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Reviving a Beleaguered City


For three special days this past weekend, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was filled with the roar of crowds. People flocked to the stadium -- not to cheer for the Orioles, but to show support for the city itself, a city sorely in need of a lift.

This crusade grew out of the city's despair.

Too many babies killed by stray bullets, too many young men lured by money into the drug trade, too many drug users looking for escape from a life devoid of meaning and hope. With these kinds of stories becoming commonplace, Baltimore is a city that has seen more than its share of senseless violence and wasted lives.

Revival meetings have a venerable tradition in American religious history, and at this point in its life Baltimore is as troubled as any wayward sinner who ever stumbled to an altar looking for salvation.

People in this city may not know what the solutions should be, but they do know it's time for a change. That's what revivals are all about, and that's why the weekend gatherings provided a sorely needed lift. The religious meetings were led by two of Baltimore's most influential spiritual leaders -- the Rev. Harold Carter of New Shiloh Baptist Church and Dr. Frank Reid of Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Black churches have always played a special role in their communities. Particularly for young black men, churches can provide the support and guidance -- in a word, the hope -- that is often missing in their lives. This crusade was designed as much to reinforce the work that is already being done by many churches as to encourage more congregations -- and more people of all faiths -- to get involved in the community.

One of the great characteristics of the revival tradition is the promise these gatherings have held out that there is always hope, no matter how bad things may seem. But for matters to get better, people have to believe it can happen.

That's as true for a city as for a sinner, and it's a message this city needs to hear.

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