Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

A U.S. federal holiday observed the third Monday of January every year. The date is near King's birthday (January 15). The United Methodist Church celebrates Human Relations Day on the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Background, Resources, and Music

Sing the World Round: Human Relations Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day  

Many communities join together to celebrate the vision and dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The United Methodist Church celebrates Human Relations Day on the Sunday before the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Human Relations Day is set aside as a call to the Church to see the great potential each person holds that is only possible when we are in relationship with one another.

These two days are woven together in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s desire for and belief in the "beloved community."

Liturgical Resources

The United Methodist Book of Worship provides resources for both of these days. Number 423 includes a list of hymns and prayers for Human Relations Day from the United Methodist Hymnal as well as a litany written by Nancy R. McMaster. Number 435 includes hymns and prayers from the United Methodist Hymnal, as well as a prayer incorporating quotations from the "Letter from the Birmingham City Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The General Board of Discipleship website ( includes several resources for these two days.

When considering the possibility of writing your own resources you will want to study the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as visit the official website for The King Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Plan on spending time contemplating how his writings, speeches, and his vision for the "beloved community" can be enabled within your faith community.


Martin Luther King, Jr. websites


Consider using quotes from those who carried the banner of peace and justice throughout their lives when creating your own liturgies. Quotes are readily available on the web by initiating a search on the words "peace quotes" or "justice quotes." Here are some websites to consider:

As you consider scriptures that are focused on themes of justice and peace, review the worship resources you already own that support those scriptures. These resources, prayers, and liturgies may only need minor adaptations to fit within your service on Human Relations Day or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Worship resources from the web include: Spiritual resources for use when celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service "Make it a day on, not a day "off." Many links to worship resources centered on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

United Methodist Churches take up a special offering for Human Relations Day. This offering is used to support ministries of social justice and outreach to at-risk youth. Specific ministries include the Community Developers Program, United Methodist Voluntary Services Program and the Youth Offender Rehabilitation Program. Visit this site for full details on the offering:

In addition to general information about the Human Relations Day offering, links are included to the specific ministries supported by the offering. Include these ministries in your prayers, litanies, and share how we are working together to build upon the dream of the "beloved community."

Hymns & Songs

"For Everyone Born" (For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church, page 4/56)

Shirley Erena Murray (New Zealand) is one of the foremost hymn writers of our time. Many of her hymns engage us in the call to work for justice, human rights, and peace. This song, set to music by Brian Mann (USA), was featured at General Conference 2008. Use this hymn as an opening hymn or closing hymn for worship. Consider singing the refrain as a response to the scripture or psalm of the day. You could focus on the words "God will delight" in a time with children, helping them express ways they could help to create joy in the lives of those in their community.

A soloist, small ensemble, unison choir, or the congregation--or any combination of those voices could sing the hymn. One teaching strategy is to enlist the smaller ensembles, choir, or soloist in singing stanzas one through four and invite the assembly to join in on the final stanza. Consider a variety of voices on the stanzas to help reflect the text.

For Everyone Born

The accompaniment should reflect the contemporary style of the music. Churches with a praise band ensemble can use the lead sheet (pg.4, songbook) with the CD recording to help develop the accompaniment. If you prefer an acoustic sound, consider using a keyboard, upright bass, acoustic guitar, and hand drum. For smaller ensembles a keyboard, hand drum, and light shaker would work as well.

"For Everyone Born" could be choreographed and danced by a larger group or just a few persons to reflect the roles of the persons in the text. Ask photographers in your setting to take pictures in your community that reflect the text. Create an art show with the prints. Churches with visual presentation capabilities may want to create a slide show as a visual for the song. Ask five artists in your church to create a depiction of the each of the stanzas. Include these works in your art show, slide presentation, or as cover art for bulletins.

"Pelas dores deste mundo / For the troubles and the sufferings" (For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church, page 44/81 & Global Praise 3:162)

"Hasten your salvation, healing love!" is one of the petitions in "Pelas dores deste mundo" composed by Rodolfo Gaede Neto. Consider singing this song as a part of the prayer time in worship. One possible way of introducing the song is to ask the accompanist/praise band to softly play the first 9 measures prior to the beginning of the prayer and continuing underneath the prayer. After the prayer, a soloist could sing the first section of the song with a choir or small ensemble joining in the next section, "We pray for peace…" Invite the congregation to sing the final text, "We pray for power…"

The sections could also be divided and used as introduction to petitions that are specific to your setting. For instance, after singing the first line of the song ending with "the whole creation's laboring in pain" a spoken prayer petition for the world would be prayed as the accompanist continues playing. After the sung text, "Hasten your salvation, healing love!" pray for those
oppressed in your setting and beyond. Churches with presentation capabilities will have no problem finding visual representation of the cries for justice that come from all over the world.

Churches who desire to recognize and remember the important call of Martin Luther King, Jr. to each of us to create a world filled with justice may wish to read portions of quotes of Dr. King between each of the sections instead of prayer petitions. In some settings it may be possible, with the help of some computer savvy volunteers, to play sections of recorded clips of Dr. King's speeches between each section.

Make Justice a Reality for the Entire World

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King proclaimed that "now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children" in his address at the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As we hear and see the pain and oppression of the world today, let us sing and cry aloud together, "Hasten your salvation, healing love!"

Download the PDF of the music score to "Pelas dores deste mundo / For the troubles and the sufferings" (1 p., 115 KB)

- adapted from an article by Rev. Debra Tyree, originally published January 13, 2009


Special Days, Annual Events, and Months of Celebration

New Year
- January 1

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- third Monday of January

Black History Month
- February

Women's History Month - March

World Malaria Day
- April 25

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month - May

Hispanic Heritage Month
– September 15-October 15

International Day of Prayer for Peace
- September 21

Children's Sabbath - second weekend in October

Thanksgiving - November

Giving Tuesday - 1st Tuesday after Thanksgiving

World AIDS Day - December 1