Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The last time I was in Memphis I drove past this building and took this snapshot. It holds so many memories. From the time I was in grade school until college, I remember standing on the front lawn of this building, Mason Temple, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, during our Holy Convocation held every November. The “saints” gathered from all over the world. I huddled between my parents and their friends from Chicago, St. Louis, and all over the midwest. It was like one big homecoming!

My family anticipated this trip every year. We piled into our station wagon, packed out Sunday best outfits, and drove from Central Illinois to Tennessee. We could hardly wait to hear all the good preaching, the fiery evangelists, and Holy Ghost-filled gospel singers and choirs that were absolutely electrifying. I was excited to see the preacher wives dressed in their finest dresses, suits, and hats… oh my, the hats! This was the highlight of our year! 

Thousands of African American church folks poured into Memphis. My family and scores of others had to find lodging in homes because the hotels were not fully integrated, if at all. Mind you, this was mid-60s. Years later, the hotels would become more welcoming to our large denomination and Blacks could book rooms.

I remember stepping inside the vestibule of Mason Temple and reverently passing the crypt where the founder, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, was laid to rest. The auditorium’s capacity was well over 4,000 or so, probably more, as people overflowed into the outer hallways, other assembly rooms, and the perimeter of the building; there had to have been over 10,000 on grounds. I marveled at the loud speakers mounted everywhere so that no matter where we went on the grounds the music and preaching could be heard. Even at a young age, I sensed that this was indeed a holy gathering, and it gave me an immense sense of community. These were my people!

It was years later in my adult life that I realized that Mason Temple was where Dr. King gave his last “Mountaintop” speech the night before his assassination. The Black sanitation workers had summoned Dr. King to Memphis in April 1968 in the height of the Civil Rights struggles. Mason Temple was often used for planning meetings. 

I was in and around this building so many times over the years and had roamed the grounds of Mason Temple and my lived experience had been interwoven and criss-crossed through this historical setting as history was being made. I was raised, nurtured, and given a solid foundation in the safe spaces of my spiritual community during treacherous times. We kept the faith when so many other places, even religious ones, in our society were not welcoming. We knew our sacred worth as children of God.

Today, as a Unity minister, I celebrate and commemorate the life, work, and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thank you, Coretta Scott King and all those who made sure the dream continued at the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

I invite you to join me in pledging to continue working to build the Beloved Community so that that we all may experience the love, joy, liberty, and justice for which we were created. I believe non-violence and love are the most powerful tools that can shape our path forward in today’s world. “Deep in my heart, I do believe!” Peace and blessings to all.

Love and joy,

Rev. Dinah Chapman

Favorite MLK Quotes:




Joy and Justice for All of Us

Two divine ideas flowing from the same heart…

Flashback! About a year ago, I created and posted this simple diagram on Instagram (May 3, 2021). I had been contemplating these two divine ideas of joy and justice. It seemed like there had been so much chaos and confusion, but thankfully in May 2020 I ran across this beautiful book, Joy Unspeakable - Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, by Dr. Barbara A. Holmes, that helped me reclaim the kind of joy that is, as she says, “as comfortable in the shout as it is in the silence."1 

In 2020, it seemed like so many people were trying to be joyful through the pain of everything that was going on, a pandemic, a nasty election cycle, the murder of George Floyd, and so much more, including our own personal losses.  It seemed like some folks just wanted to escape (to the pink fluffy cloud) - and some wanted just an absence of the tension (no noise at all).  For me, this was the perfect season to continue to focus on the sustaining power of joy, not to ignore what was going on around me, but to draw upon the inner strength of joy. Though it very much felt like a season of turmoil, grief, rage, and division (and still does), I anchored myself in faith and the richness of unspeakable joy that celebrates the truth and the light regardless of appearances to the contrary. On my morning walks, I would contemplate joy.

I recall thinking early in 2020 how much kinder and wiser we all were going to have to become with what was coming in the days and months ahead. I felt like it was the quiet before the storm. Now as I look back, the storm billowed and rolled! We might have been tossed and disheveled. But somehow, by the grace of God, joy was there all along…ever present, and we are still standing!

I’ve been a collector of joy - all things joy - for quite some time, posters, cups, shirts, etc. These are reminders to keep my own joy stirred up. And I do that by centering myself daily in prayer, affirming that divine love and joy is a part of who and what I am, no matter what; we are created with it and wondrously made. Two and a half years into a pandemic, lots of folks want joy now! But guess what...Are we willing to know the source and giver of true joy?

One thing I’ve come to realize is that there’s no “pursuit of joy”…we already have it. But we need to access it and activate it, and this is an act of our will. Oh yes, plenty has been written on how to get “happiness” from outside ourselves. But really, joy is an inside job. It must be released from the innermost reservoir of our own hearts. The good news is there are plenty ways to access it: prayer and meditation, walks in nature, sitting by the ocean, music, rhythm, dance, poetry, performing arts, spoken word, gatherings, etc. - these of some of the ways that help us reconnect with our joy. Again, if we are willing.

And if there’s one thing I’ve witnessed and felt in my very bones, my ancestors knew real joy. They HAD to know real joy to sustain them through an outer society that wanted to make us “the least” in society. My ancestors knew better. They knew their real value and true worth was rooted in joy…the joy of knowing who we really were all along… God’s very own! That’s why we used to sing this song as I was growing up in the church:

	This Joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me
	This Joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me 
	This Joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me
	The world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away.

This joy is powerful. It is our God-given birthright, the fruit of the Spirit. It can loose the chains, ward off despair, and break down walls. It is rooted in divine love and it is our choice whether we want to cultivate it, stay in the life-giving stream of it, or not. I believe when we embrace it, we can change the world for the better. We can create the beloved community. I believe all justice movements that truly seek to create a world that works for all will find joy to be a restorative, relational, renewing force for good.

I say let’s get in the stream of it together and DANCE! Let’s see what wondrous things can be re-imagined and brought into fruition in our lives and in our world. More love & joy to come. Don’t despair, my beloveds. Let’s get into the presence of deep inner joy. ASK, SEEK, KNOCK…joy is always ready to rise up and answer.

“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy…”
- Psalm 16:11

Peace & blessings,

Rev. Dinah

1 Barbara A Holmes, Joy Unspeakable—Contemplative Practices of the Black Church (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2017), 200.