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Children (above) bow their heads to pray during the city of Enid’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Commission prayer breakfast Saturday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Central Assembly Church of God. Greg Camarena (left), pastor at Lalesia Maranatha Church, leads a prayer for the nation.

ENID, Okla. — Heads bowed again and again Saturday morning as attendees of Enid’s annual breakfast in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. were asked to pray for unity in the city and the nation.

Taking a page out of their own Sunday services, ministers of different racial backgrounds from half a dozen Christian church congregations in Enid led the morning’s prayers at Central Assembly Church of God.

Norris Williams, pastor of Grayson Missionary Baptist Church, asked God that Enid be unified in its government, churches and city, in honor of the legacy of Rev. King, who himself was minster at an Atlanta Baptist church.

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Greg Camarena, pastor at Lalesia Maranatha Church, leads a prayer for the nation Saturday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Central Assembly Church of God during the city of Enid's annual  prayer breakfast, organized by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission.

“We have come from different religions, we have come from different races, we have come from different backgrounds … and yet, You have brought us together of our own accord, and we thank You for that,” Williams said in his sermon. “We pray today, Father, for unity. Lord, you left us with this one commandment, that we love one another. And Lord, if we have unity and love, we have everything we need.”

The city of Enid Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission chose “We Are America” as the theme of this year’s celebration.

“Our goal is just to come together and show we’re a united front, and I believe that’s the goal of the Gospel,” MLK commission chair Bradley Barrick said. “As Christians, our faith is inclusive to all, and we want people in this community and our city to feel like we’re all the same.”

Vance Air Force Base’s assistant director of operation, the morning’s keynote speaker, cited King, who wrote in his famous 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail: “There were days when the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principals of popular opinion, but was the thermostat that transformed the morals of society.”

Major Ian Hocking also said he knew a lot of people, including those in his own younger generation, who wanted to do away with “this American way of life.”

“It’s easy to become disgruntled when we don’t feel that our life, or our family or our neighborhood or our community is enjoying the benefits of the American promise,” he said. “And though a dream can seem like a nightmare, as Martin Luther King once put it, it’s still worth striving towards.”

The prayer breakfast serves as a starting point for the city’s holiday commission, which annually celebrates the federal holiday that marks King’s birthday.

This year’s federally recognized MLK Jr. Day is on Jan. 17, two days after King’s actual birthday.

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, will see a march in honor of the late Civil Rights Movement leader, who, as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is remembered for leading protests in the South against overt racial and social injustices such as segregation and labor exploitation during the 1950s and ’60s. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 before being assassinated in 1968. 

The walk will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Stride Bank Center, with a ceremony following at 2 p.m. The free program and dinner will begin inside, with inspirational speakers, music, and contest and diversity awards. Food will be provided by the event center.

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Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

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