Bishop recalls King letter at prayer breakfast
February 10, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - In 1963, a young minister by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. drafted a letter as he sat in a Birmingham, Ala., jail after being arrested for participating in a non-violent protest against racial segregation by Birmingham's city government and local retailers.
The letter would be published in numerous magazines and newspapers and read in many homes across the nation, including that of a young boy named Richard.
Nearly 50 years later in Heidelberg, Bishop F. Richard Spencer, Archdiocese for Military Services, would recall reading King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," written to teach a new generation about the power of prayer, unity and faith.
Spencer was the guest speaker for the U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg Prayer Breakfast Friday at the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion in Heidelberg.
He urged the audience to become catalysts for change and cooperation in their communities.
"You have the choice to be a thermometer or a thermostat. What choice will you make?" Spencer said.
"We need to be people of prayer, there are so many needs that surround our world today that are tearing us apart as a world community and I really believe that it will be prayer that will unite us, it is a common ground and it's an area that we can celebrate in together. Prayer is so important and central to our lives," he said.
Spencer joined the Army as a military policemen in 1969 and later became a chaplain in 1991. He continues to serve in the Army Reserves and has deployed to Iraq five times.
Spencer just returned from a combat tour in Afghanistan last month.
"The chaplaincy touches every segment of a person's life from the beginning to the end and everything in between. That was exciting to me," he said. "I'm honored to be a representative and … to be on the battlefield with those brave men and women who are sacrificing so much for God and country. It's just a humbling and rewarding experience," he said.
As a Roman Catholic bishop, Spencer is responsible for more than 400 Catholic priests and chaplains in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and their parish communities across Europe and Asia (to include U.S. Embassies). His duties often require him to travel extensively to provide pastoral care and other support to the chaplains and chapels under his tool age.
After the breakfast, he will head to Alabama, Washington, D.C. and Singapore.
Spencer is now based out of Wiesbaden but was stationed with U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg from 2009-2010. Several of his old friends and colleagues, including U.S. Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling and Allied Force Command Heidelberg Commander Lt. Gen. John. W. Morgan III sat in the audience.
U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg Commander Col. Bryan Decoster provided welcoming remarks to the early-morning crowd.
"Prayer is especially important during this time in history given our commitment to overseas contingency operations," DeCoster said. "We have tens of thousands of service members and civilians deployed in Afghanistan, Africa and other locations across the world, let us remember them today and all those who are serving the cause of freedom and justice around the world. We also remember their families and pray for their safe return home."
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Gustafson from the 1-214th Aviation Regiment in Mannheim saw the breakfast as a chance to fellowship with other members of the community.
"It's a great opportunity to gather with fellow believers from all walks of faith who come together to acknowledge a higher power and the power of prayer. It's also a social event where we can meet others."
Members of the USAREUR Band Brass Quintet played a selection of patriotic pieces as guests enjoyed a buffet of scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausages, assorted rolls and pastries, hash browns, juices, coffee and tea.
In 1953, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, along with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, established the first Presidential Prayer Breakfast. In 1970 it was renamed the National Prayer Breakfast.
This year's National Prayer Breakfast was held Feb. 2 in Washington D.C.