Two events during the past three-day holiday weekend drew residents from the Three Village community as well as surrounding areas to Setauket to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the civil rights activist.
On Jan. 18, despite snow in the forecast, more than 100 people attended the 4th annual Martin Luther King Unity Festival at Setauket Presbyterian Church organized by the civic group Building Bridges In Brookhaven.
The day included music, workshops and a panel discussion on the theme of Building the Beloved Community Across Generations.Approximately 20 nonprofit groups were also on hand for the Be the Change volunteer fair. The event provided an opportunity for attendees to discuss the life, legacy and vision of King, according to Susan Perretti of Building Bridges.
Tom Lyon, also of the group, said the event provided “a lot of very valuable networking and planning for future collaborations.”
Among those participating Jan. 18 was Community Growth Center of Port Jefferson Station, which held its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Peace & Unity Multi-Faith Prayer Service and Concert two days later at The Bates House in Setauket. On Jan. 20, a standing-room only crowd filled the venue to hear speakers and enjoy music. Participants were also encouraged to bring donations for Pax Christi’s men’s shelter.
Among those speaking at the event was Father Francis Pizzarelli from Hope House Ministries and Kadam Holly McGregor from Kadampa Meditation Center of Long Island. Before leading a meditation, McGregor told the attendees that everyone can become like King if they work on themselves.
The H.I.M.S. from Hope House Ministries, Vinny Posillico from Singing Bowls-Sound Healing and Stuart Markus, a folk singer of Gathering Time, entertained the crowd.
Perretti said she and others from Building Bridges attended the Jan. 20 event to support the center and was reminded at both events of King’s dream of building the “beloved community,” a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings.
“It was wonderful to be part of a gathering focusing on unity and what we have in common,” she said. “There were faith leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. It feels more important than ever for us to come together and respect our differences.”
Michael Hoffner, executive director of Community Growth Center, was inspired by the turnout, and said the annual event at The Bates House aims to bring people and religious leaders together from different faiths to spark a change of heart and create changes from the inside out. He said he believes that the answer to our country’s “current problems require a deep spiritual solution.”
“We as a community and a country need to awaken to a deeper sense of love, peace and unity that can only come from a transformation of the heart,” he said. “We can’t expect peace to come from laws and policies alone — peace in our world can only come from peace in our heart. Peace on the inside leads to peace on the outside.”