More than 100 people gathered at our Wisconsin Conference Sixth Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Sunday, January 14 at Brown Deer UMC. Many others also joined via a live stream. John Grisson and Rev. Deborah Thompson, South East District Superintendent, gave opening remarks. The Vocal Jazz Ensemble from Milwaukee School of the Arts performed several songs. Donations were collected for Rising Sun Camp, a ministry that serves school-age children who have an incarcerated parent. Donations cover nearly all of the camp costs for these children. Bishop Hee-Soo Jung introduced the featured speaker, Bishop Melvin Talbert.

The theme of Bishop Talbert’s speech was “A Trustworthy Prophet of the Lord.” Talbert spoke about his time at Gammon Seminary University and his involvement in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. SNCC planned sit-ins throughout the city of Atlanta and invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join them. Bishop Talbert said, “We had trained several hundred young people in nonviolence under John Lewis. When we were arrested, we filled up all the jails in Atlanta, male and female. Some had to be housed at the fairground. I was privileged to be in the same jail cell with Dr. King for three days and three nights. Dr. King took the opportunity to make the jail cell a laboratory for teaching nonviolence. He gained his understanding of the significance of nonviolence from Mahatma Gandhi of India. While many of us were trained not to fight back, we were not ready to face the challenge of accepting white people like Governor George Wallace and Bull Connors as our brothers. But Dr. King took the opportunity to get to know us. He particularly wanted to know our religious affiliation. One day in the midst of our heated discussion, and he allowed for free-for-all, give-and-take on this whole matter of integration, he emphasized again that white people are your sisters and brothers. Then he looked at me and he said, “Talbert you know better because George Wallace is a Methodist.” Indeed, later on I checked and not only was he a Methodist, he served as a delegate to our General Conference. With all of that guile, he was one of our delegates to the General Conference. Yet, he was my brother. He was a child of God. That experience in the same jail cell with Dr. King shaped my life forever. Nonviolence became a way of life for me in all the situations where I served. As Dr. King always said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Thus, I am a disciple of a man who was for me a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. He was an example of one who lived the prophetic teachings of the prophet Micah.”

You can view a video of the entire service here.