YORK — The speaker at York’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast Friday eloquently urged attendees to pull together to address problems instead of lamenting them.
The Rev. Dr. Sheila Elliott, pastor of the St. James charge of the United Methodist Church, told about 200 people at York Comprehensive High School that “everyone has a heart song,” and “we’re going to sing the songs we know in the mess we have found ourselves.”
The city’s third annual Martin Luther King lunch was presented by the city of York in cooperation with the York school district.
Elliott, a Columbia native who now serves as pastor of Hopewell, St. James and Wesley United Methodist churches in Western York County under the St. James charge, has taught at Columbia College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Mayor Eddie Lee referrred to pictures of King and the civil rights movement that decorated some of the tables, calling it “the revolution that will not retreat.”
He noted that one of the images was from the March 1965 incident in Selma, Ala., where marchers were attacked at a bridge by law officers with clubs and tear gas. “There can be no retreat as we go across that bridge,” Lee said.
Elliott, a graduate of the theology school at Emory University in Atlanta, who holds a doctorate in international relations from the University of South Carolina, used a love of song to illustrate her point.
“It’s easy to sing the same old song about somebody ought to do something about those people,” Elliott said. “It’s easy to sing the same old song about getting by with handouts and hopelessness.”
She referred to several other issues, including discrimination and the future of black children and teenagers. However, she said, “We’re all called by God to do the work of reconciliation and justice.”
Elliott said that work is not easy. “To sing God’s song is a dangerous and daring thing,” she said. “Ask Martin. Ask Malcolm. They’ll come and get you.”
Elliott said God’s song “is to pursue justice and mercy. And where is the mercy these days? ... But we do what we can. We may not see the fruits of our labor. We may not see the harvest.”
Elliott urged citizens to do more. She referrred to churches teaming up to provide things for children to do in the summer, and of giving needy people the food they want to eat instead of what they’ve given.
“We can sing the new song of finding out what people really need, not what we want to give,” Elliott said. She added: “The song you must sing is the song that fits . . .You will find a way to sing.”