Religious rally aims to restore faith

January 11, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Promising to "shake this town," more than 150 preachers packed a church last night to launch a foot-stomping evangelical crusade aimed at restoring faith to Baltimore and answering the city's urban woes.

"God will bring forth a tremendous revival to the city of Baltimore," thundered evangelist Pat Kelly, a former Orioles outfielder.

"We got churches today, but they are sound asleep. We've got to wake them up."

Without specifically mentioning the city's crime problem, organizers in song and sermon pounded out a message of hope and racial unity, praying that together church leaders can spread the word of God and end destructive behavior.

"We spend a lot of time making a chronology of the deterioration of the city," said the Rev. P. M. Smith, pastor of Huber Memorial United Church of Christ, where the rally was held.

"I'm convinced that what we are seeing is a deteriorating family. The question is, whose responsibility is it to revitalize the community?" Mr. Smith said, answering quickly: "The church."

The rally , a mixture of gospel revelry and organizational work, was organized by Mr. Kelly, who is sponsoring a September crusade called "Come Alive in '95" through his Life Line Ministries, based in Hunt Valley.

Though gun-related crime showed its first significant drop last year, crimes -- particularly slayings -- committed by black people against other blacks remained disproportionately high.

In a city with a population that is 60 percent black, blacks account for 90 percent of homicide victims and 96 percent of homicide suspects, according to police statistics.

"Who wants to see anyone dying?" asked Mr. Kelly. "We rejoice in hearing reports that crime is down, yet there are so many who are lost.

"We want to impact the city of Baltimore," he said. "We want to impact every nook and cranny, every street and corner, so lives might be changed. . . . We've got a world that is dying without Christ, and we have the answer."

Last night's meeting at the church in the 5700 block of York Road was the kickoff for the crusade, which is planned for the Baltimore Arena.

The 168 ministers and others who attended the rally represented a racial cross-section of the Baltimore area, including churches from urban and rural areas, and preachers both black and white.

"The root problems are the same," said the Rev. Lou Enoff, pastor of the South Carroll Full Gospel Church in Westminster. "They may be concentrated in the city, but we're all in this together. We need to work together, not just in Baltimore but in Maryland."

The Rev. Nathaniel Johnson, pastor of Mount Moriah Baptist Church, led the audience in prayer, promising, "This year in '95, we want to bring this town alive. . . . We want to shake this town, shake this world."

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