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Speaker stresses service
Society should follow King’s example
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Dr. Richard W. Wills Sr. (center) talked about service to others during the Dr. Martin Luther Ling Jr. Community Service Monday night at Reach Out Apostolic Tabernacle. Bishop Lorenzo Hall (left) was the host pastor. Mervin L. Brown Jr. (right) is the president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Council, which hosted the event. (Bulletin photo by Holly Kozelsky)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Staff Writer

People have an innate desire for greatness, and following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s example of service fulfills that need, Dr. Richard W. Wills Sr. said Monday night.

Wills was the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Holiday Service at Reach Out Apostolic Tabernacle in Axton, where Bishop Lorenzo Hall is pastor. Hall presided over the service.

The Rev. Thurman Echols introduced Wills as “scholarly ... and a prolific writer” who “has done extensive work in the halls of academia.” No one else knows “the life and the legacy of Dr. King” like Wills, Echols said.

For six years, Wills, whose degrees include a Ph.D. in religious ethics and a doctoral degree in ministry, was the pastor at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., where King served as pastor. Wills and his family were the last to live in the Jackson Street parsonage where King lived, he said.

Wills, who has taught at Virginia Commonwealth, Hampton and Virginia Union universities, now is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Hampton.

“Dr. King would probably be embarrassed by these services, these streets” and other events in his honor, Wills told the audience.

The speaker said King wrote that if he had not been born, “God would have used anybody” else to give force to the civil rights movement.

People today, in this “age of information,” have lost patience and expect quick fixes and shortcuts, Wills said. Much of the sentiment of service toward others has been lost in the process.

He said having large numbers of followers and “friends” on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter tricks people into feeling important. The real way to be important — to achieve greatness — is in service to others, he said.

King’s lesson was that “greatness comes through our service” to God and humanity, Wills said.

Wills said when his parents were younger, people could ask favors of one another and would help each other; children minded all adults; and folks left their doors open when they left home.

“If Dr. King were with us today, he would want us” to teach our children to help others, he said. “We learn community service early on. Everybody has a vested interest in everybody else’s child.”

Wills talked about a concept by writer Max Lucado: What do we aim for in life once we’ve got it all? People continually strive for the best, he said, but even after people have achieved what they wanted, they still feel empty.

Wills also quoted early Christian philosopher Augustine: “Our souls long for rest and shall never find it until our souls rest in” God and Jesus.

The greatest fear in life, Wills said, is “the fear of non-existence ... and not counting in life.” However, service to others is what counts, he said.

“The answer to an ailing heart is the fact that anybody can be great,” Wills said.

“To know him (God) is to serve him,” he concluded.

Wills noted that he feels “very much at home” in this area because his father-in-law, the late Eugene Martin, was from Martinsville.

A choir performed several selections during the event. Singers were Valeria Edwards, Joyce Martin, Margie Swanson, Marcus Stockton, Dembris Barbour, Jamiee Martin, Hattie Taylor, Vanessa Dillard, Shirley Harrell, Judy Venable, Rachel Beneke, Deb Norton and Judy Hodge. Anthony Porter played organ, and Keaton Redd played drums.

Many people in the audience were seen to be dabbing at tears as Edwards gave a powerful solo performance of “Troubles of This World.” The choir joined in, and the song merged into “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (“Glory, Glory Hallelujah”).

In contrast to the solemnity of Edwards’ song, Harrell delivered a rousing version of “Soon and Very Soon (We Are Going to See The King.” The audience clapped and swayed, many rising from their seats.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Council coordinated the event. Its members are Mervin L. Brown Jr., president; Chad Martin, vice president; Joyce Martin, secretary; Samuel Martin, chaplain; and Rachel Beneke, Narda Dixon, Valeria Edwards, Ike Fountain, Lois Harris, Curtis Millner, Dorothy Napper, Debra Norton, Zena Smith and Stanley Wade.

Brown told the audience that the planning committee’s “goal is to make sure” that King’s message and legacy are remembered and taught throughout the year, because they are “bigger than this weekend.”


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