Father Michael Gitner of St. Joseph’s Polish National Catholic Church encouraged people to embrace freedom, justice and to promote love in their everyday lives during a service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday.
Gitner and other members of the Stratford Clergy Association conducted the service at the Stratford United Methodist Church not only to honor Dr. King, but to promote the spirit of peace and generosity.
Referencing a 1954 Dr. King sermon that was read by Rev. Dr. Bob Genevicz of the Stratford Baptist Church earlier in the service, Gitner mused on Dr. King’s sermon of Rediscovering Lost Values.
“Go back to the basic world values,” Gitner said. “Love our God above all things and love our fellow human beings as we are called upon to love ourselves.”
Sunday’s service included little in the way of extemporaneous speeches or sermons. Rather, a choir sang inspirational music in between readings of some of Dr. Kings many writings.
The Rev. Koonae Lee of the Stratford United Methodist Church offered a formal greeting and welcome to those in attendance and Father Bruce Roby of St. James Church offered an opening prayer.
The Rev. Lesley Hay of Christ Episcopal Church offered a reading of Dr. King’s The Most Durable Power sermon and the Rev. Ed Rawls of First Congregational Church read from Dr. King’s Riverside Church speech selections.
Following the reading of a portion of Dr. King’s Nobel Prize Speech offered by Rev. Meg Williams of the Stratford United Methodist Church, a litany was read before the choir and those gathered sang Let There Be Peace on Earth.
During the call for offering, Father Gitner made his remarks and explained the Stratford Clergy Association’s commitment to the spirit of Dr. King.
“For a number of years, the Stratford Clergy Association has been supporting Stratford and Bunnell high schools with scholarships in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said.
Gitner explained how the scholarships at first had been given only to African-American students.
“But then we realized, if we support only African-American students, then perhaps we are not living up to the ideals of Dr. King,” he said. “We have to go beyond that when we talk about equality and when we talk about love in concrete and tangible terms.”
Gitner said that over the years, the scholarships honoring Dr. King have grown to include not only one each for an African-American student per school, but one additional scholarship for ‘any student regardless of race’ per school.
“Hopefully, we the people of Stratford can rediscover lost values, especially the value of love,” he said.
Sunday’s collection will go toward funding the scholarships.
The service closed with the choir and congregation singing We Shall Overcome.