Martin Luther King Jr. never owned one. And Steve Jobs probably never envisioned his product in quite these terms.
But the iPhone shows the way to Dr. King’s “Beloved Community,” according to the Rev. James Henry Alexander.
Addressing the 29th annual Morris Interfaith Breakfast on Martin Luther King Day, the minister told the packed ballroom at the Hyatt Morristown that upgrading to an iPhone opened his eyes. Sure, he already owned an iPad and an iPod.
“But it was not until I set up my iPhone and I synched all my devices together that I discovered the truth and the intention of the creator: That each of these devices were powerful enough individually to do some incredible things. But it was not until they were in synch, or placed in community with one another, that those that used them were able to utilize their full and vast potential.
“Until we learn how to operate along with each other as our Creator intended, we will never experience our fully realized potential,” the Rev. Alexander said. (Starts at 3:30 in the video.)
A host of dignitaries– including Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and Morris Township Mayor Bruce Sisler, town council members and assorted Morris County officials–joined the Morris Area Clergy Council for a morning of songs and invocations.
Over the years, the breakfast gathering has helped Morristown’s Martin Luther King Observance Committee raise more than $52,000 for the Martin Luther King Jr. national memorial, and $44,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund, said committee Chairperson Felicia Jamison.
Monday’s theme, the “Beloved Community,” referred to a concept expressed by Josiah Royce, a 20th century philosopher-theologian, and expanded by Dr. King. It describes a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully, based on a set of principles that emphasize respect and human dignity.
The Rev. Alexander’s lively 25-minute sermon, which included another pop culture reference, to the Four Tops’ hit I’ll Be There, was a homecoming of sorts. The Roxbury native attended Morristown’s Calvary Baptist Church as a boy, and spoke at the Morris Interfaith Breakfast when he was 10.
At Morehouse College he studied business administration and lettered in track and field. Then he earned a masters degree at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Most recently, he served as an assistant pastor at a Baptist church in Greenville, N.C.
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While the Civil Rights movement liberated African Americans in many ways, said the 32-year-old preacher, “there are still some other issues within our immediate community that we are in bondage to.” (Around 8:40 in the video.)
Home foreclosures, “glass ceilings” in the workplace, a dearth of good-paying jobs, splintered families and revolving-door prisons that don’t prepare convicts for productive lives amount to “a new form of systemic slavery,” he said.
“Kids are joining gangs to find some sense of acceptance and belonging. Let’s not simply complain about it, but let’s build our young people up in character, instead of tearing them down in criticism…We must create programs that give our young people safe space to be just that, young people. Otherwise the streets are going to claim them for themselves.”
“We’ve all heard talk is cheap. So let us move from cheap counterfeit talking to concrete, certified walking,” the Rev. Alexander said, citing nonviolent actions by Civil Rights advocates in the 1960s.
The morning’s message seemed to connect with listeners. Cleadel Waye, from the North Jersey chapter of the service organization Delta Sigma Theta, marveled at the diverse turnout.
“Collectively, we can do great things,” she said. “Dr. King taught us that. By working together, there is strength in numbers.”
“The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is very much alive,” said Congressman Frelinghuysen. “There is a spirit here that’s longterm, directed in many ways by Dr. Jamison and the Morris County Clergy Council… where all elements of Morris County can come together.”
The goal, Dr. Jamison said, is to become a place where “I’ll respect your dignity as a person, and you’ll respect mine. And we’ll do good for the community.”