Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Catholic tent revival to raise spirits, share the faith in Howell

By Michelle Gladden • FREEHOLD BUREAU • June 19, 2008

HOWELL — Evangelists and tent revivals are phrases usually associated with Protestant religions, but they are a growing practice within Catholicism.
There's no place where that's more evident than in Howell, where Good News International — a grass-roots ministry of Catholic lay people — has been hosting an annual tent revival for the past 12 years.

"It's a real unique event," said founder Bill Wegner of the three-day event. "The reason I think it's been successful is that there is no pressure. You come in, it doesn't cost anything, you stay as long as you want and if you want to grow in the spirit you can do that. People can take from it whatever they want."

At the revival's center is a main tent that holds 1,000 people, where guest speakers and the 15- to 20-member Refuge Music Ministry are showcased throughout the three days. Smaller tents feature food, various ministries, a book store, information from the diocese and child-friendly events, such as face painting and clowns.

Wegner says part of the appeal of the revival is the breaking away from a traditional Mass service by spending three days outdoors.
"I think people are looking to do something else," Wegner said. "This offers an open invitation to everybody, and it's very unintimidating; you just come and be part of the celebration."
This year, among the speakers is Catholic evangelist Richard Lane, a St. Louis resident who says he not only is one of a small pool of Catholic lay evangelists, but one of two black Catholic evangelists in the country. Lane says that although he's seen Catholic evangelism take hold over the past 15 years, those who share the faith continue to be reluctant to the concept.
"A lot of Catholics are afraid of that word," he said. " "A Catholic evangelist?' they say, "isn't that an oxymoron.' But I say, no. Matthew 28:19 says "Go make disciples of all nations,' so we are called to be evangelists."

The 42-year-old said he began his lay ministry by proclaiming love for his faith while passing out Bibles on a street corner three years ago. Today, he runs qorban (Hebrew for dedicated to God) ministries with his wife, Donna.

Aside from speaking all three nights at the event, Lane will conduct a workshop on evangelization from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. And while Lane has never attended a Catholic tent revival, he said he is looking forward to the experience. "It's close to my own style of worship," he said. "My style of preaching is truly charismatic, so it will lend a lot to a revival."

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