NEAC leaders attend celebration of 'The Embrace'

January 16, 2023

Photo caption: Attending the unveiling were, from left, Pastor Kyle Walden, Union UMC; Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, Bishop Johnson’s spouse, Rev. Mary Johnson; Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, senior pastor, Union UMC; Rev. We Chang, Acting DCM/Commonwealth East District Superintendent, and Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, MA Council of Churches. Photos courtesy of Bishop Johnson.

On Jan. 13, 2023, New England Conference leaders, including Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, attended the unveiling of “The Embrace,” a monument to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in Boston Common. 

Artist Hank Willis Thomas’ 20-foot by 40-foot bronze sculpture was inspired by a photo that captured the Kings embracing when it was announced that Dr. King had won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

The governor, mayor, and other dignitaries gathered at America’s oldest public park for a celebration that included members of Dr. King’s family.  

Of the speech given by Yolanda Rene King, the Kings’ granddaughter, Bishop Johnson said: “She emphasized the strength and unity that can be found in the power of love. This 14-year-old stressed that all of us are needed to
A medallion presented to those attending the unveiling
carry forth the unfinished work of creating true equality among all people, and that the key to that work is love.”

“The Embrace” sits on the 1965 Freedom Plaza, which honors more than 60 local civil rights leaders, including New England Conference Elder, the Rev. Gil Caldwell. 

Rev. Caldwell, who died in 2020, served as pastor of Boston’s Union UMC and as a district superintendent.

The Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, who currently serves as senior pastor at Union, also attended the unveiling. 

“’The Embrace’ memorial is a physical marker on Boston Common that calls us to our shared humanity and common purpose,” he said. “The embrace of Coretta and Martin, symbolized in the sculpture, reminds us of the power of love. Embrace. It’s a simple world that invites us into the profound possibility of beloved community. In witnessing the monument’s unveiling today, we bear witness to the pursuit of justice, equity, and liberation.”

The Kings met in Boston in the 1950s; Rev. King earned his doctorate from Boston University. In April 1965, Dr. King returned to the city to lead the Freedom Rally, a march from Roxbury to Boston Common that attracted more than 20,000 people, in which Rev. Caldwell also participated.

“The unveiling was a tribute to Dr. King, but also a call for each of us to continue the work of civil rights and to do so with a spirit of unity and tenacity,” Bishop Johnson said. 

Rev. We Hyun Chang, acting Director of Connectional Ministries, agreed that “The Embrace” is a call to action.

“’The Embrace’ seems a most appropriate and necessary name in an age of such deep and unjust polarization,” he said. “We need to embrace one another.”