Residents nearly filled pews of Conley’s United Methodist Church Jan. 20 to hear the message in observation of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday worship service.
‘50 Years: I Have A Dream – Remembering the Past, Planning the Future,’ is a theme enthusiastically explored by the Rev. Dr. Patricia Green and energetically praised by the congregation.
Before Green took the lectern, Charlotte Johnson’s vocal solo brought to their feet people who were no longer satisfied swaying side to side or rocking in their seats.
“He is the joy of my salvation, he is the peace of my life. Lift up your hands all ye people,” Johnson sang, and they did, many saying “Yes, Jesus, halleluiah!”
Green, pastor of Mount Enon Baptist Church in Milford, has been in that church’s pulpit for 40 years.
“We did not come to worship Dr. King today. But if Martin could look down on us today, what do you think that he would say? You can’t see from where I’m standing, but I see light skin and dark skin and all kinds of skin. Come on ya’ll,” Green said, further encouraging already enthusiastic applause.
She said in 1963, when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, it was neither the beginning nor the end of racial strife in America.
“There will be no rest until what we’re assigned to do has come to pass. Now is the time to rise from the darkness into the light, and so with that I present to you my thoughts,” Green preached.
To understand America’s plight today, requires looking back far beyond the 1960s, she said.
“Martin had the dream, but God had the plan,” she said. Green said God gave man freedom to choose and with it came the responsibility of knowing good from evil.
Because God had made man in his likeness, she said, “God said, ‘I’ve got broad shoulders, and no matter what my man does, he’ll always be my man.’”
“When man became civilized,” Green said, “God had a plan. So to work his plan he uses man. He always uses man. He had a plan for a land flowing with milk and honey. A land with freedom and where multiple races could stay and live together.”
She said man built the Tower of Babel and God knocked it down, scattering mankind. She said God later decided to reunite mankind. “Let’s make us a nation where a man can come and be free; let’s make us America,” Green said.
She said based on African culture, God chose Africans to build America but he didn’t intend for them to come here aboard slave ships.
“But you see, even with the harsh way they were brought here, even with the harsh treatment, they were able to come here and build this country.
“Do your history. Go to Washington, D.C., and see who set it up. Look at what he used and how he used it. We would all be together and be free,” she preached, stomping her foot highlighting each word in the sentence.
She said annually around this time of King observations, people think about what’s happening in the White House.
“It bothers me that we don’t think about what’s happening at the church house,” Green said.
She said blacks built Washington, D.C., but, she said, many black Americans have lost their way and seem to have forgotten history.
“Remember the past. We’re not on a slave ship, we’re not in substandard schools with excellent teachers, we’re not with the colored signs, we’re not with the hangings or the lynchings, we’re not in a church being burned, we’re not in prison.
"Martin came to investigate and instigate the methods of freeing us. It was God’s plan, not Martin’s. He came with the dream, but God came with the plan.”
She said because man has choices, he sometimes chooses poorly.
“Because of choices, Martin’s life was ended. It was choices that God allowed us to make. Many things happened that we can’t explain, but we can’t hide behind the fact that God gave us choices," she said.
Green said many black Americans have been educated and are living in fine homes but have forgotten about those with no education and those who are living in shacks.
“The only time you should look down on a man is when you’re reaching down to help him up,” she said.
“Instead of fighting against it, we’ve joined in it. We’ve allowed our children to become bullies. The hills will be cut down, the valley exalted,” she said.
As the collection plates passed, Green asked churchgoers “How many of you remember when you didn’t have anything to give? How many remember when somebody gave you something to give?” The choir broke into the up-tempo song “Hosanna! Blessed Be the Rock of My Salvation.”
“We cannot rush God. When he comes, he is always on time. We’re thankful when he shows up, and I declare he has already shown up,” Green said.
Smith-Burton receives award
Minnie Smith-Burton is this year’s recipient of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luthur King Jr. Celebration Organization of Sussex County Community Service Award,
The elegantly attired Smith-Burton received the award to thunderous applause. A lifelong teacher, Smith-Burton helped found The Community of Hebron Road organization, which later became West Rehoboth–West Side New Beginnings Inc.
She is a native of Clinton, N.C., and she received a degree in education from Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, N.C., and taught in the state until coming to Delaware about 60 years ago.
Smith-Burton is a lifelong member of Friendship Baptist Church in Lewes, a member of the Sunshine Circle Club, Delta Kappa Gamma Education Society, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Organization of Sussex County.
She retired in 1985 after teaching for many years in the Cape Henlopen School District. She and husband Charles Burton live in Rehoboth Beach.