MOUNT OLIVE — Ants and geese know there is strength in unity, the Rev. Timothy Dortch said.

And a man only needs the sense of a goose to know it, too, he said.

Dortch, pastor of Word of Truth Christian Fellowship in Goldsboro, used the animals to drive home the theme “Where there is Unity, there is Strength” for Sunday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration sponsored by the Carver High School Alumni and Friends Association.

Close to 200 people attended the ceremony held at Holy Ghost Cathedral on East James Street.

The association also used the celebration to accept an offering to support the scholarships it presents during its annual homecoming reunion during the July 4 weekend.

Musical selections were provided by Mount Olive First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

The ceremony, which was more like a church revival, broke with tradition and did not include direct reference to King or his quotes.

“You can learn a lot from creation,” Dortch said. “As a matter of fact, God points out some of them in scripture. For example, in Proverbs Chapter 6, verses six through eight, the writer of Proverbs writes, ‘Go to the ant thy sluggard; consider her ways and be wise, which having no guide, overseer or ruler, provides her meat for the summer and gathers her food in the harvest.’”

Audience members mummered in agreement when Dortch asked if they had ever seen ants work together.

Ants have evolved the ability to band together and do so to build bridges and rafts with their bodies to escape floodwaters, he said.

“I have actually seen ants build a bridge when water was not involved, if they were getting from one destination to another,” Dortch said.

The ants climb upon each other to build a bridge to cross a breach allowing other ants to cross, he said.

The writer of Proverbs is telling people they can learn by observing the behavior of one of God’s creatures, he said.

There are similar lessons to be learned from animals that while not indicated in Scripture but whose habits can be supported by Scripture, Dortch said.

An example can be seen in the habits of geese when they fly, he said.

They fly in a “V” formation, which according to studies, provides 70 percent more flying range than if the birds flew alone, he said.

In the same way, people who share a common direction and sense of community can get to where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another, Dortch said.

“Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go at it alone,” he said. “It quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird that is immediately in front of him.

“What we should get out of this is if we have have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed in the same direction as we are.”

Also, the birds honk in order to encourage the ones in front of them to keep up the pace, Dortch said.

People need to provide that same encouragement to each other, too, he said.

That is particularly true as Christians prepare for the return of Jesus, Dortch said.

“We should encourage one another to keep up your speed,” he said. “If somebody falls by the wayside or starts slowing down, we should hold others accountable. We should encourage them and not try to tear them down.

“What we should get from this — we should be careful what we say when we honk from behind. If faith comes by hearing, then fear comes by hearing. You’ve got to be careful what you honk from behind because what we say can have either a negative effect or positive effect on somebody, and since there is strength in unity, I’d rather build you up than tear you down.”