‘Black Preacher Day’

The black preacher received his due when several hundred persons, both black and white, gathered at Boston’s Music Hall on a recent weekend to celebrate the officially proclaimed “Black Preacher Day,” perhaps the first such commemoration of the black ministry.

Sponsored by the National Center of Afro-American Artists, the celebration featured dinner in the kitchens of numerous black churches across the city, tours of black churches, conversations with black pastors, and dramas depicting the history of famous black ministers. There were bands, gospel choirs, dances, stage productions, and even a fashion show. All events in some way depicted the theme or life-styles of the black clergy.

The whole affair was an amalgam of conservative and liberal clergy life-styles, and praise was given to both the black revivalists and social activists. Special attention was called to the lives of Black Muslim Elijah Muhammad, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., self-help capitalist Leon Sullivan, politician Adam Clayton Powell, and even revolutionary Nat Turner—all ministers in their day.

Perhaps because historically the black church was, in the words of organizers, “the source of much laughter and gaiety, a training ground for actors, singers, orators and artists,” it was the new breed of black actors and artists who decided to sponsor the event, not a church organization. That made the event all the more significant. And no one seemed to complain about the prices, ranging from $12.50 to $50 as admission to one or all events.


Key 73: Going And Growing

Despite severe financial problems on the national level, Key 73 is alive and well and growing in hundreds of communities. In fact, said national director Ted Raedeke, the lack of money may have been a blessing in disguise, forcing local congregations to work out their own programs. “I think many of [the congregations] were sitting back waiting to see what we’d do for them,” said Raedeke. “They soon found we couldn’t do much.”

With responsibility for the success of the year-long effort resting with local churches—a goal Raedeke sought from the beginning—the program is as varied as the number of participants. Among events scheduled during the summer and fall months are: home Bible studies and prayer meetings, evangelistic blitzes, community-wide crusades, local television and film efforts, Scripture distribution campaigns, fairground booths, marches for Christ, concert programs, telephone surveys, and Christian art festivals. In addition, youth rallies are scheduled for thirty-two cities including Philadelphia (July 1–7); Morgantown, Pennsylvania, where Jesus 73 is expected to attract 10,000 or more (Aug. 9–11); Detroit (Aug. 5–11); Kansas City (July 27–29); Eugene, Oregon (July 28); and Houston, where planners of a joint Lutheran youth gathering expect 18,000 (Aug. 4–8). Typical of many rallies already held was a three-and-a-half hour one in the small town of Manassas, Virginia, featuring Washington Redskin’s football star Charlie Harraway and a returned POW, Sergeant David Harker. It drew more than 300 from six denominations.

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Scripture distribution and religion surveys are proving the most popular local projects. In Danbury, Connecticut, more than 15,000 Scriptures were distributed by seven churches, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Assembly of God, Baptist, Christian, Nazarene, and AME Zion. Roman Catholic churches in Missouri (a third of the nation’s Catholic dioceses are participating in Key 73) conducted surveys. In Zelienople, Pennsylvania, a group of churches polled their community by telephone to find out why residents weren’t attending church. Nearly 100,000 Scripture portions were distributed in Nashville, Tennessee.

Most Scripture-distribution materials come from the American Bible Society. To date, the society reports that 27.9 million Scripture portions have been distributed under the Key 73 banner. The number includes more than ten million copies of a booklet containing Luke and Acts. (The ten-millionth copy was presented to New York governor Nelson Rockefeller.) More than 1.5 million New Testaments were distributed also.

Raedeke, while acknowledging disappointment that the national office couldn’t use mass media to give Key 73 “high visibility,” is nonetheless pleased at the variations on local themes. Many churches are setting up Key 73 booths at state and county fairs. At the Florida state fair, 200 teens hired for grounds-cleaning and tickettaking wore sweat shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Christ is the Key.” At a New England Key 73 strategy seminar, one pastor told of his church’s unique Key 73 ministry—a booth at the city dump. As the pastor told it, church members noticed that the dump was extremely busy on Saturday mornings. Believing they should be where the people are, they opened a booth from which church young people dispensed hot chocolate and Key 73 tracts.

