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‘The Dangerous Calling of the Gospel’ – Reflecting on Dr. King’s Life and Legacy

Posted on January 22nd, 2008

Leonard Dow - during an interview at EMU on Martin Luther King weekendLeonard Dow reflects on his message to the EMU community. Photo by Jim Bishop
Listen to Leonard Dow's presentation

An Eastern Mennonite University alumnus who moved from the world of finance to “laying up” spiritual treasures in heaven spent several days at EMU as a visiting pastor and as a resource for Martin Luther King Day observances.

Leonard Dow, a 1987 graduate and former banker in Souderton, Pa., joined the Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in Philadelphia in 1990 and grew into leadership roles there. He was called to pastor the growing, multi-ethnic congregation in 1998.

Dow spoke several times on campus on the overall theme, “The Dangerous Calling of the Gospel.” He reflected on the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader in a session Monday, Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day – in the Campus Center Greeting Hall.

Speaking on “A Clear and Present Danger,” Dow expressed concern that Martin Luther King Day “is becoming just another sentimental, commercialized event with many people having a day off work.”

But, he said, “it’s the responsibility of places like EMU not only to honor Dr. King,” but even more, “to move beyond the dream to emphasize what he preached, lived and died for – that people be united as one in Christ.”

Holding up a copy of the EMU mission statement – that includes a call to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God – Dow told his audience that “if you apply this fully to your life, you will be ‘a clear and present danger’ in this world. People may hate you because of your faithfulness and obedience.

small group responding to Leonard Dow's presentationMelody Pannell, director of multicultural services, responds in a small group setting to Leonard Dow’s presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Photo by Jim Bishop

“Martin Luther King was killed not because of what he said, but because he lived out what he said and believed,” Dow declared.

“We are called as a church to become, as Dr. King said, a beloved community that brings together the marginalized of society, that views diversity as a gift and equality not as sameness but as value.”

While in college, Dow was a basketball standout as a forward for the EMU Royals. He holds the all-time men’s scoring record with 2,192 points and all-time leading rebound record with 1,102.

“I don’t talk a lot about my basketball experience any more,” Dow said, “But as a player, I was ‘a clear and present danger’ to opposing players. They talked about me in the locker rooms and saw me as a threat on the court. That’s how it should be for us as Christians – other people know who you are and what you stand for, and some may reject you for that reason. That’s hard, because we all want to be liked.”

In university chapel Friday morning, Jan. 18, Dow introduced the theme with a short but powerful oration on the need for Christian love to serve as a motivating force for one’s actions “that many in the world won’t understand,” based on I Cor. 1:18-25. Dow cited biblical characters from Moses to the Apostle Paul to the late Dr. King as examples of “willingness to be fools for Christ.”

Dow also spoke at a community worship service Sunday, Jan. 20 on the theme, “Afraid Yet Filled With Joy” from Matt. 28:8, visited classes, interacted with multicultural services personnel, the Black Student Union and other campus organizations and student athletes.

“It’s been a good weekend,” said Jared C. Lyons, EMU senior and president of the Future Leaders of Equality and Diversity (FLED). “I appreciated Leonard’s ministry and the role model he is. It was refreshing to hear him share his wisdom on campus.”

Dow’s wife, Rosalie Rolon-Dow, also a 1987 alumna and standout on EMU women’s basketball team, accompanied her spouse to campus with their three children. She is a former member of the EMU board of trustees and an associate professor of education at the University of Delaware.

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