On one side of the jampacked subway car, Jo Jo Winston and Gomer McCann of Carlisle, "Pee-Ay," led a crew of Nazarenes in a rousing rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain." Behind them a little man wearing sneakers and a sackcloth vest clasped his hands together and blessed Metro. Behind him several others waved their fingers with the beat like orchestra conductors.
But across the aisle, red-eyed Billy Adkins, a "nondenominational true believer in the faith of our lord and king," knotted his fists at all the Christian revelers and shouted -- "Repent! In the name of Jesus Christ! We didn't come here to disco! We came to pray for America!"
It was 3 a.m. and this was the "hosanna Shuttle."
The shuttle, also called the "Holy Roller," was a special Metro subway train rented by the organizers of Washington for Jesus to ferry born-again faithful from a late Monday revival at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium to a Tuesday prayer session on the Mall.
The train was nicknamed by a group of believers from Texas who occupied three rows of seats in the first car and looked on in utter amazement at the display of joy and temper going on behind them. "Has a good ring to it, doesn't it," sighed Harold Gloster, an Abilene, Tex., Baptist. "Sorta captures the spirit."
It was a spirit best described by Mary Trammel, a retired Atlanta clerk for Southern Railways who made this pilgrimage to Washington and caught the Hosanna Shuttle to "heal this Godforsaken country."
"Some folks," she drawled, looking around the train, "think you win souls for Christ by singing and smiling like movie stars. I think it takes a lot of down-home, on-your-knees, heart-burning prayer."
So it was really two very different spirits that spilled over into the train early yesterday from the rally at RFK Stadium. The revival begin at 6 p.m. and attracted 36,000 Christians who came to sing and pray for America. There were charismatic Catholics from Upstate New York, Baptists, Nazarenes, Methodists, Jews-for-Christ, Pentecostals and numerous other fellowships and subsects of the born-again faith.
For four hours they huddled under unbrellas and blankets and watched a procession of Christian entertainers and video gospelers preach and wail the faith from a red, white and blue stage on the 50-yard line illuminated by television lights in order to videotape the service for religion telecasts later.
Converted football players and rock singers paraded to the stage to relate their born-again experiences. The rally was actually a kind of political convention-country revival-rock concert, all rolled into one. A few old men walked around with gleaming eyes, wearing paper crowns on their heads and carrying cardboard crosses. Red-and white placards proclaiming names of American states adorned the stadium. Many people congregated on the ramps wearing paper tags, stating such words as 'Texas for Christ" and "Nevada Believes."
All over the stadium strangers introduced themselves by relating the time and place of their rebirth, and quoted the scriptures verbatim.
"If you love Him you will obey His commandments and He will manifest Himself to you," winked Ken Wooten, a bushy-eyebrowed sprite from Arlington, Texas, who hitchhiked to D.C. for the rally and quoted John 14:21 for a reporter, who, when asked, told Wooten and several others he wasn't born-again.
That was when Wooten picked up his tambourine, joined hands with his friends and the reporter, and beseeched the Almightly Father to "show Himself to this lost soul."
It was a very physical crowd.At least once every hour someone on stage would ask the people to hold hands and pray together. After Christ and God, the ayatollah, the Russians, homosexuals and abortion were very popular topics. Speaker after speaker pounded the Bible and prayed that God free America from all four of the "evils."
Five hours later the crowd had dwindled to little over 3,000 -- but many of those who remained were fervent fundamentalist. They were tired of the singing and smiling so tired that they booed irreverently when yet another balladeer was announced.
"We came to pray! Repent your sinful souls!" shouted a bearded man in Section 301, standing up from his orange plastic seat and spreading his arms.
"Amen! Amen to the brother! This ain't supposed to be lovey-dovey!" yelled a woman nearby. "Get on your knees."
It was 12:51 a.m., and RFK Stadium was suddenly a wailing wall for the born again. It was eerie and it was awesome. Men and women moaned and groaned, and colllapsed onto the pavement. The stadium reverberated with loud, incoherent murmurings of religious fervor.
A Washington for Jesus master of ceremonies onstage shouted into a microphone for calm and decorum, while young Christian ushers scampered through the aisles to shush the faithful. The anarchy lasted about 20 minutes before the singer was able to sing his euphoric, but ill-received, ballad.
It was this rift between the joyous believers and the wrath-of-God born again that was repeated on the Hosanna Shuttle. While the crowd waited for the gates to open at the foot of the escalators at Stadium-Armory station, a group of carolers broke out into "Loved Lifted Me." But several instant preachers appeared at the top of the crowded stairwell and tried to outshout the blissful.
"Brethren," shouted one. "My heart is burning! please listen. This is not a festival."
"In the name of Christ, be still!" bellowed another, holding a crucifix in one hand and a Bible in the other. "The world is sinking into hell and you are filled with sin."
The shuttle finally cruised into the Smithsonian station and the crowd dispersed. The ragtag fundamentalists congregated in a circle around the bandstand of the Mall and began moaning and jumping anew.
The rest folded themselves into sleeping bags and waited for the superstar ministers to lead them in song and prayer several hours later when the main rally was to begin.