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The Rev. Fred B. Morris (right) and Archbishop Dom Helder Camara pose in a 1974 file photo taken two weeks after Morris was released from a torture chamber due to his association with Camara.

File photo courtesy of Fred Morris

The Rev. Fred B. Morris (right) and Archbishop Dom Helder Camara pose in a 1974 file photo taken two weeks after Morris was released from a torture chamber due to his association with Camara.

Freedom Summer inspired ministry ‘from that day to this’

By the Rev. Fred B. Morris
Sept. 15, 2014 | LOS ANGELES

Freedom Summer Reflections. Photo by Ted Polumbaum, courtesy of the Newseum.
Photo by Ted Polumbaum, courtesy of the Newseum.

In August of 1963, I was at Stony Point, New York, together with about 100 other missionary candidates, preparing to serve the church overseas.  We were headed to Brazil. 

A group of us chartered a bus and traveled all night to get to Washington for the March on Washington.  We were received in the morning at a local church, where Sen. Hubert Humphrey spoke to us about the importance of the civil rights struggle.  Then we went to the Mall. 

 I happened to be standing about 40 feet from the lectern from which the speeches of the day were made.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech touched me as it did millions of other who heard in in person or on TV. 

His dream has inspired me in my ministry from that day to this. 

In Brazil I had the honor of working with the Catholic Archbishop Dom Helder Camara in Recife, in the impoverished Northeast of that country.  Dom Helder was a great admirer and spiritual companion of Dr. King, though they never met.  (After Dr. King’s death, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy went to Recife to meet Dom Helder). 

I have recently been appointed to serve the United Methodist Church Center here in North Hills, a community in Los Angeles. Our task is to stimulate the formation of a new faith community here.  The former United Methodist Church was closed about five years ago, as “white flight” reduced the congregation from more than 800 to 12! 

The community now is largely people from Central America, who are deeply concerned with the Children at the Frontier.  We opened the sanctuary for the first time in nearly five years on July 20 for a Prayer Service for the Children at the Frontier.  More than 100 persons came with three days’ notice.

The beat goes on.

In 2008, Morris received compensation and a formal request for forgiveness after being tortured by the military dictatorship in Brazil. He was a missionary to Brazil from 1970-1974 and worked closely with Dom Helder Camara, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Recife and Olinda.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.