On Friday, January 18th, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was commemorated at Eastern’s Windows on The World forum. Vicar of Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia and Temple University Chaplain, Reverend Dr. Renee McKenzie, explored and dissected one of Dr. King’s most prominent sermons.
“The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” was delivered on the Baptist church podiums in the mid-twentieth century during the Civil Rights Movement. In his sermon, Dr. King outlined the three dimensions of a complete life: the length of life (concern for oneself), the breadth of life (concern for others), and the height of life (one’s relationship with Christ). Rev. Dr. McKenzie spoke about each dimension and what the breadth of life means for Christians–a dimension that calls individuals to be oriented towards the ‘other’.
“God calls us to the other and gives us the responsibility of the other”, Rev. Dr. Mckenzie said. Biblically, to attain the dimension of the breadth of life, one’s actions should reflect the command of Jesus to ‘love your neighbor as yourself”. Rev. Dr. McKenzie explained that it is in this dimension that justice is addressed. This dimension is reached when loving our neighbors translates into justice.
“We are predisposed, pre-wired to the other”, Rev.Dr. Mckenzie said. God calls us to the other before we have the chance to say no. So, the question then becomes: What stops an individual from reaching this dimension, a dimension that is concerned with the welfare of the other?
Rev. Dr. McKenzie currently challenges her church to be oriented towards the community and social justice. In light of the systemic trauma that the community has experienced, Rev. Dr. McKenzie suggested that serving the other means becoming a trauma-informed ministry that is concerned with the social injustices and issues that exist in the community. As Christians, we must be informed about the experiences of others and be willing to provide services to meet their physical and spiritual needs.
The Church of the Advocate serves their community by providing nutritional meals to their neighbors living in food deserts without access to fresh food through the Advocate Cafe. Through their Center for Culture and Education, the church has created art and academic programs for youth and adults.
Rev. Dr. McKenzie and the church continue to challenge themselves to care for those impacted by systemic trauma in their community. They will continue to love their neighbors as themselves, and accept the Christian’s calling to the ‘other’.