An MLK Litany for the Poor People’s Campaign

By Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson

To All Of Our Partners In the Multifaith Movement For Justice,

2018 is Auburn’s 200th year. We will commemorate this milestone by recommitting ourselves to you — and to our mission of bringing the Divine vision of justice, peace, and joy into reality.

When we celebrate the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is good to take time to pay attention to that which King himself paid attention. With the light of justice guiding his vision, King saw people suffering under the yoke of systematic racism, the destruction of war and economic injustice.

The year before he was killed, King announced a Poor People’s Campaign aimed at creating a ‘revolution’ and “to demand better jobs, better homes, better education—better lives than the ones they are living.” Dr. King was shot in Memphis, showing solidarity with sanitation workers involved in a strike for better wages and a better life.

Fifty years later, we are called to pick up the baton and continue the work of Rev. Dr. King and so many of our sisters and brothers who are part of the multifaith movement for justice, writing the future story of America.

I had the honor of creating the Litany at the Martin Luther King Day service, which was also a kick-off to the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign. Together, we sang and prayed and marched for a just America.

I invite you to join Auburn and our partners across America who will be taking part in the Poor People’s Campaign and all of the movements that are rising up, so that America might be the America we are called to be.

Thank you for co-creating these movements with me and with Auburn.

Thank you for your partnership and leadership.

Thank you for moving forward the work that will build our future for the next 200 years.

With love,

The Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson


A Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Litany for the Poor People’s Campaign

Divine One, Infinite Love, known to us by many names.

Today, we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose prophetic journey continues to mark our days, inspire our hearts and guide our feet.

In this moment of celebration let us not move too quickly, but allow our attention to focus on a world that is still sin-sick and falls so short of the mark of love and justice.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the sorrow and pain of the child who wakes with hunger in the night, one of the 40 million living in poverty in this the richest of lands.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the mother in Flint or on the Gulf Coast who cannot trust the contaminated water in her sink to quench the thirst of her children, relying instead on the contents of plastic bottles that will make their way to suffocate the oceans.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the immigrant father hiding in the storeroom of the 7-Eleven, whose insufficient papers express nothing of the dignity he has already been afforded as one made in God’s image.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the grandmother who marched with Dr. King and fought for justice, only to find her name removed from voter registration rolls when she goes to cast her vote.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the brother in prison, caught up in a system that destroys lives and families; one more casualty in the US that has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Before we move on, allow our hearts to be broken open with the Trans sister, who lives with the daily threat of violence just for being who she is.

Before we move on, help us sit with one another for as long as it takes to share our broken hearts, to acknowledge the magnitude of the pain of injustice, and to confess how far we are from your vision for creation.

Before we move on, hollow us out with sorrow, let our tears freely flow, so there will be room enough for hope to grow again.

O God, just as you inspired Dr. King to not let sorrow have the last word, so move us forward.

Move us forward to recognize your face in the human faces of all who struggle for dignity and liberation in this moment.

Move us forward to challenge injustice, to resist and repair, to march and to vote, to disrupt and to wake up.

Move us forward to stand for just legislation and structures that support the many and not just the few.

Move us forward to experience fierce joy–dance and laughter, the wild and the holy– that no one can take from us.

Move us forward to create the future story of America where difference is celebrated, abundance is shared and people are hopeful, working together for a future better than today.

Move us forward as beloved community “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, bound in a single garment of destiny.”

May it be so.


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