Campus celebrates ‘infinite hope’ at events focused on iconic MLK quote
Annual remembrance of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. brings call to focus on ‘what God is trying to produce.’
Janel Shoun-Smith |
Martin Luther King Jr.’s own words served as the inspiration for Lipscomb’s 2024 celebration of MLK Day. This year two on-campus spiritual services, one for faculty and staff and one for students, are focused on a specific quote from King’s speech made two months before his death: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
During the faculty and staff service, on Jan. 11, a student, staff member, faculty member and leaders of the university reflected on what these words mean to them, sharing various perspectives on how God can turn hardship, turmoil, grief and disappointment into victory.
“Martin Luther King stood as a man who… was willing to go through the pain of the process, because he recognized what God was trying to birth,” said Orpheus Heyward, the guest lecturer for the faculty and staff service and Lipscomb’s faculty affiliate of preaching and Christian leadership. He urged attendees to “pay attention to what God has put inside you because sometimes your discomfort is not predicated on the circumstance but instead is coming from what God is trying to produce. I am hoping and praying that you focus on what God is trying to produce.”
The service also featured a student involvement with a performance by the Lipscomb Gospel Choir and remarks by Janeyah Anderson, a junior who became Lipscomb’s first female African American student body president this past fall. Anderson highlighted how MLK’s words in his speech reflect Biblical principles.
“How comforting it is that as we walk in this fallen world that Jesus has our back,” she said. “That finite disappointment will never be able to overcome the light that Jesus is and the sacrifice he made for us.”
Also speaking was faculty member Pam Scretchen, instructor in Applied Behavior Analysis, who shared how in 1991, at 15 years old, she entered and won first place in the Living the Dream Essay and Speech Contest, sponsored by a business corporation in Racine, Wisconsin.
The prize was a three-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, Georgia, where she visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and spent an afternoon with King’s wife and son, Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King III.
As a sophomore in high school, Scretchen most remembered Coretta Scott King from news photos of her, grief-stricken, at MLK’s funeral, but meeting her in person changed her perspective of what Mrs. King must have been feeling at the time those photos were taken, she said.
“How disappointed she must have been in humanity to have her husband and father of her children ripped away from her by the hand of violence. Yet, in 1991, I experienced her as love, as peace, as tenderness. So today, Coretta Scott King is the blueprint you and me of what it looks like to decide ‘to accept finite disappointment and to decide to never lose hope,” Scretchen said.
Lipscomb’s Martin Luther King Day celebration activities continued on Saturday, Jan. 13, with the MLK Joint Day of Service, during which about 40 Lipscomb students, faculty and staff joined almost 900 from nine Nashville universities to serve throughout the city.
For more than a decade college students from Belmont, Fisk, Lipscomb, Meharry, Nashville State, Tennessee State University, Trevecca and Vanderbilt, as well as other area colleges and universities have joined together in service to honor the life and legacy of MLK.
And on Tuesday, Jan. 16, a special service honoring King will be held for students at their weekly chapel service, The Gathering, featuring various students reading portions of King’s last sermon about the parable of the Good Samaritan. In addition, David Holmes, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, will offer a reflection.
This year continued a long tradition of Lipscomb celebrating MLK Day. Past events have included community forums on social issues and diversity awareness, special appearances by Nashville’s civil rights icons and film showings.
“At Lipscomb, we honor Dr. King’s legacy as a community that is devoted to building a culture of diversity, belonging and unity on campus,” said Lipscomb President Candice McQueen (’96). “We strive to serve all students and to serve each student. Fundamental to Lipscomb’s mission is respect for all persons.”
There is still much work to be done to fully realize King’s dream, she said at the faculty and staff celebration service.
“Dr. King’s legacy, I believe, is not confined to the history books. It’s lived out today in the hearts and minds of those who continue to advocate for justice and equality on a day-to-day basis. This, I believe, is the infinite hope that Dr. King talked about.”