Another Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, and with it, a tradition that Candler Bishop-in-Residence Woodie W. White has continued for more than thirty years: his annual “birthday letter” to King, recounting the progress and pitfalls in American race relations over the past year.

White letter White will present this year’s letter at Candler’s Service of Word on Thursday, January 21 at 11:05 a.m. in Cannon Chapel. The worship service is open to the public, and will also be livestreamed. Watch here.

The bishop, who met Dr. King in the early 1960s, wrote his first letter to the civil rights icon in 1976 for a public speaking engagement, and began the annual practice in 1985.

“It was a way to get kind of a year’s assessment on what the nation was accomplishing and not accomplishing in the area of race,” he said in a 2014 interview with Religion News Service. “I did it because, frankly, I needed to have perspective. I needed to not get discouraged, and I needed it to be affirming of progress in race which had taken place over the course of a year.”

At Candler’s spring convocation on January 12, Dean Jan Love announced that White will retire from his duties as bishop-in-residence at the end of the academic year. White has served in the role since 2004.

Read White's 2016 letter in Interpreter magazine.