Churches prepare to ring the rafters at Camden Yards

October 02, 1992|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Planning for this weekend's three days of Christian services at the Camden Yards stadium has stirred such enthusiasm among churchgoers frightened by drugs and crime that the revival may become an annual healing effort, the organizers said yesterday.

Meeting to discuss the sermons they will preach, the Rev. Harold A. Carter and the Rev. Frank Madison Reid III said their large inner-city congregations and an ecumenical group of other churches saw such a need for the revival that planning normally expected to require about a year was accomplished in three months.

The two Baltimore ministers, both known nationally for their eloquence, believe nearly all, if not all, of the 47,800 Oriole Park seats will be filled for each of the three outdoor services. The music starts at 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow and at 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

Groups of worshipers from as far away as Toronto have `f indicated they will be in the stands, Dr. Carter said, although Baltimoreans and their problems remain the focus of the revival.

"It has been said that America is a Christian nation," the pastor commented in his study at West Baltimore's New Shiloh Baptist Church. "I recognize that some see a downside to that remark, but America does have a Christian heritage.

"But a lot of that heritage has been lost in the contemporary world. Americans are trying to capture who and what we once were -- without Christ, and it has been a failure.

"This revival will be orthodox in the sense that we are going back to Christ, to Christ alone. We have no illusions -- it is difficult to do that."

Sitting across a table from Dr. Carter, Dr. Reid nodded and said, "Yes, it is."

"It's difficult because people don't want to believe 'just Christ,' " New Shiloh's pastor continued. "Now, they always seem to ask, 'Christ and what else?' "

When he says "Christ," Dr. Carter explained, he means "holistic living, not just Christ on Sunday mornings." He added, "We believe that Jesus Christ must be allowed to take charge of our lives again."

Referring to broad, interdenominational backing for the revival, Dr. Reid said, "It's almost unheard of for this kind of thing to happen in three months. It shows what the need is. There is a demand that it happen."

Dr. Reid is pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church. In addition to it and New Shiloh, 23 city congregations have been involved in the preparations, and the list was still growing yesterday.

A choir of more that 1,000 voices has been assembled.

At the conclusion of this evening's service -- after Dr. Reid's sermon entitled "Jesus Will Raise You Up!" and testimony from a recovering drug abuser and alcoholic -- the choir will lead the thousands in a rousing rendition of "Amazing Grace." Dr. Carter will be the preacher tomorrow, and the two pastors will share the pulpit Sunday afternoon.

Leronia A. Josey, a Baltimore lawyer who is an active member of the Bethel congregation and one of the revival's planners, said the event incurred an unanticipated expense -- a $5 million insurance policy against damage to the stadium.

Laughing, she recalled, "I kept telling them [the stadium authority] that we would have no alcohol, no teeny boppers, but when they saw the size of the crowd we expected, they got worried." Even so, she said, thanks to the support and cooperation of stadium officials and local politicians, the total cost of the revival is being kept in the $100,000 range.

Any money raised over and above expenses through free-will offerings will be divided between the extensive social service programs conducted by the Bethel and New Shiloh congregations.

In addition, people who come to the revival are being asked to bring canned goods or other non-perishable food for distribution by the Maryland Food Committee and Bea Gaddy's soup kitchen as well as by the Bethel and New Shiloh churches.

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