'Let's Break The Quietism' Implores Civil Rights Veteran At MLK Service

Jan 18, 2015

Reverend Arthur L. Hilson (left), Reverend Joseph Ellwanger, and Reverend Robert Fellows.
Credit Emily Corwin / NHPR

On Sunday, clergy from local Lutheran, Congregational, and Unitarian churches -- plus a rabbi -- honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at New Hope Baptist Church in Portsmouth.

Reverend Arthur L. Hilson reminded his speakers -- including Portsmouth Major Bob Lister and Police Chief Stephen DuBois -- that they stood behind the very pulpit Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. preached at in Portsmouth 63 years ago.  

Joseph Ellwanger, a Lutheran minister and Birmingham civil rights activist headlined the event. Like other clergymembers, Ellwanger drew connections between the civil unrest of Martin Luther King’s day, and events in Ferguson, Missouri.

“I hope that there’s a lot of dialogue between spouses, between teachers and their students, between pastors, clergy and their congregations - let’s break the quietism.”

“This is not Ferguson, this is Portsmouth,” Hilson told the congregation as he presented the congregation’s Martin Luther King Community Service Award to Portsmouth Police Detective Rochelle Jones.  “We make sure that this is not Ferguson by continuing to build bridges, to communicate, and to share.”

Sunday’s service will be the only celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. in Portsmouth this holiday.

The annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast is off this year.