Washington, DC, March 6, 2005
Illinois Major State Day
Chicago Civil Rights Pioneer Addie Wyatt Preaches at Illinois Service at Washington National Cathedral
Back to Press Releases »
WASHINGTON, DC Invoking Abraham Lincoln, civil rights and organized labor pioneer Addie L. Wyatt challenged worshipers to spread the word of justice as she delivered the sermon during a special Illinois service March 6 at Washington National Cathedral.
Besides praising Illinois only president, Wyatt also cited abolitionist Harriet Tubman, poet Langston Hughes, author James Baldwin and even singer Diana Ross as she urged the congregation to rededicate itself to peace, freedom and equality.
She drew on her own experiences, beginning when her family fled Brookhaven, Mississippi for Chicago when she was 6 years old.
When people ask about my background, I tell them I come from a very rich family. We just didnt have any money, Wyatt said. But one of the greatest gifts we had was a praying mother and a praying grandmother.
At 9, Wyatt drew inspiration from the story of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who helped other African-Americans seek freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Tubman was clearly a woman anointed by God in the service of freedom, Wyatt said. She said Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. were others of a different mold who inspired followers.
Wyatt said it is time for America to cast a wider net for its leaders. She noted the presidents have always been the same white, of European descent, and Protestant except one, John F. Kennedy.
While most white Americans are descendents of immigrants who arrived after the Civil War, isnt it time for us to consider there must be other sheep in the field with leadership? she said in a reference to the Scripture readings of the day
Illinois, she noted, has produced a number of African-American leaders, including two who have served in the United States Senate Carol Moseley Braun and current Senator Barack Obama.
Although politics is somewhat of a sport in Illinois, we take our sports and our politics seriously back home, Wyatt said, joking as you know it takes a lot of dedication to be a Cubs fan.
Quoting from a Diana Ross song, Wyatt urged worshipers to reach out and touch somebodys hand. It may be a white hand, it may be a black hand, it may be an old hand, it may be a young hand, but hold it.
Wyatt, co-pastor emirata of the Vernon Park Church of God, addressed the congregation from the historic Canterbury Pulpit, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his last Sunday sermon on March 31, 1968. Wyatt marched with King in Chicago and later helped found Operation PUSH and the National Organization for Women.
Pilgrims from the state joined Illinois natives now living in the Washington area among 884 worshipers at the cathedrals 11 a.m. service that was devoted to the Prairie State.
The Right Rev. Keith Ackerman, Bishop of the Diocese of Quincy, was guest celebrant at Illinois State Day, part of the Cathedrals outreach to all states and faiths.
The St. Georges Episcopal Church choir, from Belleville, performed a 25-minute musical prelude to the worship. The choir from the small Southern Illinois city embraced its opportunity to perform in the majestic cathedral, director Nancy Ypma said.
When we heard we were picked, we were so tickled because Southern Illinois gets ignored, so it was a big honor for us, Ypma said.
Mark Q. Rhoads, a former state senator from Western Springs, read Scripture, as did Jennifer Hanna, a native of Wauconda who now lives in the Washington area and is the states 2005 Cherry Blossom Princess.
For seven years, Washington National Cathedral has set aside one major state day each month in seeking to fulfill its national mission of outreach to all faiths. The National Cathedral Association, the membership organization that supports the cathedrals mission and ministries, organized Illinois State Day. Religious and elected leaders and congregants from many different churches and denominations were invited to take part.
Darren Montgomery, 11, and his sister Tianna, 8, great grandchildren of Addie Wyatt, carried gifts to the altar during the offertory, as did Laris Gross of Park Ridge, head of the Episcopal Church Women for the Diocese of Chicago, Susan Meehan of Oglesby, Lenette Myers of Chicago and Tom Boschert of Belleville.
Afterwards, the National Cathedral Association sponsored a reception recognizing Illinois participants and celebrating a proclamation by Gov. Rod Blagojevich honoring ties between the state and the historic cathedral.
Cathedral officials thanked Dorothy Laudati of Evanston, the NCAs regional leader in Illinois, and all association members from the state. They are part of an active network of more than 14,000 friends in every state and around the world who support the nations House of Prayer for All People.
ATTN PRINT MEDIA: If you desire e-mail transmission of this account and/or photos sent as JPEG attachments please contact Greg Rixon at the number above. Also, print-quality photos of Washington National Cathedral are available on our Website, www.cathedral.org/cathedral. Click on Cathedral News.
SOURCE: Washington National Cathedral