NEW HARMONY, Ind. - Fifty people of Stewartsville United Methodist Church, Cynthiana UMC, and Olive Branch Missionary Baptist Church of Princeton, Ind., came together Jan. 18 at Stewartsville UMC and shared dinner followed by a service commemorating the celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This event was the result of the admiration, friendship and love shown between the Revs. Andres Paris, Sr. and Bill Ping, an acquaintance, that began while Ping was working part-time as a Sears salesman in Princeton. Having been an activist in Decatur, Ill. during the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, Ping learned to treat all people with respect and dignity regardless of race or color.
As Ping said, "I did not notice that Andrew was black, and he did not tell me." Two men - one white, one black; two congregations - one rural, one urban; two denominations - one United Methodist, one Missionary Baptist; united in the celebration of faith and freedom for all.
This was the eighth time these congregations have come together on the eve of this holiday to commemorate King and his work for all the people of this country.
The gathered members were reminded they celebrate this observance on the Sunday before the observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday because, as United Methodists, they believe in the development of better human relations and seek to empower others to become people God intended.
The 1972 United Methodist General Conference established Human Relations Day to "recognize the right of all God's children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with each other."