On December 28th, 2020 the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield was burned. An arrest has been made on arson charges in connection with the fire.

Connecting Point‘s Ross Lippman spoke with the church’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, about the significance of the church, and the legacy it carries in Dr. King’s name.

We’ll have more on the burning of the church and the impact on the congregation next Friday on Connecting Point.

Read the Full Transcript

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, Pastor, MLK Presbyterian Church: So, the first indication that I got that there was a fire was through an email where someone said they had seen it on television and I said they had the wrong church. So, I was a little in disbelief. And then the call came in about 30 minutes later to tell me that the church had burned.

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: When do you think you really were able to process the fact that this had happened here?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: I think I’m still processing it, if I’m being honest, because there are times when I get you know, it’s been go, go, go. But when I had that moment to just kind of sit and say, “OK, there’s no church building there anymore.”

Ross Lippman: How bad is the damage here?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: It’s – it’s pretty bad.

Ross Lippman: Is going to have to be a total rebuild?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: Well, it -it will be a total rebuild. The damage itself in the inside, has been estimated at one hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.

When a church is named after Dr. King – and I believe that Dr. King embodied Christ and embodied manifesting the God within him – and I believe that when that happens, we as members of that church, we’re not only carrying the requirement that God calls us to do justice, to love mercy, but Dr. King stood for that. And so for me, particularly as a leader, I know that I’m walking in that legacy and that is important for me to do the exact same thing and to lead with love power.

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: And I know that you ought to be saying amen, because it’s still the same today.

Ross Lippman: 2020 was a year where we as a nation confronted racial injustice in a way that we hadn’t since Dr. King had been alive. And for you, on one of the very last days of 2020, for this church to be burned, what did that mean to you and what did that mean to the congregants here?

Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery: You know, sadly, I can’t say that a church burning, a black church burning, is a surprise. Because historically, that’s what’s happened in this country when people want to terrorize people of color or really want to say,”I don’t like you” or “You’re worthless” or really to take your spirit.

Because that’s what this is about when it’s a church. That people go to burning the church, but what they don’t understand is that the spirit that lives within us as children of God. and the spirit that lives within us as as people of color is not the church building. So, yes, it’s hurtful to burn down the church, but we move on.