HAVERHILL — People of many ages, religions and ethnicities prayed and sang in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Friday evening.
Temple Emanu-El and Calvary Baptist Church, along with Bradford Christian Academy, combined their talents to present this annual interfaith service, which goes back more than 30 years. It took place at the synagogue and combined the Jewish Shabbat service with uplifting gospel music.
Clergy, representing several faiths, led the people in prayers for love and social justice. The Rev. Kenneth Young, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, asked a troubling question.
"Seems love has left the building," he said. "Where is the love?" he asked, referring to the shootings that left nine people dead at a black church in South Carolina and killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
"Are we now living in a loveless community?" he asked. Jesus Christ taught that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, he pointed out.
Most people would not want to live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, he said.
"Why would you allow others to live in that place?" he asked.
If King had not been assassinated April 4, 1968 and were still alive today, "he would have a lot to say," Young said. The civil rights leader would have a lot to say about Flint, Michigan, with its polluted drinking water and the large number of black men who who are incarcerated, according to Young.
He estimated that a third of black men are involved in the penal system.
"If America is to be a great nation, it must learn to love," Young said. King warned that if Americans fail to learn to love, they will "perish as fools," he said.
Choirs from Temple Emanu-El, Calvary Baptist Church and Bradford Christian Academy sang together. They were led by Cantor Vera Broekhuysen of the temple and Joe DeVoe, music minister for Calvary Baptist.
Their songs included "God is a Right Now God," "Welcome into this Place," "Hush! Somebody's Callin' My Name," "Crossing the Freedom River" and "The Storm is Passing Over."
They also sang "Listen Israel," "V'sham'ru" and other songs in Hebrew.
The Rev. John Delaney, pastor of Sacred Hearts Parish in Bradford; the Rev. Vart Gyozalyan, pastor of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Point; Victoria Kennedy, head of school for Bradford Christian Academy; and the Rev. Michael Shirley read excerpts from King's speeches.
Broekhuysen called the service a "powerful" experience and said she felt gratitude for the clergy and others who "made the magic happen."
Kennedy noted Bradford Christian Academy, which holds its high school classes at the temple, has been participating in the interfaith service for the last three years.
"It is one of the highlights of our school year," she said.
Cherrice Lattimore, a deaconess at Calvary Baptist Church, said she and her husband have been attending this service for more than 25 years. She said she enjoys learning about Jewish culture.
"I find it fascinating," she said. Her husband, Kihm Lattimore, a deacon at Calvary, said he always looks forward to having fellowship "with our friends here at Temple Emanu-El."