They walked and sang together, holding signs with messages that read, "I have a dream" and "We must meet hate with love." Echoing the 1960s civil-rights marches in Selma, Ala. and Memphis led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these "marchers" were honoring the life -- and legacy -- of the civil-rights pioneer a half-century later.

The march through the pews at Westport's United Methodist Church on Sunday opened the Westport-Weston Interfaith Council's sixth annual celebration of King's life. Produced by sisters Kimberly Wilson of Westport and Peggy Jorgensen of Redding, the event offered a multimedia remembrance of the legacy of King and other civil-rights icons such as Rosa Parks and singer and actor Paul Robeson.

"He was a man who lived his entire life in service to others," Jorgensen said of King. "Wherever he saw suffering, he did all he could to help. He showed us we can't accomplish much if we stand alone. We must stand together."

King's teachings permeated the celebration, attended by more than 100 people.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," was one of several King quotes Wilson and Jorgensen read between musical and dramatic pieces from young Fairfield County performers, while pictures of King were projected on the sanctuary wall.

Growing up as African-Americans in Minneapolis, the sisters were raised far from the ferment of the civil-rights movement. But their family was not spared the pain of segregation and discrimination. Jorgensen recalled how their grandfather had suffered a heart attack and was taken by their mother to a hospital in Gary, Ind. While there was an abundance of beds available for white patients, their grandfather was refused one because there was no more space for black patients. He soon died in the hospital hallway.

The King tribute, nevertheless, maintained an optimistic tone, as Wilson and Jorgensen led the audience in song, while Grammy Award-winning producer and composer, Paul Bogaev, provided accompaniment on the piano. The show also chronicled momentous events led by King such as the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott.

More than 40 years after being assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, King's memory has hardly diminished for those who lived during his era of influence.

"I remember exactly where I was when I got the news (of King's death); I was walking across the campus as a freshman in college," said Bill Mathis, a business consultant who lives in Redding. "There are certain events in your life when you just know where you were at that moment, and that has stuck with me."

The Rev. Ed Horne, senior minister of the United Methodist Church, said King's legacy endures on the 25th anniversary of MLK Day becoming a national holiday.

"Martin Luther King is one of my heroes," he said. "Not only should we memorialize him, I want to do anything I can to support his message. He showed us a way to live our lives not just for people of color, but for everyone."

This message motivated Dr. Natalie Achong, who teaches at the Yale University School of Medicine, to bring her daughter and nieces to the event.

"This is one of the best presentations I've been to," she said. A college student when Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, Achong said the day was generally not as closely observed in recent times. "Unfortunately, I've found that offerings (MLK Day) have been decreasing. But this event is a great credit to the church."

The tribute to King also won accolades from Achong's daughter, 11-year-old Gxila Dorvilus.

"I thought it was very good," she said. "It made me think about how Dr. King made us equal."

The celebration reached its crescendo when Wilson and Jorgensen led the audience in a rousing rendition of "We Shall Overcome." It was a fitting tribute for King, said Wilson, a professional actress, singer, and writer.

"He was a preacher and a divine man," she said. "Looking out on the audience here today -- seeing blacks and whites and Gentiles and Jews together -- I think he would have been very proud."