PILGRIM baptistSpecial guest speakers, music, prayer services, a walk and a talk with local law enforcement professionals are all on the agenda, during an extended Social Awareness Weekend keyed to Martin Luther King Day, and hosted by Pilgrim Baptist Church and Monmouth Reform Temple.

[See UPDATE below]

While the calendar of federal holidays marks just one official day to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — this coming Monday, January 16 — Red Bank’s Pilgrim Baptist Church believes that King’s work is too important, and still very relevant to our time, to be encapsulated within one 24 hour period. That’s why, beginning on Friday evening and following through the next three days, the Shrewsbury Avenue congregation sponsors a “Social Awareness Weekend” that carries forward a special collaboration with another long-established house of worship: Monmouth Reform Temple of Tinton Falls.

It’s a relationship that’s formed the foundation of a local tradition in recent years; one that continues for a third annual edition on January 13 with a Friday evening Shabbat service at MRT — a 7 p.m. all-welcome observance that features special guest speaker Diem Jones, executive director of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Arts Foundation.

With a resume that takes in everything from a stint as director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College — to an enviable gig as art director for George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic music machine — the Bay Area-based artist and administrator will discuss how “music, poetry, visual imagery, and prayer stand as the finest expression of our soul’s attachment to that which is divine” — and the ways in which artistic expression can foster an appreciation of “how each unique celebration of living makes for a better world for us all.”

Rabbi Marc KlineJoining the guest speaker and delivering the “Stand Up for Each Other Pledge” will be Dr. Mohammad Ali Chaudry of Rutgers University, who co-founded the Islamic Society of Central Jersey — and who, in his previous service as elected official in Bernards Township, holds the distinction of being the first Pakistani-born Mayor in the United States.

“I believe these MLK events evoke the spirit and commitment to diversity and unity that Dr. King and so many others worked so tirelessly to accomplish,” observed Reform Temple Rabbi Mark Kline (pictured right) prior to last year’s weekend partnership between the two congregations. With a significant background in working toward civil rights, Rabbi Kline participated in the NAACP’s 2015 Journey for Justice from Selma, AL to Washington DC, and was a co-leader of the march in Columbia, SC to take down the Confederate flag at the State House.


On Saturday morning, January 14, PBC will serve as the setting for a special 10 a.m. “Community and Law Enforcement Conversation” between members of local law enforcement agencies, area high school students, and leaders from the greater Red Bank community. Designed to promote greater understanding between our law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve, the free public-welcome discussion will be followed at 1 p.m. by a “Unity March” that commences from the church at 172 Shrewsbury Avenue, and continues into downtown Red Bank. [UPDATE: The church is now inviting local community groups to gather at locations of their choice at about 1 p.m. and march to the church for a 1:30 p.m. for a celebration, with light refreshments. A representative of each group will address the gathering and “present a positive action they will embrace and practice, and ask the community to join them in their efforts.]


The work of the men and women of our law enforcement community will also be recognized during a special 11 a.m. “Law Enforcement Appreciation Worship” at Pilgrim, during the following day’s Sunday morning service on January 15. Reverend Robert Perkins, a retired Police Officer and Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church (Tinton Falls), will serve as keynote speaker, and the service will feature the Performing Arts Ministry of Pilgrim. A special Unity Reception will be held at the conclusion of the free public-welcome service; attendees are encouraged to register by calling (732)747-2343, and give their name as well as the municipality/agency in which they serve.


richard-t-smithOn Monday morning, January 16, Branches Catering in West Long Branch will one again serve as the setting for the annual Dr. King Breakfast, presented at 8 a.m. and sponsored by the Shrewsbury-based Community YMCA. Richard T. Smith (pictured left), President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, will be the keynote speaker at the event, which will also feature the winning entries of an essay contest for high school students. Tickets for the breakfast, which will support Project Homeless Connect of Monmouth County (donations of new gloves, mittens, scarves and socks are welcomed at the event), are $30 per adult, $10 per youth (12 & under) or $250 per table of 10 and are available online here.


Following the conclusion of Monday’s annual breakfast, Pilgrim Baptist invites worshippers back to the Red Bank church for a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration Service that begins at 12 noon.

In addition to Pilgrim Baptist and Monmouth Reform Temple, the 2017 Social Awareness Weekend schedule of activities is co-sponsored by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Monmouth County Sheriff’s Deptartment, Monmouth County Police Chiefs Association, The Community YMCA, Citizens for A Diverse and Open Society, and Concerned Citizens of Red Bank. For more information, call (732)747-2343.