A dialogue to honor MLK
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the foundation for a spirited evening of “getting to know each other” and “communication” at the Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church on Sunday, Jan. 15.
The gathering was part of the nationwide America’s Sunday Supper, promoted by United Methodist Communications and the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
Forty people gathered at our church for its version of America’s Sunday Supper and spent two hours learning more about each other and perhaps, a little more about each of themselves as a way to honor the birth and life of Dr. King.
Members of the CEUMC congregation joined with members of the Hope Gate Way United Methodist Church in Portland, along with guests from the Greater Portland community, to find a common means of communication to better understand our similarites in our shared society.
Following a welcome from Rev. Ruth Morrison, event organizer Steve Hill launched an exercise to help everyone better understand each other’s common threads. After pulling everyone together into a large circle, Steve began calling out general questions, such as “Do you speak a language other than English?” Anyone who could answer yes was invited to join inside the circle and offer a high-five to anyone else who could answer yes to that question. Other subjects for the sharing experience were “Are you a happy person?” “Are you an only child?” Have you broken a bone in your body?” “Have you marched in a parade?”
It turned out to be a perfect ice-breaking exercise and opened the door to acknowledging each other’s interests and backgrounds.
Following a half-dozen questions and the corresponding high-five responses, the overall group was broken into three smaller groups with each being sent to a different part of the church. This is when a more thought-provoking dialogue began.
Each group was given a suggested list of topics to discuss and there was plenty of freedom to take each discussion in any direction. The groups opened their discussions with the simple question “Where were you born and when?” Responses brought forth a clear geographic diversity with people explaining they were from San Diego, Chicago, Minnesota, Seattle, Florida, Boston, and, of course, right here in Maine. But then there were also people in the groups from Burundi, Moldova, Ethiopia, and Singapore. Those cultural differences led to more discussions, including the realization that there were as many similarites as differences.
Click here to read more of this story and to see more of the images from America’s Sunday Supper in Cape Elizabeth:
In one of the groups, the question was asked, “If you had the power, what one thing would you change in the world?” Almost immediately, responses focused on food — the availability, distribution and waste.
“When you come to this country from another part of the world,” one of the participants said, “the perception is that there aren’t hungry and sick people living here. When you’re from outside this country, you don’t hear about homelessness and poverty. But once you begin to live here, it’s amazing how quickly that perception changes.”
Continuing on the subject of food, another person concluded, “There clearly is enough food to distribute throughout the world, but there are choke points that get in the way — intentional choke points. That’s where the injustice comes in. It’s very clear that 1 percent of the population controls far too much and that’s social injustice.”
In another group, the topic was education. “Learning is knowledge and power,” one participant said. “When you put an emphasis on learning — really learning — that’s where true power comes from.”
The subject of freedom of religion and faith surfaced as another topic when the discussion focused on dreams for the future. “All dreams, all we wish for comes from how we rely on God and Jesus,” one person said. “You live you life , you build your life from what you read in the Bible. That’s the future.”
In the same group, another reponse for “dreams for the future” delve into our carelessness with the environment and what will happen if we don’t change our ways.
Thoughts for dreams was the closing discussion for the group sessions and event organizer Steve Hill pointed to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence as his final thought: “Our future should be life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
There were many shaking of heads in agreement.
In addition to the group discussions, the evening included a poignant video on the life and quotations of Dr. King, scripture reading of Amos 5:24 and Genesis 37: 19-20 and hymn singing, including “We Shall Overcome.”
And appropriately, the evening with the theme “America’s Sunday Supper” ended with supper for all — pizza and salad — and a group prayer for having brought everyone together — to learn more about each other and communicate what was learned.
In conclusion, Steve Hill, the event organizer and church lay leader, talked about “the amazing path everyone has followed to join us here tonight.” And to emphasize that thought, Natalie Charles drew one final conclusion: “I would like to see us do this again”
Until next time . . .
Here are some more images from America’s Sunday Supper at the Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church: