FARMINGTON — The Rev. Douglas Dunlap challenged those at the ecumenical Martin Luther King Jr. Day service Monday to talk about race with others.

“How shall we go forward?” he asked. “I welcome you, indeed offer a call to us all  … to bring about in this community, and in every community, constructive conversations about the realities of day-to-day life for our sisters and brothers who are African-American.”

The starting place for any issue is for people to come together to talk and to listen, he said following the service. The challenge was extended to include other races.

But, race is not a conversation that is often held, he said.

Last year, The New York Times did street interviews to ask people what they talked about about when they had conversations about race and how they went, he said.

“The responses were nearly unanimous,” Dunlap said. “They did not talk about race. They said they did not know what words to use, did not want to offend, did not want to appear ignorant. So nobody is talking. So, let’s start talking.”

“Black lives matter, to me,” Dunlap told the nearly four dozen people at the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry service at Henderson Memorial Baptist Church.

Dunlap suggested a speaker series featuring Maine residents of many races and ethnic backgrounds, a civil rights tour to southern communities or a citizens exchange within a mutual relationship with a town in Alabama.

“We could become a leading community in Maine for showing the way toward mutuality of respect, dignity and truth,” he said.

Dunlap shared his own experiences as the young teacher of a first-time integrated class of eighth-grade boys in a residential, North Carolina program in 1968, his response to the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland,Ohio, park along with excerpts from Martin Luther King’s life.

King was only 25 years old when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus on Dec. 1, 1955.  He had just become pastor of a church there when black leaders asked him to lead the movement for justice following the arrest of Parks, Dunlap said.
 
King later wrote about how he was “possessed by fear” and “obsessed by a feeling of inadequacy” — too young, too inexperienced, not yet familiar with the city, far too busy in a new church and as a young father, he said.
 
Dunlap paralleled King’s feelings to Biblical people who followed their calling. They were “unlikely people” who were too old, too young … those who had never done anything like this before and were not good at public speaking, he said.
 
Dunlap thanked the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry churches that have “courageously responded to the dire truths of our time,” in response to Matthew 25 where “God in Christ appears in the guise of the poor, the rejected, the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the imprisoned.” 
 
The responses includes creation of an ecumenical heating fund, local food pantries, daytime warming centers in winter for those isolated, lonely and cold. With community members, the faithful helped open the first homeless shelter in Franklin County. 
 
“This is a special community,” he said.
 
An ordained pastor, Dunlap is a chaplain at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. He has served as a professor of rehabilitation at the University of Maine at Farmington and as a licensed psychologist in the community.
 
An offering was taken for the Western Maine Homeless Outreach in honor of the late Rita Kimber, a longtime Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry board and homeless shelter board member, the Rev. Susan Crane of Henderson Memorial Baptist Church, said.
 


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