Columbia Baptist Fellowship seeks renewal of spirit through 3-week revival

September 18, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Members of a Baptist group are rejoicing in the name of the Lord in Columbia -- and don't plan to stop anytime soon.

The Columbia Baptist Fellowship began a three-week revival last Sunday called "Yes, Lord, Yes," with hopes to renew the spirit of the 350-member congregation.

The revival, which ends Oct. 2, is geared toward the congregation but is open to everyone, said the Rev. Steve McNeely, the congregation's minister.

"The first priority is just to refresh and renew the congregation," the minister said. "When the congregation is renewed, it reaches out."

The 21-day revival at the Meeting House in Oakland Mills involves morning and evening services Sundays and one service Wednesdays, Mr. McNeely said. The Columbia Baptist Choir, which sang backup to pop singer Barry Manilow during a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion last year, will be among the performers showcased at the revival.

Scheduled to perform at today's morning service is Wintley A. Phipps, a Columbia resident and Grammy-winning gospel singer.

"He's well-known and really gifted musically," Mr. McNeely said of Mr. Phipps, a Seventh-day Adventist who rocked the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco in 1984 with a powerful rendition of "Ordinary People." "We tried to find someone with the gift of song."

At today's evening service, John Lewis, musical director at Colonial Baptist Church in Pikesville, will direct his choir, Joy and Devotion, in song.

The Columbia Baptist Fellowship's revival is nontraditional and not spiced with shouting, evangelism and long services that people don't seem to have time for these days, Mr. McNeely said.

"We don't see it as an evangelistic crusade," Mr. McNeely said, explaining that the revival is aimed at renewing members' spirituality.

This year's effort is the longest revival that the racially and economically diverse congregation has held. In the past, the congregation has held three- and five-day revivals, the minister said.

Revivals are important because members "need to renew themselves," Mr. McNeely said. Church can become stale, he said. "We need new methodologies to stir and stimulate a body."

The congregation celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

In 1970, seven families met to establish the congregation and three years later the church was chartered. Members met at the interfaith center, where they still gather today.

Mr. McNeely became pastor in 1981, a year after the congregation's original pastor left.

This year, the 12-member deacon body decided on a different kind of revival. One week into the event, they say the revival is working.

To guarantee success, members have called upon a Higher Power by praying and fasting.

"We learned in vacation Bible school . . . prayer changes things," said Veeda Gaines, a six-year member of the church.

As spiritual keepsakes, the congregation is distributing more than 200 buttons that read: "Yes, Lord, Yes."

"I think the people who have been there have really been #F uplifted," said Ray Sudduth, a deacon at the church for seven years.

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