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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Service of Worship and Celebration
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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Service of Worship and Celebration
Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church, UCC January 19, 2015

Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church, UCC
800 East 156th Street
Bronx, NY 10455

We filled the sanctuary of this dynamic church for a service in which every element was in both Spanish and English.  The service was coordinated by Rev. Cheri Kroon of the Metro Association Justice Committee.  Our preacher was Rev. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church.

Our call to worship
Our call to worship

Our responsive call to worship was led in English by Rev. Emily Brown of Judson Memorial Church and in Spanish by Rev. Vanessa Cardinale of Trinity Lutheran Church in Sunset Park.

We gather today before God.
        Nos unimos hoy ante Dios.
We gather today to worship the One who loves us into being.
        Nos unimos hoy a adorer a El que nos ama en la creacion.

Rev. Freeman Palmer, Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Development for the NY Conference UCC led us in prayer.


Somos uno en Cristo
Somos uno en Cristo

“We Are All One in Christ”, “Somos uno en Cristo”, our hymn of praise, began slowly – and rose in fervor and speed with the leadership of Santiago Rodriguez, the talented musician from Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church.


Ravi Ragbir
Ravi Ragbir
Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Movement, http://www.newsanctuarynyc.org/, reminded us that 2,000,000 persons have been deported in the last two years.  New Sanctuary provides a space of safety and security to undocumented immigrants in the NYC metropolitan area.  One of its services is to accompany immigrants to their check-ins, a service for which volunteers are sought.

Ragbir introduced one of the men New Sanctuary has helped – a man who left Mexico for what he hoped would be a better life in the United States.  He said that freedom to migrate is a basic human right, yet “the fear of being caught is always with me.” “We are a country of immigrants, and all immigrants are consumers who help advance our country’s economy.”

Rev. Schaper’s sermon, “Write the Vision, Make it Plain” began with a reminder that Jesus is the one who refused to have an enemy.  He also understood the fantasies of peace:  “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”  Said Schaper, “I want to bring Jesus into this leaderless mess we call New York City.  I want to invite his refusal to have an enemy into the audacity of those who think they are too big.”

Schaper said she thinks that Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s recent editorials in the New York Daily News make Dolan “too big” and urged us to read these pieces to make our own evaluation.  (Excerpts from the sermon she delivered on January 19 appeared on the editorial page of the Daily News on Sunday, January 18.)

Schaper urged us to seek the kind of unity Jesus sought – a unity where everybody at the table was a host and everybody was a guest, in a place where the power differentials were recognized, not minimized.

Donna Schaper
Donna Schaper

In the middle of Schaper’s sermon a woman in the congregation rose to say repeatedly, “We want justice; we want justice.  We know a murder when we see it.”  As the woman spoke, Schaper came down from the pulpit to the floor of the sanctuary where she acknowledged that we get angry when we see the opportunities to be against someone multiply while the opportunities to be for something seem to be radically decreasing.

She concluded with a plea for us to follow Jesus and refuse to have an enemy.  “If you are white, understand that we have heart disease.  We have chosen our own to win the prizes.  And we don’t even know we were doing it.  We need spiritual angioplasty, the kind Dr. King performed, unsuccessfully to date, on the nation.  We need our arteries opened up.”


From the slide show
From the slide show

Rev. Tom Martinez presented a slide show of pictures he had taken of our Association and of advocacy efforts in the metro area, plus one picture taken outside the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Because another person helped by the New Sanctuary movement was unable to come (she was taking her son to the doctor), Rev. Kroon gave a brief outline of difficulties this woman faces.  A harsh example is the woman’s report that she was grateful she needed surgery, “for they have to take off my security bracelet for the surgery.”  Thankfully, the bracelet was not replaced after the surgery.  The woman comes to the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church once each week for a meal and twice each week for food from the pantry.  She is one of the 2,000 – 3,000 persons fed each week at this church.  She is also supported by the Judson Memorial Church congregation.


Our Offerings
Our Offerings

Reginald Brantley led us in the call to our offering and urged us to find a place to offer ourselves to support immigrants – with our volunteering, with our financial support, with our advocacy.


Danilo LaChapel
Danilo LaChapel

Danilo LaChapel, who oversees the eight programs which compose “Give Them To Eat” at the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church, spoke about how he was drawn to the United Church of Christ by its struggles for justice.  He gave special thanks to those past and present in the Metro Association, including Michael Caine, Anthony McFarlane and Cheri Kroon.

CB Stewart closed worship with thanks to the organizers and then led us in singing Happy Birthday to organizer Cheri Kroon.


With them, “We Shall Overcome”
With them, “We Shall Overcome”

For the closing hymn, “We Shall Overcome”, the children who had been making crafts, joined us in the sanctuary, after which we were treated to a bountiful lunch and three workshops:

  • Economic needs of immigrants – jobs
  • How to get involved in supporting immigrants
  • How to become someone who accompanies immigrants to their check-ins





Reported by Lucy Werner
Photos by Tom Martinez, John Werner, Lucy Werner





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