The two-hour ceremony marked the church's fifth annual celebration of King, who would've been 75 years old on Jan. 15. The church's new pastor, Rev. Nathan Coleman, enjoyed his first King celebration at Bethel Baptist.
"We come from so many different areas and it is so nice to get together like this," said Coleman. "I see such familiar faces like Mayor (Leo) Scoda, County Commissioner Andy Dinniman, and the chief of police John Kalavik."
Following a prayer by Ruby Armour, and a scripture reading by Donald J.L. Coppedge, Dolores Winston welcomed everyone to the church for the evening.
Debbie Mitchell then got the crowd to their feet as she led the Inspirational Choir in three uplifting selections, including "Oh Happy Day."
The Inspirational Choir includes Ruby Amour, Patricia Bellinger, June Boswell, Brenda Ford-Bey, Patricia Harper, Victoria Hughes, Alice Ingram, Samella Jones, Jackie Lindsey, Clara Mitchell, Bea Reicher, Shirley Simmons, LaRhonda Stevens, Lisa Vinson and Dolores Winston.
Louis J. Beccaria, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, introduced the guest speaker for the evening, former Philadelphia 76er and Boston Celtic guard Gerald Henderson.
Henderson, who can be seen as a basketball analyst on Comcast Sportsnet, spoke to the crowd about King.
"We're here to talk about a wonderful man, a servant of God, who has affected a lot of people in his life," said Henderson. "Back in the 50s, I was just a kid, and I noticed that someone had stimulated the hearts and minds of my community. Something was happening on a much larger scale, across the country. There was a voice and everyone had stopped to listen. What made this voice so different was because it didn't belong to a politician. It was a pastor from Georgia. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Noting a connection between King and athletics, Henderson spoke of several athletes who changed the way of professional sports.
"I look at the athletes from back in the day," said Henderson. "I look at Jackie Robinson. He was the first black baseball player. He was the chosen one and he represented us well. He was a socially conscience individual. Other athletes such as (boxer) Muhammed Ali, (baseball player) Curt Flood and (basketball player) Spencer Haywood. There is such a difference with what an athlete deals with now than what they did in the past. These men made changes in their respective sports unlike any other."
Following Henderson's speech, Debbie Mitchell presented the Bethel Baptist Church's Hospitality Committee with the 2004 Women Of The Year Award. Recipients include Betty Edwards, Thelma Floyd, Marguerite Harper, Francis Robinson, Shelia Taylor, Henrietta Tribble, Audry Tucker and Addie Wheatley.
All of the recipients received a bouquet of flowers, along with personalized monogrammed aprons for their commitment to serving the church, said Mitchell.
Commissioner Dinniman also congratulated the women, and had high praise for Mitchell as well.
"If anyone embodies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, it certainly is Deb Mitchell," said Dinniman.
Tribble said the award means a lot to her, since "she loves doing so much for everyone around her."
"This is really special to be recognized like this, especially with my family here," said Tribble.
While refreshments were served in the basement after the festivities, those in attendance gathered around and spoke of the service and King.
Cory Lear, of Phoenixville, said this was her second time attending the service at Bethel Baptist.
"This was such a wonderful service," said Lear. "It's great to see so many people come together for such a great man."
"This was my first Dr. King celebration and I'm certainly glad I came here tonight," said Jane Clayton, of Phoenixville. "I'm a member of the church and I always wanted to attend this service. Rev. Coleman did such a wonderful job and he is doing remarkable. He is such a loving and caring man."
Tamika Lear, of Phoenixville, said she was there to pay tribute to King, and to support her mother, Henrietta Tribble.
"That was quite an exhilarating service," said Tamika Lear. "Not only am I here for Dr. King, but to see my mother get an award. I'm proud of my mother and was glad to see her get presented an award from Debbie Mitchell. I love them both."
"We had a great speaker, great music and it was very moving," said Simon Taylor, of Phoenixville. "There is only one day we set aside for Dr. Martin Luther King. Growing up in those times, I will always remember that he stands for peace, love and equality for all."