Gathering echoes with determination Soul searching rings through stands CITYWIDE REVIVAL CRUSADE

October 05, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

In a cadence once reserved for Eddie Murray at Memorial Stadium, chants of "Je-sus, Je-sus" echoed out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards late yesterday afternoon, as thousands of people revived their faith in Baltimore.

For nearly 30 minutes, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore, had rapped the podium placed over second base and exhorted those gathered between the foul poles to tell their neighbors "there is a way out of evil."

And he had shown them the way in perhaps the most soul-stirring moments in the last day of the Baltimore Determined Revival Crusade, the first non-baseball event to take place at the new stadium.

The three sessions of revival and crusade was sponsored by two of Baltimore's largest black congregations, Bethel A.M.E., and New Shiloh Baptist Church. The three days focused on recalling souls and reclaiming the city, said Joyce Alton, one of thousands who more than half-filled Oriole Park -- the stadium seats about 45,000 for baseball -- on a gray, chill afternoon.

About 20,000 people attended Friday's service and 24,000 Saturday night, organizers said. The stadium's concession stands were open, although no alcoholic beverages were on sale.

More than 30 churches of many denominations supported the revival. There was no admission, but an offering was taken to pay the expenses, which organizers said were at least $60,000.

Hoarse from two nights of "singing and praising God," Ms. Alton had arrived almost two hours before the 3 p.m. service to take a seat just behind the Orioles' dugout. At 4:30, the faithful were still filing in, and only upper deck seats were available.

"I thought I wouldn't come back, but I just came right on back," said Ms. Alton. "There's so much killing out there. Maybe this will open people up."

Indeed, as Mr. Reid set forth his four ways to overcome the evils besetting the city, nearly half the congregation stood, thrust hands into the air and moved to the pastor's rhythm, which rivaled that of any rap star.

"When politicians are playing politics with the lives of children in the name of getting elected . . . that's evil.

"When we can pay athletes million of dollars and put other people out of work . . . that's evil," said Mr. Reid.

To stop evil, "we gotta be positive," said the pastor. "We gotta be prayerful. We've gotta praise the Lord. We've gotta be powerful."

After each point, Mr. Reid commanded, "Say 'yes.' Say 'yes.' "

And the faithful followed.

"Turn to the person next to you and say, 'Neighbor, oh, neighbor, I know what you are going through, but I want you to know there is a way out of evil.'"

And the faithful followed.

Mr. Reid preached the first of two sermons that followed nearly two hours of music, Scripture readings and inspirational appearances. On a stage set up across second base, Mayor Kurt Schmoke, State Sen. Larry Young, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson, and a number of area clergymen lent their support.

Although the speakers were a long distance from the audience, each appeared on JumboTron, as did views of the crowd. The choir, said to have more than 1,000 members, filled the seats directly behind the visitors' dugout; musicians played on top of the dugout.

"Usually the prayers that are heard here [in this ballpark] are for hits and runs and outs," Mayor Schmoke told the audience. "Yesterday and today, the prayers have been for peace and love and unity."

The mayor also said "the force of faith . . . faith that has seen us through even darker hours" was among the crowd. "You will leave with a newer, stronger commitment that we are united . . . by concern for our community."

Calling God "a nice guy," Dr. Carson said: "What God did for me, he will do for you. If God can take a young boy from the ghetto, from a broken home with the worst grades imaginable and turn him into a world-renowned neurosurgeon, God can do anything."

"Small ideas do very little to move people," said the Rev. Harold A. Carter of New Shiloh Baptist Church. But the bigness of the revival that rocked Oriole Park "will live a long time in the hearts and minds of people. It's an event whose time is long overdue," he said. "The bigness of the event will make the difference.

"We believe that a lot of people are hurting today, a lot of people are caught in vices."

In an interview before yesterday's service, Mr. Carter said that "people will draw inspiration that life is meaningful and that they have purpose."

"What the revival will do . . . is remind people that their collective interest in things will really not solve anything."

Many people munched popcorn and hot dogs and drank soft drinks as they listened to the prayers and sermons. Many were still dressed in their Sunday best, although others wore jeans and sneakers. As "Amazing Grace," "Old Time Religion" and "America the Beautiful" rang out, babies slept and elderly folks pulled afghans a little closer.

Most expressed hope that people would go back to their neighborhoods and try to do something about crime and violence.

"When they start shooting policemen one behind another and shooting babies . . . it's outta control. The gangsters are running things," said Reservoir Hill resident David Griffin. Even before Sunday's gathering, planners called it a success. "Oh, glory to God, the people really responded," said Leronia Josey, an attorney who was co-chair of the event with Senator Young.

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