ORLEANS — Donald Trump was the man who wasn't there.
As the Nauset Interfaith Association Annual Rev. Martin Luther King Day Breakfast unfolded Monday at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans, attendees took a longer view of civil and human rights that encompassed achievements to be celebrated and barriers yet to be broken.
“We're not where we ought to be,” the Rev. Wesley Williams, retired pastor of the Orleans United Methodist Church, said as he cited an old saying, “but thank God we are not where we were.”
Area clergy joined students and teachers from Monomoy and Nauset regional high schools to offer insights and inspiration to what one longtime attendee called the biggest turnout for the event she'd ever seen.
“Give to each of us, and collectively, a voice that speaks truth to power, and hands and feet to create a revolution of love,” was the prayer offered by the Rev. Sally Norris, pastor of the Federated Church of Orleans. It set the tone for presentations that combined the spiritual and the practical.
Father Ken Campbell, convener of the Interfaith Association, recalled the prophetic words of King: “There are some things in our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted...I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few.”
There were contributions from Abby Sullivan, Emma Sullivan, Emily Greco, Tommy Graham, Nikaya Cole and Seamus Sartin of Monmoy and by HaiDi Pye, Sean Chung, Taschia Moodie, Molly Fitzgerald, and Dawnell Dennisson of Nauset. Graham's poem declared that King “had a tolerance for evil that was zero,” while Sartin noted that “he had a dream – but so do we.”
Pye's video began with photos of iconic human rights leaders before showing a series of students answering the question, “What are human rights?” One said they were “rights which all people are deserving.” Pointing out that you don't have to be famous to work for justice. Pye said, “Just doing something in your community or helping a neighbor makes you a human rights advocate.”
Throughout the morning, Jane Lowey directed the Sounds of Unity choir – which, the audience was surprised to learn, was itself. From a Cherokee morning song to the get-up-and move “I'm Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing!,” Lowey proved her point that “music is medicine.”
With breakfast goodies cleared away, each table held a conversation in response to the printed prompt, “The America I Believe In...” Representatives of each group stood and read their conclusions, which included “is a work in progress, and as easy as ABC: acceptance, brotherhood/sisterhood, compassionate community;” “is a beautiful, diverse nation striving for leveling of the playing field and acceptance of all people;” “is a humble, respectful, open, beloved community that allows me to be me and others to be themselves;” and “is diverse and united, and does not put up walls.”
Just before the final blessing, given in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, Williams had a final word for the roomful of activists. Citing an African proverb that “many spiderwebs can tie up an elephant,” he said, “we are not bereft of power.”