Revival is first non-baseball use for new ballpark

July 29, 1992|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

It has often been said of the Rev. Harold A. Carter, for 28 years the dynamic pastor of New Shiloh Baptist Church, that he is one Baltimore preacher whose ringing phrases could fill Memorial Stadium.

Yesterday, he stood in the bright sun near home plate at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and promised to try something just as daunting: to fill the 47,800 seats of Baltimore's new stadium for an ecumenical revival three days in a row in October.

He will not attempt it alone.

At a news conference at Camden Yards, Dr. Carter was cheered on by two state senators, officials of the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, representatives of Bethel A.M.E. Church -- which is co-sponsoring the revival -- and dozens of members of his New Shiloh congregation.

Called "Revival Crusade '92," the three days of Christian services will mark the first time the new ball park is turned over to a use other than Orioles games.

Although off-season rentals for entertainment such as concerts are expected in future years, Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Stadium Authority, said the Orioles management and the authority had agreed that in the park's first season, only the team would use the field.

But when the church leaders and state Sen. Larry Young, a Baltimore Democrat, asked for an exception, the Orioles agreed, Mr. Belgrad said.

Larry Lucchino, president of the ballclub, called the religious crusade "a significant opportunity to open our beautiful new park" to a segment of the Baltimore community that might not otherwise experience it.

"We know it works well as a baseball park," Mr. Lucchino said, adding that he hoped it would serve the churches' purposes equally well.

The weekend chosen for the revival comes between the end of the regular baseball season and the beginning of playoffs, Mr. Belgrad noted.

He said an exception was also made in the rent the churches will pay. The total -- probably in the $100,000 range but not yet determined exactly -- will merely cover "overhead" such as electricity, security, parking attendants, ushers, cleaning and other maintenance, he said. "Stadiums are very expensive facilities to operate."

The Rev. Frank Madison Reid III, Bethel A.M.E.'s pastor and a compelling preacher in his own right, will share the playing-field pulpit with Dr. Carter on the evenings of Oct. 2 and 3 and on the afternoon of Oct. 4.

What do they hope to accomplish? Dr. Carter answered for himself and Dr. Reid, who was out of town yesterday.

"People are hurting, due to loss of jobs, homes, health and other devastating problems," Dr. Carter said. "The news has been essentially violent, essentially about such crises as joblessness. But there is another side of life that is positive, an optimistic side. Life can be lived with hope. People can truly change their destiny with the power of God."

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