Reading, writing, revival

Religion: New Antioch Baptist Church of Randallstown tailors a revival for the back-to-school crowd.

August 21, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

As summer winds down, students are starting their back-to-school routines: buy a new book bag, a fresh supply of notebooks, an updated wardrobe.

At the New Antioch Baptist Church of Randallstown, there's a different twist to that list: Make a brand-new commitment to Christ.

For three days this week, youths at New Antioch opened their doors to more than 1,000 of their peers from Baltimore, Delaware, Virginia, Washington, and even Georgia, for a Back To School Revival.

Diane Kaintuck of Northeast Baltimore arrived with her 14-year-old daughter Naquisha in tow.

"I brought her to uplift her and get her ready for the new school year. Start her off with a positive attitude," Kaintuck said.

As the teen-age choir launched into an opening hymn -- "We Come to Praise Your Name," accompanied by organ, bass, guitar, drums and two saxophones -- bodies swayed and hands clapped.

"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" preached the Rev. Tyrell Brown, the 27-year-old youth and young adult minister at New Antioch. "If you're glad to be here, say `Thank you, Jesus!' "

"Thank you, Jesus!" the crowd shouted.

Revivals are common in Baptist churches, but usually they are aimed at adults. The Rev. Kenneth L. Barney, New Antioch's pastor, decided three years ago that the joyous atmosphere of a revival, with its upbeat gospel music, Bible study and dynamic preaching, would be a good way to attract young people.

Under Brown's leadership for the past two years, attendance has swelled.

But the three-day affair, which concluded last night, isn't limited to prayer and worship. Built around the nighttime revival sessions are daytime activities with a more mundane purpose: fun.

"We need to let our young people know you can be a Christian and still have fun," Brown said. One night, about 200 youths marched off to Pizza Hut for a late-night snack. Thursday afternoon, a group went on an expedition to an amusement park.

Back at the revival, the youths met for an hour each evening with a panel of pastors and were encouraged to ask any questions that were on their minds. The subjects ranged from teen-age pregnancy to drug use to relationships with the opposite sex to getting along with parents.

"We're giving them biblical answers," Brown said. "Not just opinion, but biblical answers."

And the preaching isn't exactly lighthearted.

"We don't like to talk about the devil. We don't like to mention his name in church," preached the Rev. Marlin Harris, the 26-year-old guest evangelist who brought 50 youths from Lithonia, Ga.

"We rarely talk to our young folk about the devil except for some way of scaring them into doing what's right, scaring them into morality.

"I think the reason why the devil has so much freedom is because nobody's talking about the devil. He wants you to think that he is the figment of somebody's imagination," he said to a chorus of "amens." "At the moment when you are not talking about him, that is when he comes in to wreak havoc in your life."

"I'm getting a good message here," said Jonathan Williams, 20, a student at Catonsville Community College. "I listen to the news, I hear about people getting killed. I come here, I learn about life."

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