Shea Stadium's scoreboard flashed "Jesus" and "Love" today as 35,000 Christians sang, cheered and raised their hands to heaven in a day-long rally in praise of the Lord.
At Shea and 26 other U.S. sports stadiums, Christians of every denominations gathered in the kind of religious revival meetings that until recent years were shunned by the more establishmend-minded Christian churches.
"More and more the old walls and barriers are breaking down," said the Rev. Joseph Malagreca, one of the Shea rally's cochairmen. Pope John Paul II sent his blessings to the rally.
The devil took his lumps throughout the day. At almost every mention of Jesus' name, the crowd cheered and waved. At every assurance that the devil can be beaten and is being beaten, thousands rose to their feet.
But nothing brought a louder or longer standing ovation than two announcements of "miraculous cures."
"I have just received word that on the field level a crippled lady was just walked," cochairman Dan Malachuk told the crowd, and a frail woman in a black dress walked from the grandstand behind home plate. A man pushed a wheelchair - appraently no longer needed - several yards behind her.
Later an elderly man who said he had Parkinson's disease pronounced himself cured after a prayer group raised hands over him. He walked unaided to join the speakers at the rostrum at second base.
It was a joyous crowd. On subways and buses bound for Shea this morning, groups sang, "Jesus is My Salvation," and danced in the aisles.
When Jim Forbes who lectured at the College of Preachers at Washington's National Cathedral, told the crowd "Heaven is equipped to received choreographed prayer" and asked them to signal a silent prayer with their hands and arms, the crowd rose to its feet and the scoreboard commented: "Wow."
Richard Vermilyea came to Shea with 159 persons from St. Agatha's and St. John's parishes in Brooklyn.
"I never cease to be amazed at how Jesus works and how he moves," Vermilyea said. "It's not an invisible God. He's alive. He's well and he's working.
"You can's equal a high you get on Jesus. You can feel those arms wrapped around you."
Dino Glambrone of Staten Island came with the Son-Rise interfaith prayer group.
His niece took Glambrone to his first prayer meeting, he said. "At first, I thought they were crazy with their singing, waving their arms and speaking in tongues. I walked out," he said. That was about five years ago.
"I was hooked up with the rackets," he said. "But I went back to the prayer meeting and found Jesus. I gave up my shylocking and all of that."
Giambrone was wearing a white T-shirt lettered in red, "The King is Coming." He said he served three years in the Danbury Conn., federal prison for "ripping off a Las Vegas casino of $750,000."
"Praise the Lord," Giambrone said in place of goodbye.
"When the Mets play here, they're number one," said Andy Clark of Manhattan. "Today, God is number one."
Today's rallies, called "Jesus '79," were held on the eve of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church. On the first Pentecost, thousands felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. "And suddenly a sound came from heaven, like the rush of a mighty wind," realtes the Bible.
Cochariman Malachuk said he hopes Pentecost can become a day for rejuvenation of the Christian churches. Last year, there was a single "Jesus '78" rally, which drew 60,000 to Gaints Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Malachuk said he hopes there will be 500 smaller "Jesus '80" rallies in high school and college stadiums next year.
The rallies are inspired by three hopes, Malagreca said: the hope that participants will have a personal experience of Jesus; the hope that participants will return to their churches of they have stopped attending and the hope that Christians will become more united in their worship of Jesus.
There is no single national leader of the movement.
Adults paid $3.50 and children under 18 paid $1 to enter Shea Stadium. A collection also was taken.
Malachuk said many tickets were given away to those who could not afford to buy them and that the organizers' cost were about $125,000. "We're not going to make any money,"h he said.
About the same number of people went to Giants Stadium today, but the crowds at the 25 other stadiums outside New York area were considerably smaller, according to "Jesus '79" officials. One estimated that 150,000 people took part outside New York.
At Shea today, some members of the audience brought Bibles; others brought tambourines, tape recorders and picnic lunches.
Speaker after speaker reminded the audience of the prophecy on the first Pentecost: "And your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams . . .
The crowd offered its prayers and praise to Jesus.
And the scoreboard said: "Love." CAPTION: Picture, A joyous crowd in New York's Shea Stadium raises arms in praise at a rally organized to celebrate the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first descended. AP