King praised in song, speech

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored in song and prayer Monday night at Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Speaker Omar Neal, the mayor of Tuskegee, Ala., suggested that the civil rights leader is best remembered not in prayers and song, however, but with a call to action.

"We are honored today to stand up for Dr. King," he said. "But we can honor him best with our commitment to excellence, with the focus that we can do something to make life better for someone else."

Neal spoke to an unprecedented and diverse congregation of 400 that included Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists, pagans, and local Yoruba, who practice folk religion from West Africa.

Neal spoke from Tabernacle's historic pulpit, where King preached on his final visit to Augusta.

Neal also hails from a historic city, said the Rev. Sid Gates, a Presbyterian minister and a founder of Augusta's Progressive Religious Coalition, which organizes the annual interfaith service in honor of King.

Tuskegee, Neal explained, is the home of greats such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Neal and several other speakers throughout the evening drew applause. More than a dozen local clergy members spoke, teaching about their faith and delivering prayers, often in their religion's native language.