I remember a few years ago when the pastor, during the children’s sermon, asked the children if they knew who Martin Luther was. Understandably, the children confused the great reformer, Martin Luther, with the civil rights activist whose birthday we celebrated this week, Martin Luther King.
Some of you probably saw my Facebook posting about a trip to Germany I will taking this June. Yes, I am looking forward to joining the Southeast Pennsylvania Synod and Luther Theological Seminary tour called “Luther and The Arts.” One of the tour leaders, in fact, is a long-time colleague from the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, Michael Krentz. The tour will visit historical sites connected with Martin Luther, the artist Lucas Cranach, and the musician J.S. Bach. We fly into Berlin, then visit the towns of Leipzig, Weimar/Buchenwald, Eisenach, Erfurt, Halle and Wittenberg.
One of the first places we will be visiting, in fact, will be the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, where a few years ago I took a picture of this plaque, commemorating Martin Luther preaching there on Pentecost, 1539.
So it was to my great surprise that I found out this week that Martin Luther King not only visited Hawaii, but he also preached at St. Alban’s Chapel at Iolani School, where I play for daily chapel services! Apparently, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was scheduled to be in Houston, TX, in 1955, but protests from church leaders and black congregations over segregated facilities in the city led to a late change of venue to racially diverse Honolulu — in fact the General Convention (September 4-15, 1955) was held on the grounds of Iolani School, and the services were held at St. Alban’s Chapel — the only time the convention has not been held on the U.S. mainland. Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the convention, and in fact, the street where the chapel is situated was renamed Convention Drive. (I never knew that story!)
And these days, with the recent release of the movie, Selma, and the approaching 50th anniversary, new attention is being made to the voting rights marches. Apparently, many of the Selma march wore Hawaiian lei because of a small group of people in Hawaii who flew to Alabama to join the protest — Glenn Izutsu, student body president at the University of Hawaii; Dr. Robert Browne, a psychiatrist; Nona Fendon, a former research fellow at UH; Charles Campbell, a high school teacher; and Dr. Linus Pauling, Jr., a psychiatrist.
According to hashtaghawaii, “It was all on short notice and we showed up at the airport around 5 in the afternoon,” Fendon shared with the Human Flower Project. “There was no publicity or anything like that, we just said goodbye to some friends and left. Taking leis was just something that anyone from Hawaii would do almost automatically.”
And somewhere in Honolulu, the future President Barack Obama was four years old.
Go back and check out my post “Just across the street” which shows a 9th grade Barack Obama with the Lutheran Church of Honolulu in the background.