January 2018 – The Rev. Dr. William Barber II called for a “moral revolution” during a rousing interfaith service in New York City that honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Barber, a 2003 graduate of Drew Theological School, is working to revive King’s Poor People’s Campaign, which sought to bring economic justice to America’s poor. King was increasingly focusing on the effort when he was assassinated 50 years ago.
Barber, who’s now president and senior lecturer at Repairers of the Breach, urged the estimated 1,000 who gathered at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church to bring people together to do the good work that needs to be done. He also stressed the importance of standing up to the factions in American society that embrace the racism, classism, sexism, and elitism that have become emboldened recently.
“We are called not to be the servants of the state, but the conscience of the state,” said Barber. “We are called to be the moral guardians of our communities. God demands that we stand for justice.”
All the work ahead, he said, stems from faith. “By faith—in the face of frontal attacks on our rights—we are called to change situations and not accept them,” he added.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio also spoke of faith.
“We are dealing with immense challenges, certainly, especially when we cast our gaze to the nation’s capital,” he said. “But we are not dealing with challenges as hard as those that Dr. King confronted.”
Barber, a proud Drew alumnus who also spoke at Commencement last year, wasn’t the only school voice at the service.
Mark Miller, an associate professor of church music at Drew Theological School, performed an original piece, “Let Justice Roll,” with a choir that included Drew faculty and graduates. During the performance, the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. read quotes from King speeches.
After the service, Barber and the other participating faith leaders led several hundred attendees down the street to stand across Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower and pray for the soul of the president and the soul of the nation.
“One election can’t turn us back,” Barber said.
Reflecting on the service, Miller, who’s also a composer in residence at Drew Theological School, said, “I was part of living history tonight,” adding, “Rev. Barber is our voice of justice.”
He’s also gracious. After “Let Justice Roll,” he told Miller, “We have to work together again.” Miller, of course, would love to make that happen.