Bluefield University held a special chapel service to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 23 which featured a keynote address from Dr. Johnny B. Hill, Dean of Shaw University School of Divinity.
Dr. Lewis Brogdon, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness & Research, opened the chapel service with welcoming remarks. Following the welcoming remarks, Dr. John Moir directed the Bluefield University Variations Chamber Singers in the song “Praise His Holy Name” by Keith Hampton. Moir was accompanied by Alandra Blume Hinkle.
Dr. David Olive bestowed greetings to everyone in attendance on behalf of the University and discussed King’s lasting legacy, saying, “What a wonderful role model we have as we look at a world that is broken and needing healing. He [King] is a wonderful individual that we can look toward and be reminded of what our calling is as faith believers to be living lives that bring reconciliation.”
Brogdon presented two awards to local pastors. Bishop Frederick M. Brown of The Faith Center Church located in Bluefield, W. Va., and Rev. Garry D. Moore, Sr. of Scott Street Baptist Church in Bluefield, W. Va., became the first recipients of Bluefield University’s Community Service and Justice Award.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Johnny B. Hill, spoke to the theme of a world house of Christianity that aims to build bridges of hope, not walls of shame. He emphasized the importance of how globalization leads to a greater awareness of differences.
“The call of Christ is the call of reconciliation,” said Hill during his address.
Hill is the author of “Prophetic Rage: A Postcolonial Theology of Liberation” (Eerdmans Publishers, 2013) and “The First Black President: Barack Obama, Race, Politics, and the American Dream” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He challenged students, faculty, staff, and guests to celebrate differences hand in hand to serve each other daily in humility, service, and sacrifice.
Hill is a passionate advocate for justice, reconciliation, peace, and human rights in America and abroad. Prior to joining the Shaw University family, Dr. Hill served as Department Chair and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He recently held the position as Special Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar in Residence and Dean of The Baptist School of Theology at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Raised on the edge of an old plantation in the back roads of southeast Georgia, Hill is the son of a sanitation worker and mother who nursed the sick and dying of the city’s rest home. Brother of seven sisters and a large extended family, Dr. Hill was nurtured in a culture of love and community, even amid the great struggles of poverty and racial hostility in the post-civil rights south. Continuing the community of love he was raised in, Hill later founded and is the currently President of The World House, an interfaith coalition of faith leaders from diverse religious and cultural traditions working together to continue Dr. King’s dream of racial and economic justice. Drawing from his early life and current experiences, Hill explained how humans are made in the image of God, meaning the substance of who we are is the same.
Dr. Brogdon thanked Dr. Hill on behalf of the campus and closed the service with a lasting thought: “From Matthew 6, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ If we pray that prayer that God will do this for us, not me, I don’t believe heaven will be segregated. It won’t have a class system. If that’s not how heaven is, let’s work toward a world where it doesn’t exist [on earth] either.”
Following the chapel service, a panel discussion was held in the Chandler Boardroom about Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”