Acting on a suggestion from the Rev. Larry McRorey two years ago, the route of this year’s march — the 21st annual — begins at the Bee County Courthouse at 10:30 a.m., but goes north on St. Mary’s Street to end at the First United Methodist Church, which is hosting the event.
A numerologist would have a heyday with the celebration. This year’s march is the 21st annual; it occurs on Jan. 21 — which also is the day the first black U.S. president is inaugurated for his second term.
Organizers of the local march rejected McRorey’s initial bid to host the event, because last year was the ceremony’s 20th anniversary.
“The subject of the sermon two years ago was ‘We Shall Overcome,’” McRorey remembers.
For the Rev. Eric Tarver, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, the traditional host of the annual march, the theme was significant.
“We will never be able to overcome until we break out of the tradition of being at the black church,” he said. “We only get together with other churches once a year or when there are tragedies” — referring to a recent ecumenical vigil at First Methodist for those killed in the shooting spree at Newtown, Conn.
Hosting this year’s observance, McRorey says, is in keeping with Methodists’ tradition. “This was the first church in Beeville to have an inter-cultural minister, the Rev. Freddy Dixon, who was black.”
McRorey and Tarver are joined with the Rev. Bettye Whiteside, pastor of Jones Chapel United Methodist Church, in expressing enthusiasm for the switch in venues.
“I’m excited about the idea,” she says. “We are all one family. It’s time for a change.
The format of this year’s ceremony roughly follows that of previous years: numerous ministers marching behind the banner during the march and the presence of numerous politicians, including Bee County Judge David Silva and Beeville Mayor Santiago Martinez.
“If you ever want to meet a politician,” Tarver laughs, “come to the annual march.”
McRorey says his congregation shares Whiteside’s and Tarver’s enthusiasm about the change, predicting a more even mixture of cultures at the service.
“I think First United Methodist will bring a new excitement into the march,” he predicts.
Noting that the annual march is experiencing a continual decline in participants, Tarver shares the same hope.
“The Martin Luther King march is not just for black people. It’s for everyone who believes in unification,” he says.
Both McRorey and Tarver say this year’s change will spur other Beeville congregations to volunteer to host future ceremonies.
“Hey,” McRorey says, “the gospel is about change. The whole life of a Christian is change.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.