Manatee County clergy celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of unity

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJanuary 20, 2013 

PALMETTO -- President Barack Obama will give his second inaugural speech today while gazing across the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial.

It will be on the national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. at the same place the slain civil rights leader delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech nearly 50 years ago.

Obama has said the movements King and Lincoln represented are the only reason he's president.

King's presence will loom large over the inauguration ceremony.

In the Bradenton area, King's influence also looms large.

The 20th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Banquet took place Friday at the Palmetto Youth Center.

Sunday at the same venue, local clergy gave talks inspired by King during the Manatee County Community Pastors' Fellowship Service.

The programs being handed out at the entrance included a copy of the "Litany of Rededication to Unity."

The opening passage reads:

"No matter what our age, or race, or color, we are the human family together, for the Creator made us all. "

Those words, which echo King's greatest teachings, captured the theme of the evening, which also celebrated diversity.

Tony Medina, a minister and director of Jump Start Power for Life in Bradenton, gave the first sermon.

"Dr. King's dream has brought us a long way," he told the congregation. "We have a black president but now let's go further."

Medina said that parents must encourage their children to accomplish great things, not stomp on their dreams, like his parents did during his days growing up in Brooklyn.

"I like to tell young people," Medina said, "'I need you for my future.'"

The second speaker, Stan Pavkovich, a minister at the Church of the Cross in Bradenton, used King's message of unity as a rallying cry for the many churches represented at the service.

"When churches unite as one," he said, "we become an unstoppable force."

Vincent Smith, of the Trinity Christian Fellowship Choir in Sarasota, was also there to give the third and final sermon.

Bob Sichta, of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Bradenton, offered the invocation. Bridgett Thornton, of Christ United Methodist Church in Bradenton, read scripture. Pastor Dexter McDonald, of Community Outreach Church in Bradenton, welcomed the congregation.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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