In a year marked by political, ethnic and other divides, the main speaker at the 41st annual Martin Luther King Scholarship Program Jan. 14 said he believes opposing people can learn to find common ground. In fact, the Rev. Mark Teike of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus believes Christians can go one step further and extend love to others, no matter how different they may be.

The senior pastor will speak on “The Power to Love in an Unloving World” at the Calvary Community Church gathering, held the day before the national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“The topic is very relevant to our time,” Teike said. “There are all kinds of Biblical examples relating to that.”

He referenced Old Testament Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph showed them mercy years later as an Egyptian leader and fed them during a famine. He referenced a crucified Jesus of Nazareth. He forgave his executioners just before he died.

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“For me, the power to love in an unloving world is not just about what happens in major areas such as Washington, D.C., or Afghanistan,” Teike said. “It’s about what happens in our home, our community and everywhere else.

“I think part of that connects to the fact that we can peacefully agree to disagree in our society. I think we get better, and we fine-tune, and we share different and diverse opinions and then work together to solve an issue.

“If the only people I hang out with are those who agree with me, what happens when I’m wrong?”

The service presents academic scholarships to outstanding local students attending colleges nationwide to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

In each of the past several years, about 125 to 200 people from a variety of churches and community organizations have attended the service, which often highlights King’s roots as a church pastor and his leadership of the civil rights movement nationwide. He was assassinated April 4, 1968.

Teike is well-known to local audiences at King-related celebrations. He has spoken at the scholarship program twice before, including his most recent remarks in 2014. Plus, he also has spoken at the community-wide King Day breakfast.

He openly acknowledged that he grew up in Decatur, Illinois, racially insensitive and unaware — as did many other whites of the 1960s and 1970s.

“But, by the grace of God, I changed,” he said.

The minister added he believes everyone has a responsibility to challenge elements such as racism, and encourage people to respect and value others.

“It helps if each of us can influence only a few people around us,” he said. “We can challenge people to rethink things when we hear someone say something that’s out of bounds or inappropriate. We can decide to not be silent. We can start simply by asking the (offending) person, ‘Why do you feel that way?’”

Teike mentioned that he especially will encourage adult role models such as parents and grandparents to remember “that they can significantly influence the lenses through which young people see others.”

Deborah Booker serves as coordinator of the scholarship program that also functions as a worship gathering. She acknowledged that, besides focusing on supporting students, the event also can be a source of racial unity, among the dreams of King during his life.

“We really do see that as a very good thing,” Booker said. “Our (Calvary) church already was a pretty diverse church to begin with, though.”

Highlighting the dream

What: The 41st annual Martin Luther King Scholarship Program with keynote speaker the Rev. Mark Teike, senior pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus.

When: 4 p.m. Jan. 14.

Where: Calvary Community Church, 1031 Chestnut St., Columbus.

Why: To present college scholarships to local residents attending college and pursuing dreams, and to recognize King’s international impact that began through the Christian church.

Information: 812-372-3077.

Pull Quote

“We can peacefully agree to disagree in our society. I think we get better, and we fine-tune, and we share different and diverse opinions and then work together to solve an issue.”

— The Rev. Mark Teike, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Columbus

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.