MLK 50th Anniversary Service


Rev. Raphael Koikoi, who serves as the Upper Allegheny Valley Director of Ministry and Community Development, will be the speaker at a Jan. 28 service celebrating the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr.

Martin Luther King Jr.  The 3 p.m., Sunday service at Bethel United Methodist Church in Lower Burrell will mark the 50th anniversary of the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Association of Churches' event honoring Dr. King. 

"The interfaith service was started by local pastors and NAACP leaders after Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN, on April 4, 1968," said the Rev. E. Philip Wilson, a retired elder who at the time served in extension ministry with the Office of Economic Opportunity, an anti-poverty agency. "After Dr. King was assassinated, we (pastors and church leaders in the area got together to sponsor a community-wide service. 

"We get speakers from different denominations and we move the service from church-to-church," said Wilson, who continues to serve on the organizing committee. He said the service was moved from April to January, the month Dr. King was born, several years ago. 

Offerings from the services raise money to provide scholarships for African-American students in the area. The funds are supplemented by donations from area businesses and corporations with facilities in the region, he explained. 

Pastor Koikoi is working to design and implement community-based ministries in the Upper Allegheny area. He works with area churches, schools and community organizations to address a variety of community needs.