ATLANTA - New Year's Eve service at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church ended with a little more joy and love than normal.
Rev. Raphael Warnock closed services Thursday night by acknowledging the people closest to him beginning with Christine King Farris, the eldest and only living sibling of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He continued to name several of his closest friends before turning his attention to his long-time girlfriend, Dr. Ouleye Ndoye.
"She is one of the most brilliant people I know... and one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen," Rev. Warnock told his congregation.
The senior pastor then asked Ndoye to come up to the front of the church. The whole church at this point seemed to know what was about to happen and erupted in a fervor of joyous noise.
Quoting Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, he spoke directly to her:
"Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are. Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words. Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you. Those who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart"
Pulling a small red box from his jacket, he turned to Proverbs 18:22.
"He who finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord," he finally was able to get out amid the excitement of the congregation. Turning to Ndoye he continued, "So, will you do me a favor and be my good thing? Will you marry me?"
A thunderous approval from the congregation tore through church as Rev. Warnock placed the ring on Dr. Ndoye's finger. Services ended with a celebration worthy of the approaching New Year and the congregation offering congratulations to the newly engaged couple.
Rev. Warnock has been senior pastor at Ebenezer since 2005. His fiancee, Dr. Ndoye holds a history doctorate from the Columbia University specializing in in African History, Human Rights, Migration and U.S. Policy.
A date for the wedding has not been announced.