The Rev. Frederick Trost stepped up to the pulpit, looked out at the nearly 200 people gathered in the Immanuel United Church of Christ, and smiled.
"Fantasic!" he exclaimed. "Lakeland College comes through! And it means a great deal to us."
Half-an-hour earlier, that large throng of people had left campus on foot for Monday's Lakeland College Peace Walk. Members of Lakeland's family and friends from the community braved the cold and came together to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The plan was for this special walk to be candle-lit, but a brisk, sharp wind blew out all but a few people's hand-held flames. Undaunted, the hardy souls marched on, through the teeth of the cold breeze toward the church nearly half-a-mile away.
After the group gathered at Immanuel UCC, Rev. Trost, who marched with Dr. King in the early 1960s in Chicago, spoke passionately about the greatness of King and the important role today's young people play in making this world a better place.
Of King, Trost said: "He was one of the greatest human beings of our lifetime — of many lifetimes."
"Dr. King's dream must not fade."
As he wrapped up his passionate talk, Trost said, "I'm breathless. And I'm glad I'm breathless."
The Rev. Rob Sizemore, Lakeland's chaplain, followed Trost to the pulpit and expressed his pride in the large turnout for Monday's Peace Walk and in the way Lakeland and the UCC embrace and celebrate diversity. Sizemore challenged all Lakeland family members to be kind and to greet all people on campus with "an extravagant welcome."
Then everyone sang the civil rights movement anthem, "We shall overcome," before bundling up and marching back to campus together. There, everyone enjoyed hot chocolate, coffee, cookies and camaraderie.
"It was really wonderful to see this many people gather for such a great reason," said Whitney Diedrich, the primary organizer of the event. "We are very happy that our students cared so much that they came together and made it such a special evening. It was also special to see so many faculty and staff involved. It was really cool to see everyone mingling. Walking back from the church, I overheard people talking about how much they enjoyed it."