A unique tent revival in Howard

Goal: With 10 events in a format from frontier days, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Parish of Columbia aims to bring `the good news of God's saving love.'

August 23, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the tradition of the old-fashioned tent revivals of frontier days, an "Evangelistic Tent Revival" has arrived in Howard County.

A crew of six set up a jumbo, open-sided tent last week on the plaza next to Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.

The 600-seat tent is the site this week and next for 10 revival-related activities sponsored by St. John the Evangelist Catholic Parish of Columbia.

The revival "is for Catholics who feel a need to get revived again, but it's also for anyone who is longing to hear the good news of what God offers to us in Jesus - the good news of God's saving love for us," said Pat Barbernitz, staff associate for evangelism at St. John's.

The tent revival format is not typical in the Roman Catholic tradition, said the Rev. Richard H. Tillman, the pastor.

"We're unique," he said, noting that the revival lets the community know that St. John's is an "open-door, open-tent" kind of place.

"This is something that we're able to do that makes a big splash," Barbernitz said. "You can't ignore that huge tent."

St. John's sponsored its first tent revival two years ago as part of the year 2000 Jubilee Celebration of the Roman Catholic Church. One service was held at that time. Each of the 600 seats was filled, and 100 other guests were standing.

This year's revival includes a series of evenings under the theme of "Come and See ... The Many Faces in the House of God."

The meetings began Sunday with a service in Spanish, and a prayer service was held Tuesday for the success of the revival. It continued yesterday with gospel music for an "Event with an African-American Flavor." Tonight, the revival will celebrate the Haitian faith experience with a service in Creole and English. Tomorrow's meeting, "The Revival of the Fittest," is designed for young people.

"We're trying to use as many creative methods as possible to get the message out that we want to be inviting and welcoming to all God's people," Barbernitz said.

The main revival event is scheduled Sunday. Deacon Ricardo Bailey of Atlanta will preach. Bailey, an African-American who is studying for the priesthood, served at St. John's parish last year as part of his training. "He's a magnificent preacher," Barbernitz said. "People loved him so much when they heard him."

The church has sent invitations to local clergy of all denominations inviting them to take part in the service. Catholic and non-Catholic clergy will be available afterward to those who have questions about their faith.

The revival services also include prayer, praise, song and "witness," Barbernitz said.

At Sunday's Spanish service, Nellie Delgado, a native of Puerto Rico who lives in Woodsboro, gave her witness: "God changed my life from being just a passive Catholic to now I can really talk to him, get mad at him, ask him anything. He is my best friend."

A revival highlight will be a "Tell the Bishop" session Monday with the Rev. Fran Malooly, auxiliary bishop with oversight for Howard County and five Western Maryland counties.

"My part actually is simply to listen," Malooly said. "I'm to be there on Monday night to listen to those who have found themselves distant from the church ... to reach out to see if there's some way that we can be helpful to them. The church certainly needs revival."

On Wednesday, an evening of Marian devotion is planned with a display of images of Mary from ethnic backgrounds and a time to pray the rosary.

The revival concludes Sept. 1 with a parish picnic under the tent.

"Our congregation is very strong," Tillman said. "Our outreach is very fervent. And our involvement in the community is very sincere. This [revival] is a way of trying to build on that."

All events are under the tent next to Wilde Lake Interfaith Center: service in Creole and English, at 7 o'clock tonight; youth event, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow; "Tell the Bishop," at 7 p.m. Monday; Marian devotion, at 7 p.m. Wednesday; "Getting Involved at St. John's," Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 after each Mass; picnic, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 1.

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