the guest speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex. (Jan. 19, 2015)
Lance Watson, senior pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church of Richmond, Va., was the guest speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex. (Jan. 19, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Build a world that lives up to the expectations of your children.

Relate to somebody who has already gone where you want to go.

Stop using your smartphones to talk to dumb people about stupid things.

Lance Watson, senior pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church of Richmond, Va., gave out those words of wisdom and more at the Greater Wichita Ministerial League’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Watson implored the hundreds of people gathered at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex to “get in the fight and help make things better.”

He urged them to follow God because God opens doors.

“God is able to make a way out of no way,” he said. “God still opens doors. Educational doors. Economic doors. God is in the door-opening business.”

Watson noted that many doors today open automatically. At the grocery store, as you step closer to the entrance, the doors open for you.

“That’s just like God,” Watson said. “If we just keep on steppin’, God opens doors miraculously, automatically and generationally.”

God, he said, has “given everybody something to work with.”

Whatever that is, he said in the charismatic sing-song voice of a minister, “you ought to do it, do it, do it until you’re satisfied.”

If you’re a housekeeper, clean it until it sparkles. If you’re a cook, broil, roast, saute or bake it till Julia Childs would approve. If you’re a musician, play the piano, bang the drums or belt it out.

Do your best, and opportunities will come, he said.

But with opportunity comes opposition, he warned, drawing on the history of the civil rights movement as an example.

“Be prepared when your doors open because there will be opposition,” he said. “Your haters are your elevators.”

The crowd clapped and yelled “Amen” in response. “You got that right,” one woman said.

The annual celebration of King, a pastor and icon of the civil rights movement, was peppered with song, Scripture and prayer. The choir, dressed in red and black, swayed and raised their arms during hymns of faith.

They belted it out.

“Today we invite you to celebrate church-style,” said Greater Wichita Ministerial League president Wade Moore Jr., pastor at the Christian Faith Centre, encouraging people to raise their hands, greet their neighbors and rejoice in it.

“You have to understand we’ve been through some stuff,” Moore said. “You have to understand we’re still in the struggle.”

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer encouraged everyone in the crowd to talk to their children about the importance of voting and the sacrifices people made to have the right to vote.

“We have the responsibility to teach them, each and every one of us,” he said. “Exercise the rights that people have given their lives for.”

Brewer also encouraged people to take their children to see the movie “Selma” about King’s march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the march and the Voting Rights Act. Brewer got a laugh from the crowd when he accidentally called the movie “Salem.”

Voting rights were a major force of the civil rights movement. Brewer said there was a time he wouldn’t have been seated in the front row as an elected official.

Today, there is unrest about law enforcement.

Several speakers Monday mentioned the shooting deaths of African-American men by police officers. The Wichita Police Department has committed to outfitting every police officer with body cameras by the end of this year.

The league honored the efforts of the #NoFergusonHere Collaboration – organized after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. – with its Spirit of Unity awards, recognizing pastors Junious Dotson and Kevass Harding.

Mark McCormick, executive director of the Kansas African-American Museum, was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Vision and Dreams Award, which the league gives to someone who represents the vision and dreams of King and helps make the community a better place.

The league gave its president’s award to the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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