In New Orleans, every Christian denomination was represented in a march for Christ through the downtown area. More than 5,000 marched, with 1,500 gathering at St. Louis Catholic Cathedral for a Key 73 service. As participants left the cathedral, they sang Jesus songs. Organizers say 172 city churches were represented. In the meantime, the Women’s Great Commission Prayer Crusade (headed by Campus Crusade’s first lady, Vonette Bright) held two dozen well attended prayer rallies in the first six months of 1973.

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And, as local churches get more involved, the national financial picture has brightened somewhat, said Raedeke. A special mailing has started to bring in money from churches and individuals. In the meantime, Key 73 financing is being helped by sales of the organization’s Congregational Resource Book (150,000 of the $3 books have been sold; Raedeke hopes sales will reach 200,000.)


Katie Hanley: Under God’S Spell

In the off-Broadway production of the hit musical Godspell, singer Katie Hanley prayed three things: “To see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, follow him more nearly day by day.” In the film version—a much more serious production, according to Miss Hanley and this critic—her song-prayer has deepened from the simple “Day by Day” to the richer meaning of “By My Side.” As she told Associated Press religion writer George W. Cornell in a recent interview, the film “all at once is not just a silly, light show, but starts to sum up the basic message of Jesus and the sacrifices he made for us. Singing of him, we want to follow him.”

The change in songs reflects a deeper change within the singer’s spiritual life, she told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Coming out of the San Francisco hippie scene, she became a Christian three years ago through the witness of her sister, Marsha Hoover, now a senior at the University of Utah and active in Campus Crusade for Christ. But, says Miss Hanley, “I had no real power of the Holy Spirit to take advantage of the witnessing opportunities that singing ‘Day by Day’ [probably the most popular song in the musical] gave me.”

Seven months ago, however, she received “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” which she associates with speaking in tongues. “I received it in child-like innocence,” she recalls, “not really knowing exactly what it was.” Since then, she explains, Christ’s love and power are more evident in her life. “I now realize that Jesus really was God; that prayer, the Bible, and miracles are real. It’s a real thing to me. It’s a matter of growth in faith and knowing Jesus.”

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Her professional life, too, has shifted emphasis. She signed a contract with Logos International Publishing Company of Plainfield, New Jersey, and plans to do an album for them. No projection date or final plans have been made, but she says it will probably be a mix of secular and sacred songs, an update of some old hymns, all “sweet, beautiful melodies.”

“God used Stephen Schwartz, a non-Christian, to write some simple, beautiful melodies for Godspell,” says Miss Hanley, and it’s there that she finds the show’s power. “God can use Godspell to bring people to him.” A great many Catholics came to see the musical, she says, and “those people got so excited about the joy of following Jesus.” “Some people have never considered that following him could lead to a joy-filled life,” she adds.

Her first major appearance for her Lord came last summer at Explo 72, which her sister had told her about a month earlier. She got in touch with Crusade, sent a tape of “Day by Day,” and about a week later was scheduled on the program and booked on a flight to Dallas. The enthusiasm of Explo “bowled me over a little, but I was so glad to know there were so many young Christians around.” Her lack of Christian friends in New York made it difficult at times to maintain her friendship with Jesus, she says. “Explo had a little bit of the football atmosphere about it, but when Bill Bright said ‘Let’s pray,’ the Cotton Bowl became filled with quiet, worshipful reverence,” she recalls, and that impressed her.

The singer gets some negative criticism from fundamentalists who consider Godspell blasphemous. “I try to explain to them what the show means with its symbolism and child-like innocence,” she says. But, she adds, a cast’s attitude can at times make Godspell blasphemous. The original casts didn’t do this, she thinks, but the various productions around the country often make the show a religious “Laugh-In.”

Now that she has become a charismatic and is attending the First Christian Assembly Church in Plainfield, she’s “waiting for God to strengthen and lead me. I’m just waiting. I’m out of the world now, and here in Plainfield God is taking the world out of me.”


Hot And Humorous

“Ridiculous!” That was the reply—amid laughter—by Hebrew-Christian evangelist Louis Kaplan, 57, of Phoenix, Arizona, to a Jewish Post report that JULY 6, 1973 he and his wife Chira have been sending $6,000 a month to Israel for the “Jews for Jesus” movement. Kaplan said their involvement has been through his Jewish Voice Broadcast (JVB), which is aired on fifty stations internationally and last year sent sixteen young people to Jerusalem to open up an evangelical youth center. The Post charge was contained in an article reflecting on the hot Jewish-Christian evangelism controversy in Israel (see March 30 issue, page 38).

