CRANFORD, NJ – The Cranford Clergy Council held its annual interfaith service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Thursday evening at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The service featured speakers from Cranford Alliance Church, First Presbyterian Church of Cranford, St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Calvary Lutheran Church, Cranford United Methodist Church, St. Mark’s A.M.E. Church, Trinity Episcopal Church and Temple Beth El Mekor Chayim.

Additionally, the Cranford High School Madrigals and Academy Dancers performed pieces dedicated to themes of social justice. Artwork from high school students was displayed near the front of the church.

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Mayor Thomas Hannen, Jr. called on those in attendance to evaluate themselves and their actions.

“If Dr. King was with us today, how would he evaluate our progress on the journey that he started for us many years ago?” Hannen asked the attendees. “Have we cared for the poor? Housed the homeless? Fed the hungry? Have we done our part to all injustice against those for reasons of race, economic status or country of origin?”

Rev. Cameron Overbey and Rev. Carol Lindsay later read a section of the Bible, which was interspersed with quotes from King that were real aloud by students from the CHS Diversity Council.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” the students finished the segment with.

Next, a homily was given by Rev. Andy Kruger, who spoke about the everyday racism that occurs today.

“It’s one thing to talk about racism at a structural level,” Kruger said. “I think one of the most difficult moments in my own life was when I recognized that I was racist. I’ve never used a racial slur and I was raised by parents who instilled in me the reality of the dignity of all human beings. But when you grow up in a culture that is endemically racist, things rub off on you, almost by osmosis. Realizing that in my own heart was a very difficult and painful experience. But I guess that’s the first step in recognizing that there’s a problem. My point to my prayer is that God would grant us the clarity to see into our own hearts and the courage to begin to continue the work in bringing about a truly equal society.”

Near the end of the service, Kevin Mahoney was presented with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Civil and Human Rights. Mahoney received the award for his volunteerism and compassionate nature and accepted the award to a standing ovation.

“Words alone cannot express how honored I am to receive this award,” Mahoney said. “I’m extremely humbled, especially when I think about the people I work with. They are just as deserving as I am.”

He continued to discuss his volunteer work with homeless individuals and families and asked that everyone recognize the root of poverty.

“I ask all of us here to do a better job of making sure that people understand the core issues of poverty,” Mahoney said. “Homelessness is well beyond the person living in an old cardboard box in the city of New York. The working poor are people who may have lost their way or simply can’t afford to live in an apartment while working for low wages. Are there some who fall through the cracks?  I have to admit yes. But why wouldn’t we then work to help save the children? So the next time someone says it’s just not working, tell them it will as long as we continue to work on the root causes of poverty in our society.”