Thursday, January 19, 2006

King Fling I

Jeff St's own Michael Westmoreland-White reports on this year's King Fling:

This was the third time I have been part of a regional gathering of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, as opposed to our annual national summer gatherings ("peace camp"). Several years ago, when we were trying to strengthen the regional networks in the BPFNA, First Baptist Church of Granville, OH hosted a weekend gathering for BPFNA folk from Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. It was exciting and I remember learning things from our 2 ecumenical guests (a Quaker minister from the pastoral tradition of Friends and a Catholic priest whose job was to report on all things Baptist for the Vatican!) that stick with me to this day. But the event seemed to be a singular occurrence. Nor did I notice other regions copy it.

Then, last January, FBC Granville again hosted a regional gathering. This was the first "King Fling"--a regional BPFNA gathering centered around the MLK,Jr. national holiday and attempting to celebrate Dr. King's legacy in a more responsible way than the wider culture does. Most of those gathered were from Ohio, but several of us from KY showed up. We focused on Dr. King's "World House" vision as recounted in the last chapter of Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (Incidentally, this is THE book of Dr. King's that I would require of every U.S. citizen, and every serious Christian peacemaker. THIS is the challenge from King's final year of life that we are so very far from facing. This is the radical King, so far from the tamed and watered down King of national memory/amnesia, that we desperately need to hear in our day. THIS was the vision that led to his assassination, I am convinced.)

This year the King Fling was held in Louisville, KY. It was hosted by Crescent Hill Baptist Church and co-sponsored by CHBC, Highland Baptist Church, and Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty (my own church)... Many strong BPFNA members and supporters have been associated with CHBC, including Glen Stassen, Darrell Adams, the late Henlee Barnette, and the late, much-missed Sam Adams. This weekend's hosting of the King Fling could start CHBC on the road to greater involvement in BPFNA. There was strong interest among the Social Justice ministry and pastor Greg Pope in CHBC's becoming a partner-congregation.

The other co-sponsoring churches also have long BPFNA connections. Jeff Street is the only current partner congregation in KY and Highland has many individual members and gives much support. But we had attendees from other Louisville churches (I noted some from Broadway BC and from Deer Park BC) and from churches in Ohio (FBC Granville, Peace Community Church in Oberlin, FBC Dayton, University BC in Columbus), Indiana (Tom and Mary Jane Coursen from Indiana First Church of the Brethren), and Tennessee (Paul and Nancy DeKar from Prescott Memorial BC in Memphis).


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