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The evangelist claimed that the activities of his group have been grossly exaggerated because of the desire of radical religious elements, led by Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League, to gain a voice in the next Israeli election.

The young missionaries, all but two now back in the States, were financed by JVB’s contributors at $50 per month each plus room and board. (Kaplan emphasizes that his group is not to be confused with what he calls the “false Children of God sect” in Israel.) Despite threats and beatings from radical Orthodox Jews, alleged Kaplan, the group distributed thousands of Bibles and tracts and persuaded forty persons in Jerusalem to become followers of Jesus.

A few months ago, the group received a note threatening that the JVB youth center would be burnt down if the evangelists refused to leave. “In sympathy with the frightened Jewish landlord, we left and moved to another location,” explained Kaplan, who has visited Israel six times (once to appear before the Ministry for Religious Affairs to clarify JVB’s intentions).

“I want to emphasize that our ministry has never been hindered by the Israeli government,” said Kaplan. What about rumors floating in Jewish circles that Egypt is supporting JVB? “Nonsense,” he chuckled, pointing to the incongruity of funding by Muslims.


Religion In Transit

Reaction was mixed to a $10,000 campaign by the American Board of Missions to the Jews to place “smiling Jews for Jesus” ads in thirty campus papers. Some refused to run it, Stanford accompanied it with a written apology to any offended by it, and at one Southern California college 7,000 of the 8,000 copies of the school’s newspaper were stolen.

With the recent death of a ninety-six-year-old “eldress,” the ranks of the Shakers—America’s best-known communal religious group—were reduced to thirteen, all women, in two communes. Organized in 1787, the group at its peak had 2,400 members in fifty-eight communes. The sect considers its first leader, Ann Lee, to be the female counterpart of Jesus Christ.

An organization to promote world evangelism through missionary efforts of Third World churches was launched in a meeting attended by sixty-five at Fuller Seminary School of World Mission. Afericasia (for Africa, Latin America, and Asia) Mission Advance Fellowship, led by Third World evangelicals, will organize a communication network, set up training and research centers, and offer other support.

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Jewish scholars will contribute to “Shalom Curriculum,” a joint Christian-education project of six major Protestant denominations (Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church, Southern Presbyterians, Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, and United Presbyterians).

A woman, Mrs. J. J. Chesney, was elected vice-president of Canada’s most influential synagogue, Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. The post is regarded as the prelude to the congregation’s highest office, and the prospect of a female president in a key synagogue is creating a stir in Toronto Jewish circles. It would be the first time that a woman ever occupied that position in a Canadian synagogue.

CONTACT Teleministries, a coordinating and accrediting body, says it now has fifty affiliated crisis hot-line centers operating around the clock and responding to nearly 500,000 calls for help a year.

The Slavic Gospel Association and the David C. Cook Foundation have jointly produced a new youth program utilizing tape recordings that tell the story of Christian young people behind the Iron Curtain.

There is unprecedented openness and response to evangelical literature in Canada. That was the consensus at the second annual Canadian regional meeting of the Christian Booksellers Association, attended by 200 dealers and publishers’ representatives at Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The 30,000-member Evangelical Congregational Church in a special session elected H. D. Wittmaier as bishop to succeed Paul K. Cressman, who died last December.

The current principal of Spurgeon’s College, London, G. R. Beasley-Murray, an evangelical, will move to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, as professor of New Testament.

A Gallup Poll shows that 74 per cent of the British public believe in God and 18 per cent believe in the devil—a 3 per cent decline in each case from 1968 figures.

Legislation to end public display of pornography is coming soon for Britain. Prime Minister Edward Heath promised the tough stand in response to a million-plus signature petition presented as part of the evangelical Festival of Light campaign.

Official figures show that 126,777 legal abortions were performed in England and Wales last year—12 per cent of them on women from other countries, primarily West Germany.

More than 200 million Bibles and Scripture portions were distributed around the world last year, more than half of them in the United States, according to an American Bible Society report. Donations for getting out the literature (including 5.5 million Bibles and 14.2 million Testaments) came from 1.6 million individuals and seventy denominations and agencies.

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