Jail chaplain speaks at 16th annual MLK breakfast
By Donna Buttarazzi firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Jan 24, 2019 at 4:11 PM Updated Jan 24, 2019 at 4:11 PM
KENNEBUNK -- “We need to continue in the belief that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” said Rev. Jeffrey M. McIlwain, using an iconic quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to call people to service Monday in his keynote address at the 16th annual Martin Luther King breakfast at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church.
“We must believe that the arc of the universe is long, but that it bends toward justice,” said Dr. King and that arc is what gives Mcllwain hope for this country embroiled in political upheaval and unrest more than 60 years after Martin Luther King led the country’s civil rights movement.
The event, presented by the church’s social justice committee, benefited The Transformation Project, a program in Westbrook that helps former jail inmates transition from jail back to everyday life. Mcllwain is chaplain of the Cumberland County Jail and pastor of North Star AME Zion Church in Newington, New Hampshire.
The program opened with music from North Star Gospel Jazz ensemble, of which Mcllwain is a member.
In his ministry at the jail Mcllwain sees both brokenness and hope. Volunteers who serve at the jail truly change lives, and while it can be uncomfortable at first for people to enter that space, he said it is life changing for everyone.
In his speech he called on those committed to public service to think of ways they can get outside their comfort zones and serve minority populations in dire need of an act of kindness and support.
He urged people to speak up and start the conversations that lead to people treating everyone, regardless of race, with love and respect “I wish we could fix it all. I wish we were at that place where we judged people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. How do we get people woke? We talk and we communicate and grow like we are here today. We come together and talk as human beings, and we pay attention to things that happen in our communities. There are so many ways to serve and uplift our communities. There are so many who need your help. Make an effort. Make a connection with the arc,” Mcllwain said.