Try to put yourself in the shoes of an assistant city editor down at the Washington Post. It seems that you have about 10,000 people, per night, down at the District's convention center, shouting and singing and carrying on and do who knows what all. That sounds like a story, perhaps with a photo essay on the side. The problem is that they are shouting and singing and praying and carrying on about, well, that Jesus guy. It's called a "revival" and this is not something that shows up on the metro news budget all of the time.
The speakers and musicians appear to be world famous, but, dang it, they sure aren't people you hear about all that often on National Public Radio, not even that T.D. Jakes man from the cover of Time. But it seems that thousands of people right here inside the Beltway seem to think that they're important.
And it does seem that the people at this giant, multi-racial event were talking -- at least some of the time -- about a topic that appears on the news radar from time to time. That would be racial reconciliation.
Yet they seem to think that this should happen in church and not in a political convention. That's a problem. What and editor supposed to do? If it was 10,000 people protesting the war, or watching basketball, or dancing to a hip-hop czar, the newspaper would know how to handle it. It it was 10,000 believers worried about the environment or mental health it would be on Page 1-A. You know it would.
Anyway, the Washington Post does have a highly skilled reporter who knows how to handle these tense situations and his name is Hamil Harris. He's the kind of guy who knows as much about the economics of gospel music as he does about the crime statistics at the local morgue. He can chase 5-star pulpit superstars as easily as he can chase heavy-weight boxing champs who chomp on people's ears. I must confess that Hamil is a friend of mine.
The man my students call "Hurricane Hamil" did manage to get a story about this gigantic urban revival into the Post this morning and this sounds like quite a scene. Here's a sample and I am quite sure -- although I haven't talked to Harris about it -- that the newspaper could have printed a whole lot more on this event. Who knows, maybe the people preached on other subjects that that are "newsworthy."
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."
Dang it, there he went -- dragging God into this. Don't you hate it when preachers do that?