Nordonia Hills Ministerium celebrates MLK Day with ‘Better Together’ event

by Nicole Rosselot

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Nordonia Hills Ministerium hosted its first “Better Together” community event on Jan. 15 at the Nordonia High School auditorium.

The Nordonia Ministerium, according to its mission statement, is a fellowship of spiritual leaders in the Nordonia Hills community who have formed an ecumenical alliance of Christian churches and faith-based community organizations committed to shared ministry interfaith relations and faith-based responses to community concerns.

The event featured local faith leaders, NHS students, and guest speaker Chip Freed, chief missional strategist and teaching pastor at Garfield Memorial Church in Cleveland. Executive Pastor at Faith Fellowship Church in Macedonia and ministerium member, Angela Murray, began the event, explaining that one goal of the evening was to share King’s dream of creating a just and loving society in which “we recognize that every individual is made in the image of God … and that we are better together.”

Unity, determination and King’s dream of a beloved community were prominent themes in the evening’s presentations. NHS student Emma Conrad read an essay she wrote about unity. “Unity is what the community of Nordonia Hills prides itself on, whether that be to grant a helping hand, be a friend to others or stand together against hardships,” she said.

Sheryse Henderson, lead pastor at Faith Fellowship Church and president of the Nordonia Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council took the stage next to speak about determination. She began by singing the lyrics to an inspirational spiritual, “I’m Determined to Walk with Jesus.” Henderson reflected on King’s dream that his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. To accomplish his dream, Henderson said King needed not just talent and ability, but also the determination to stand for what he believed in through trials, tribulations and persecution.

That same determination is necessary today, Henderson said, as we work toward “being the light and being the love, so our whole community becomes a better place.” Henderson closed by asking attendees, “Will you be determined today?”

The keynote speaker for the event, Freed, gave an impassioned speech that focused on King as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ who had a ministry, a mission and a movement. “We know Dr. King as a hero, and as a saint, and as a profound prophet for our nation’s conscience,” he said. “His call was to restructure the architecture of American society.”

Freed referenced King’s “beloved community,” the dream of an all-inclusive society rooted in non-violence, love and justice for all people. According to Freed, there are “four c’s to get to that city that God can be proud of: cross, commitment, courage and call.” King made great personal sacrifices as he followed his calling to march against racism, oppression and injustice, Freed said.

Although Freed acknowledged that today’s society still has much work to do, he found hope in the way diverse people around the nation came together in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest on the football field. “All of a sudden, life became bigger than a game, bigger than a victory, bigger than a political party,” Freed said. “It became a moment to celebrate our opportunity to be people of God together.”

As the event came to a close, NHS student Abigail Bahnsen read the poem “The Hill We Climb,” and NHS a cappella group Synergy performed the song, “Stand for Something.”

Kathy Dickriede, missions and community engagement director for the Eastern Conference of the United Methodist Church and ministerium member said she hoped attendees left the event understanding “that we are better together … we need to build relationships of knowing each other and caring about each other and having compassion for each other.” ∞

Nordonia Hills Ministerium members (l-r) Michael Wolfe, director
for Campus Life Youth For Christ Nordonia Hills; Peter
Lawson, Northfield Presbyterian Church pastor; Angela Murray,
executive pastor at Faith Fellowship Church; Nina Merkle
Nestlerode, lead pastor at Good Shepherd Christian Church;
and Matt Griffith, religious education director at Our Lady of
Guadalupe Catholic Church. Photo courtesy of Kathy Dickriede.