St Margaret's News April 2020 - Page 15

Don Erickson remembers As I write it is the 52nd anniversary of the death of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on 4 April 1968. The day before he was shot, King preached what turned out to be his final sermon. It was a haunting mixture of premonition and confidence: “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. For ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord’.” He sensed the darkness looming. Tomorrow begins Holy Week when the death of our Lord is to our special remembrance. Jesus knew what was before Him and he sought to prepare his disciples. I was studying in the US in1961-63. JFK was President and the Civil Rights Movement was active. Martin Luther King came to preach at Princeton Chapel, the student body gathered and I was among them. He was an impressive orator. I remember he used the story of Rip Van Winkle, a man who went to sleep in British Colonial America and woke 20 years later in Republican United States, to illustrate his theme that America is sleeping through a revolution. The changes to come were radial enough in that community to be called a revolution. At the close of the service, students surrounded Dr. King and I joined them and shook his hand saying that I was from Australia and “God bless your ministry Dr. King.” He said “Thank you.” That was the limit of my conversation with a great man but what a privilege it was. In the summer of 1963 I worked in Arkansas in the Ozark Area Mission based in the College of the Ozarks in the north-west of the state. It was a summer programme of college students and one job I had was to run Vacation Bible Schools south of Little Rock in black churches. I saw first hand segregation and discrimination. The white Presbyterian Churches and the black Presbyterian Churches were of different denominations then still separated from the Civil War. When the news of Dr. King’s death came to Canberra I was a young Presbyterian minister and Chairman of the ACT Churches Council. I contacted Rev Fred McMaster of the Kingston Baptist Church to ar- range a memorial service there. It fell to me to lead the service and the prayers and the preaching was by Rev. Rex Mathias of the National Me- morial Methodist Church and a man from ANU who had worked in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with M.L. King. This 4 th April date and remembrance is special to me. - Don Erickson, 4/4/20 St Margaret’s News 15 April 2020