The University Chaplaincy hosted Rev. Carrington Moore in a virtual lunchtime event on Jan. 21 ahead of its annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration planned for Jan. 26. Moore offered his thoughts on King’s life as an activist and preacher and discussed his 1962 sermon “A Knock at Midnight.” Using the sermon as a foundation for discussion, Moore, members of the University Chaplaincy and event attendees discussed the power of community and the necessity for hope and faith in the face of injustice.
University Chaplain Rev. Elyse Nelson Winger opened the event with a reflection on the power of sermons and the need for collaborative reflection on Dr. King’s legacy.
Moore is the director of community organizing at King Boston, a program of the Boston Foundation that works to create a more equitable city and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Moore also serves as the assistant pastor of discipleship and families at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston.
Moore opened the discussion with a short poem before reading an excerpt from “A Knock at Midnight.” He discussed how Dr. King was prophetic in his sermon, capturing the elements of darkness that persist in today’s society.
“‘A Knock at Midnight’ acknowledges and shares that it is midnight in our world and we can hardly see which way to turn,” Moore said. “And indeed, it is midnight in our social order, our politics, our schools, our religious institutions. We are surrounded by the spirit of perpetual darkness.”
However, Moore also found reasons for hope in King’s sermon.
“Midnight has the presence to powerfully provoke the sublime madness of your own soul to emerge to fight against the social plundering of minoritized bodies and the limiting of human flourishing caused by the intersection of capitalism, white supremacy, culture, sexism and anti-Black racism,” Moore said.
Moore connected Dr. King’s sermon on the prevalence of social injustice to present-day inequities, including inequitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“Multinational pharmaceutical companies have been able to expedite the making of multiple vaccinations,” Moore said. “However, … those vaccines that are now saving the lives of millions and millions in this country are not made available to other countries that cannot afford it. … We have hoarded the knowledge that can save millions of lives across the world.”
Moore emphasized the importance of leaving behind radical individualism and instead embracing community.
“The only way we can ‘build back better’ our broken institutions and communities is a renewed faith in ourselves and our fellow neighbors, and that can only happen through radical community,” Moore said. “Radical community care means the creative space where we all can be vulnerable.”
Moore recalled Dr. King’s emphasis on all peoples’ inherent worthiness of love.
“I would submit to you: When was the last time that you reminded yourself that you are loved, not because of your gifts or your talents, not because of your dashing good looks and your poetic charm, not because you are a student at this prestigious university, but simply because you are you?” Moore said.
Moore concluded from King’s sermon that love needs to be embedded in institutions in order to fight systemic injustice.
“We have learned to love people and groups that fit into the right race and the right sexual orientation in the right social class,” Moore said. “We have economically and culturally plundered those that have not resembled the right shade of skin and deemed them unlovable, but justice is what love looks like in public; therefore, love must be manifested in our social policy and our educational system, our justice system and our religious institutions, even our political system.”
After Moore spoke, event attendees split into small groups to discuss and reflect. Moore gave concluding remarks on Dr. King’s legacy and the importance of community.
“My prayer for Tufts University is that you all continue to love each other well, that you be able to see yourself at the midnight moment,” Moore said. “I always remind people that you are liked, and you are loved, and you are divine. I think that’s important for us to know, particularly for minoritized bodies.”