As St. Louisans gather Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Christ Church Cathedral is inviting the community to join a day-long reading of his speeches and letters from the ornate pulpit where he delivered a Lenten sermon 50 years ago.
This is the fifth year that Christ Church has held the community reading but the first time that participants will stand in the pulpit where King stood, said the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of the cathedral, who believes in the power of “everyone’s voices.”
“We have this idea that the great people in history were somehow something else: ‘They were better than we are. They were more capable. They were more gifted. We couldn’t possibly do that,’ " Kinman said. “There is such power in someone who might think, ‘I could never do something’ standing where he stood and saying the words that he said. If those words can come out of their mouths here than those words can come out of their mouths outside of this place. And they can be agents of change wherever they are.’’
On March 23, 1964, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,200 packed the cathedral at 1210 Locust St. to witness the young president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference preach at a noonday Lenten service sponsored by the Metropolitan Church Federation. Another 500 people could not get in to the church that Monday afternoon, according to an account published the next day by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
King, then 35, told the congregation that African-Americans would achieve equality only if they supported freedom for the whole human race. He urged them to avoid “second-class methods to attain first-class citizenship.”
St. Louis civil rights activist Norman Seay joined King at the cathedral. It was seven months after King’s now-iconic “I Have A Dream” speech on the National Mall in Washington. He had been named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine, and later that year he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The newspaper noted that he was well-guarded by St. Louis plainclothes police officers with walkie-talkie radios who accompanied him to his appearances. It was his third visit to the city in 10 months.
That evening, King spoke to a meeting of more than 600 at the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church on Washington Avenue where more than $1,500 was collected to help rebuild African-American churches burned during the strife of the civil rights movement. At a press conference, King talked about boycotting industries that were discriminating in their hiring practices.
The public is invited to stop by and listen -- or volunteer to read -- any time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday. The event is free and open to the public. Kinman has filled a binder with King’s writings, and people can volunteer to read at any point during the day. Shift leaders will be on hand to coordinate the readers.
Kinman said the event is designed to counter what he calls a “poverty of reflection” in this country.
“What we wanted to provide was an opportunity for people to come and maybe sit for five minutes -- but maybe sit for two hours. And to let the broad scope of his words sweep over them and to have a chance to really sit with those words and have those words sit with them,’’ Kinman.
Other events in honor of Dr. King include:
Findings of 2012 Missouri Civic Health Assessment
What: Forum to discuss finding of a study that looked at social capital, nonpolitical civic participation; political participation and confidence in institutions.
When: 8-11:30 a.m.
Where: Center for Global Citizenship, West Pin Gym building, Saint Louis University
Cost: Free but registration required at www.stlvolunteer.org/MLK
Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Celebration
What: Attorney Wayne C. Harvey has the keynote address. Activities include performances by Tony Artz, Young Artists for Peace and Justice, Interfaith gospel and spiritual music by Just Friends and New Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church Chancel Choir
When: 8:30-10 a.m.
Where: Farrell Auditorium, St. Louis Art Museum
Cost: Free, but registration needed at 314-655-5444
What: 6-block walk, video, readings, address by Herman Shaw, president of Lincoln School Alumni Foundation
When: Gather 6:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Walk, 7 p.m.
Where: Start at Main and Seminary streets to Bert’s, 101 East Main St., Collinsville
I May Not Get There With You
What: A multimedia MLK commemoration
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Lee Auditorium, Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere
The Greatness of God's Children
What: Bishop Geoffrey Dudley Sr., will speak and music will be provided by Daland Jones
When: 3 p.m.
Where: Christ Church, 339 Frank Scott Parkway East, Fairview Heights
Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
What: Mass, followed by “Model of Justice” awards to 33 high school students
When: 2:30 p.m.
Where: Cathedral Basilica, 4431 Lindell Blvd.
Reading the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust St.
What: Wes Moore, author of "The Other Wes Moore" gives keynote address. Music and other performances will be presented as well as a separate children’s program.
When: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Where: Touhill Performing Arts Center, 1 University Drive, UMSL
What: Speech by Michel Martin of NPR
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Eric P. Newman Center, 320 S. Euclid Ave., Washington University School of Medicine
Cost: Free but call 314-362-6854 to reserve a space.
Day of Service
What: Foundations of money management hosted by The Bridge Program followed services led by the Rev. Starsky D. Wilson featuring the Normandy High School Chorale
When: 12:30-3:30 p.m. Money Management; 3:30 services
Where: Centenary Church, 1610 Olive St.
Information: Facebook page
When: 4 p.m.
Where: St. Stanislaus, 1413 N. 20th St.
The Prophetic Voice
What: Speakers and music
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Graham Chapel, Washington University
A Call to Serve
What: Ecumenical service, address by Collinsville School Superintendent Robert Green
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Collinsville First United Methodist Church, 207 W. Church St.
Let Freedom Ring: A Dream Realized
What: Celebration, address by Rev. Kendall Granger
Where: New Life Community Church, 1919 State St., East St. Louis