MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Hundreds of church members braved the afternoon heat as they marched to the steps of the Alabama State Capitol — a half-century after the marches and demonstrations here at the peak of the civil rights movement.
Then, African-Americans were on a crusade for equal rights — in the voting booth and the school classroom — and justice. This time, they were on a Crusade for Christ.
“I believe that, if men were always looking to Jesus, we would not have had all of the racial problems that we have had … not only in Alabama but all over this world,” Jack Evans said from the capitol steps after the Christians sang, “I’ll live with him forever, in glory by and by.”
Earlier that day, nearly 3,000 people packed into the Montgomery Convention Center for Sunday worship.
Evans, a longtime minister and president of Southwestern Christian College
in Terrell, Texas, was the keynote speaker at the Crusade, a weeklong evangelistic campaign hosted by Churches of Christ every two years in a major U.S. city.
A group of ministers in Chicago launched the Crusade in 1979 and chose Daniel Harrison, a native of Montgomery, to lead it.
“I felt a need to come back home,” Harrison told the Montgomery Advertiser
as he made the ceremonial march to the Capitol. He’s kept up with news of a recent increase in homicides in Montgomery and hoped the Crusade could help make a difference.
“If you can bring about some type of spiritual metamorphosis,” he said, “it gives people another sense of direction.”
In addition to days of door-knocking, Bible studies and gospel preaching, crusaders gave away 20,000 pounds of food to the needy in conjunction with the Montgomery Area Food Bank, organizer Herman Wesley III said.
The group also conducted free health fairs at three area Churches of Christ.
Fred Gray, an attorney and elder of the Tuskegee Church of Christ in Alabama, defended Rosa Parks during the bus boycott in Montgomery 58 years ago. He spoke during the Crusade.
After years of tension and mistrust, “I certainly hope that the black church and the white church — terms that should have never existed in the first place — come together,” Gray told The Christian Chronicle. RELATED BLOG POST: Hamil Harris interviews Fred Gray about the Crusade for Christ.