Special chapel service includes message from guest preacher Jason A. Barr Jr.
Under a gray morning sky students, staff, and faculty
gathered on the steps of the David Allan Hubbard Library on Wednesday, January
20, to begin a special all-seminary chapel service commemorating the birthday
of Martin Luther King Jr.
Students Bryson White and Joey Novak held signs reading
“Colored” and “Whites Only” as the crowd was directed to segregate themselves.
Friends of different races ceased their small talk and retreated to their
appointed sides to hear chapel intern Aretha Scruggs give a short speech about
Martin Luther King Jr., “a man who had a devout faith in the God of the
impossible.” The crowd then re-integrated, and participants from diverse
ethnicities linked arms, slowly marching toward Travis Auditorium as Scruggs
led the group in singing traditional spirituals of the Civil Rights Movement
such as “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome.”
A powerful feeling of camaraderie and anticipation infused
the room when the marchers gathered in the auditorium and sang “Lift Every
Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem.
Jason A. Barr Jr., senior pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, delivered a message on confronting authority from
Mark 1:21-28. The passage recounts how Jesus, at the beginning of his public
ministry, taught with authority in the temple and cast an unclean spirit out of
a man. “Confronting authority was the essence of the Civil Rights Movement,”
observed Barr. “Martin Luther King Jr. confronted authority on a regular
basis.” Barr pointed out that with the victories of the Civil Rights Movement,
African Americans are now faced with the question, “What happens when those who
confronted authority now become authority?”
Jesus helps us understand power and authority by showing
that “authority is ministry.” Barr emphasized the necessity of community as
well as an empowering word from God in the ministry of authority. “Jesus did
not use his power and authority to control people, but to set them free,” Barr
stated. “When we are allowed access to authority, influence, and affluence, we
have a responsibility to free the oppressed.” Dr. King exemplified this
because, despite his personal comfort and privilege, he “allowed himself to be
part of a movement that would eventually cost him his life.”
To close the service, Aretha Scruggs sang Dr. King’s
favorite song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” while a slideshow displayed
stirring images from the Civil Rights Movement.