With great passion, he spoke of his experiences during the civil rights movement and the struggles and challenges along the way. But, he said, one way to get encouragement is to recognize when progress is made.
"As a community, overcoming a tragedy will take time, but progress will be made," he said.
Forbes said that King believed in the power of community and faith and the need for good to come from tragedy. He stepped down from the pulpit to be closer to the congregation as he raised his voice to finalize his message.
"We have seen that violence can strike anywhere," Forbes bellowed. "Yes, King talked about violence, but he also talked about transformation and healing in the wake of violence."
He then asked people in the church to consider something: "What if history records what happened in Newtown and that leads to a new America?"
"Maybe if we listen to the Spirit, we as a town will be able to stay out of the depths of despair," he said. "If we listen to the Spirit, there will emerge a beacon of light that can lead an entire nation."
Crebbin said this was a fitting time for Forbes, who was leader of the Riverside Church on Sept. 11, 2001, but retired in 2007, to visit Newtown, which is about 60 miles northeast of New York City.
"He's been able to share his insight about grief through his experience with 9/11," Crebbin said. "In the midst of the grieving, we can't try to fix the grief. We need to help with the grieving. It won't be the same life."
Everyone stood to sing "We Shall Overcome" as the service ended. Forbes, founder of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, walked down into the congregation to take the hands of those sitting across the aisle from each other and connected the crowd into one.