Media

Mandela's Memory Honored at Indy Memorial Service

December 16, 2013 | IndyStar | Link to Article

As Nelson Mandela was leaving a gathering of the World Council of Churches, he picked up a baby out of her mother's arms.

He lifted her high as he walked out, shifting the focus of the photographs from himself to the child.

"He believed in the future — not for himself, not for his family," said the mother, Indianapolis' Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith, "but for all of the children."

She told the story Sunday night at a local memorial celebration for Mandela, on the same day the former South African president was buried in his hometown of Qunu.

Mandela, who famously fought against South African apartheid and segregation even as he sat in prison, died Dec. 5 at age 95.

A coalition of Indianapolis churches and groups held the service to honor his life at Scott United Methodist Church on the Eastside. But with the celebration came challenges to the two dozen community members who attended.

"What are we doing for our children?" asked Walker-Smith, executive director of the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis. "Have you done all of what you should be doing for the children?"

They prayed to "resurrect a Mandela spirit in each of us" and pledged to take up his visions — asking themselves whom they will stand up for the way Mandela stood up for others, and what they will do with the freedom that he fought for.

"He's been a model of forgiving love and reconciliation in the midst of some of the hardest struggles," said retired minister Donald McCord, 77.

McCord attended the memorial, along with others from Central Christian Church, to "feel again the power of his (Mandela's) work," he said.

For Rev. Brenda Edmonds Wilson, 59, a staff minister at Way of Life African Methodist Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, the memorial service mirrored Mandela's work to bring people together and break down barriers.

"He's now gone, and so what can we do to make sure his life wasn't in vain?" she said.

The congregation said a litany for Mandela. They prayed for courage to help the oppressed. They prayed not to be silent in the face of wrong. They prayed for peace.

"We pray for all who find freedom and cry out for justice," the group said in unison, "that we all will lift others as we are lifted up by others."

Call Star reporter Stephanie Wang at (317) 444-6184. Follow her on Twitter: @stephaniewang.