By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Three years ago, First Baptist Church of Glenarden and Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church decided to kick off 2003 with an old-fashioned revival -- two ministers preaching to their majority-black congregations. About 6,000 filled the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro each of the event's three nights.
Tonight, more than 10,000 people are expected to flock to the final night of this year's celebration at the Washington Convention Center. The ministers have been joined onstage by popular gospel singers, and the sermons have been delivered to a crowd that has expanded in size and scope.
There was the 27-year-old pregnant nurse who left her husband home with their 4-year-old son, and the 77-year-old woman who shook her walker everywhere but loose Monday night. The service featured Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of a Dallas megachurch with about 30,000 members.
"Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God. . . . "
The crowd -- young and not so young, a variety of races and ethnicities -- lifted their hands and sang along with Israel Houghton, a gospel recording artist and a worship leader of a 35,000-member Houston church.
"Our goal is to be a bridge between cultures and have music that everybody sings in their church whether they are black, white or Hispanic," said Houghton, who heads the multicultural gospel group New Breed.
After years of squeezing into the Upper Marlboro facility, the Rev. John K. Jenkins of First Baptist and Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr. of Greater Mount Calvary, which is in the District, decided to move the revival to the Convention Center this year to accommodate the growth and draw even more people from across the region.
"There was so much tragedy and so much pain in 2005, not just in this community but the nation," Jenkins said, referring to the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. "Where else to start healing but in Washington, D.C.?"
Jakes, a popular television evangelist, unleashed a stormy sermon that challenged churches to go beyond the spiritual status quo in 2006.
"We are in the midst of a great war, and I am not talking about in Iraq," Jakes boomed. "The church is intoxicated with its own wine . . . but sometimes we ought to get mad. The enemy is playing with us. . . . I'm tired of just going to church. I'm tired of just seeing folks. I want to see God. I want to see a movement of God."
As Jakes preached, a chorus of "amens" came from the stage, which was filled with ministers of various races and denominations: Bishop Don Meares of Evangel Cathedral of Upper Marlboro; the Rev. Grainger Browning Jr., pastor of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington; and Pastor Simeon Corum of the Goshen Worship Center in Landover.
"Now is the time for the people of God and the churches to come together," Meares said.
Mary Lewis, 77, spent Monday night in the front row shouting, rocking her walker and expressing joy, she said, for being able to come to the event despite her failing health.
"I wanted a word from God. I needed a word because I love God," Lewis said. "He is my everything."
This year's revival was the second for Monique Davis, 27, the nurse who is eight months pregnant. She comes, she said, "because it sets the tone for the rest of my year."