Bethlehem Baptist Church is reaching out to other congregations and residents of Mansfield and South Arlington to join the congregation Sunday for a celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Sandwiched between King’s actual birthday on Thursday and the national observance Monday, Bethlehem’s one-hour event features a speaker on civil rights and a women’s community choir performance, with the theme, “Making the Dream a Reality for All People.”
It’s the 10th annual King birthday event at the 144-year-old church, believed to be the oldest African-American church in Tarrant County.
Pastor Michael Evans said the observances are a good time to evaluate progress and failings in race relations.
“This year is just pivotal, considering all the things that are going on in the country, all the images we are seeing,” Evans said, referring in part to the turmoil over recent police shootings. “We find ourselves right now... in a huge divide. The divide between races, the divide between haves and have-nots.
“One of the things Dr. King tried to do was bring people together under that one common cause,” he added. “And that is justice for all people.”
In that spirit, Evans said, the church, located at 1188 W. Broad Street, is trying to get the word out about the event, which is free and open to the public.
The keynote speaker is Guy Reyes, director of the Christian Life Commission, the public policy agency of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Victoria Dodd, a 13-year Bethlehem member and organizer of its annual King program, also is seeking more women for the choir performance.
“We probably have 50 so far,” Dodd said. “We can take 150 – so we welcome any amount that comes.”
Volunteer singers can call Dodd at (817) 467-9824.
Although the King program is growing, the church’s biggest celebration is its own birthday each July.
“When we do the anniversary,” Dodd said, “it’s a whole weekend affair.”
Dodd said the national holiday for King’s birthday should be more than a day off for schools and governments.
“That’s designated as a day on, not a day off,” she said. “Do something in the community. Check on a neighbor and see if they are OK. Maybe take out their trash, rake some leaves – just something to serve someone and your community.”
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641
Celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday and hopeful message.
Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1188 W. Broad St., Mansfield
5 p.m. Sunday
Call (817) 467-9824 if you want to participate in the women’s community choir that will perform at the event. Volunteers can join as individuals or as part of a small group.. Rehearsals are at 7 p.m. Thursday and 10:30 a.m. Saturday. (Female gender required)