Congregation gives thanks for freedom in advance of MLK Day, Obama inauguration

On the eve of a preacher’s holiday, and two days before a historic presidential inauguration, praise rose up from a small, simple church in south Macon.

And, yes, President-elect Barack Obama was mentioned. And, yes, the name of Martin Luther King Jr. was invoked. But it was Jesus that they praised.

“Lift up our president right now, who is leading us to higher ground,” Ikie Hart prayed at Liberty Baptist Church, which hosted a Sunday evening service marking the King holiday.

“They said it couldn’t be done. But Father God, You can do anything.” Hart prayed. “Help us to love one another ... and be of one accord regardless of race, color or creed.”

About 50 people attended the service, one of several local events centered on today’s King holiday and tomorrow’s inauguration of the first black president in American history.

The congregation clapped, prayed and swayed along with a children’s choir that sang:

I just can’t give up now

I’ve come too far from where I started from

Nobody told me the road would be easy

And I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me

Macon pastor Christine Wiggins delivered the main sermon, focusing on the freedom to worship, which she called the most important of America’s liberties.

“God demands our praise,” Wiggins said. “That’s not negotiable. ... Don’t waste your breath arguing about how to worship, just worship.”

Wiggins recalled King’s final speech — his view from the mountaintop of a time when “we as a people will get to the promised land.”

“I’m gonna keep on marching, keep on praying, keep on singing,” Wiggins said Sunday. “I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna keep on walking.

“Don’t stop praising God,” she said. “Don’t give up. Don’t give in. You can be free.

“Don’t stop, my friends. ... When you don’t know where your next paycheck’s coming from, don’t stop. ... Let freedom ring.”

To contact writer Travis Fain call 744-4213.