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"They Went to Church"

April 19, 2018

The country recently observed the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

On the following day (April 5, 2018), there was a letter to the Boston Globe in which Peter Chisholm of Ashland recounted the following:

On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. On April 5, in the late afternoon, at a small US Army base in Munich, I received a call from our battalion headquarters asking that we observe the actions of black soldiers over the weekend.

On Monday morning, we received a call asking what they had done.

I said, “They went to church.”

For people of faith, that is the natural inclination. On April 4, 2018, we gathered at Trinity Church to remember Dr. King, to hear some of his masterful words, to pray, to light candles, to sing, and through this commemoration, to rededicate ourselves to the work of racial justice for which he gave his life. As I planned the service with Trinity parishioners, I remembered helping to lead an interfaith service in my college town fifty years ago. 

Last Sunday, more than one hundred Marathon runners attended services at Trinity and received a blessing at one of the four services. As I greeted worshipers at the conclusion of those services, many runners with tears in their eyes thanked us for providing the opportunity for them to reflect and pray prior to Monday’s race. We do this every year, but this year seemed especially poignant as we observed the fifth anniversary of the bombing that cruelly affected so many people.

That is part of our role as “Trinity Church in the City of Boston:” to be a place of prayer and reflection, in the midst of challenges, griefs, and celebrations that mark our lives. Yes, we are also often called to march, to lobby, and to take other actions to demonstrate our commitment to lifting the oppression of racism, injustice, and violence. And when that work has its foundation in prayer and worship, I believe we participate more fully in God’s plan to heal the world. We temper our righteous anger with the humility of listening to God. We increase our energy for change by recognizing Christ’s passion. We learn from each other, especially those with whom we disagree, as together we discern God’s voice. Beginning in prayer and scripture means that we are consciously opening ourselves to being transformed by God’s word rather than hearing an echo of our own “certainties.”

We are travelling together, learning our part in being God’s beacon in the heart of the city. We don’t have it all figured out. We are learning as we go. I hope you will continue to be part of this journey of discovery. 

May it be said of us, when we feel discouraged or confused or angry, “They went to church.”   

Faithfully and fondly,


The Rev. Rainey Dankel

Associate Rector


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