Just weeks before his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. walked into our Friday afternoon meeting in the dingy basement of Fellowship Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side.
We were in the middle of a discussion. “Doc” usually sat in the back and took notes with an occasional comment or question. But this day he was visibly agitated.
After only a few minutes, he raised his hand and asked to speak. “I am among trusted colleagues here,” he said, “and I want to share something personal. This past week, I received more death threats here in Chicago.”
He indicated that he and Coretta had faced them and were prepared. “Let me be honest. I am truly frightened for myself, but also for Coretta and the children.”
Doc talked about his fear and about how Jesus offers us strength for life, forgives our sins, and takes care of our deaths in his own death. He seemed to gather courage, declaring that he would find the strength to carry on and that we all gave him strength as members of the body of Christ.
He would not be deterred from his mission. It was a frightening moment. I believe we all trembled with him. Yet the resiliency of his faith shone through his angst-filled voice, as he seemed to preach his way from the reality of danger and death to life and mission.
As he talked through and beyond his fears, he also was preparing his fellow pastors for what lay ahead. Now, 50 years later, I remember that precious episode of faith and confession. He wavered, he was frightened, but he found renewal and refreshment to carry on.
Dr. King’s gift to his fellow pastors that afternoon has stayed with me and still guides me these many years later, especially in the darkness and danger of today.
Doc’s Easter faith is still alive and with us!
Rev. Martin Deppe,
author, Operation Breadbasket, An Untold Story of Civil Rights in Chicago,