When Christians worship and work together, differences fade, Tom Pelton says.
...He is president of March for Jesus USA (see link #1 below), part of the worldwide movement known for its annual Christian worship marches through city streets. This Saturday, an estimated 10 million people will participate in 150 countries, including 100,000 in Sydney, Australia. Christians will march in 450 U.S. cities.
...But there will be more than music and bright banners. This year the march is part of "Jesus Day," which includes doing community service. Christians from various parts of the body of Christ will work together feeding the hungry, serving the homeless, visiting the fatherless, and touching AIDS patients, Pelton says.
...Loving God and loving one's neighbor make the whole of Christian life, Pelton says. In the past, the "liberal side of the spectrum has been more involved in social and justice issues while conservatives are more known for prayer, evangelism, and worship." The result has been that the body of Christ has fractured along those lines, with members eyeing each other warily.
...People are "tired of the controversy," Pelton told Religion Today. "The mainstream of the American people want to get on with loving Jesus and serving people."
...A day when God is praised in the streets and every tear is wiped dry would be wonderful, like heaven, Pelton says. "I still have this dream of a day on earth like it is in heaven." It can't be accomplished on June 10, he acknowledges, but on that day "the church is going public" with its vision of a balanced Christianity, loving God and neighbor. "It's what Christianity will be for the new millennium."
...Participants around the country say they too are excited about combining love of God and love of neighbor.
..."This is a great time to be alive," Mary Rose Ramos, organizer of the march in Hayward, Calif., told Religion Today. The blue-collar city of 123,000 between Oakland and San Jose has a high murder rate - 16 last year. But Ramos says God began "showing favor on the city" last year after Christians from many backgrounds began to pray together and venture into areas notorious for gang violence, murder, and drug dealing. There has not been a murder in Hayward in nine months, she said.
...Five blocks have been "adopted" to model how churches can work together, organizers of the outreach say. Food, mentors, counselors, social workers, doctors, and dentists will go there on Jesus Day, but also throughout the year, organizers say.
...Ramos took a leap of faith two months ago, leaving her business career to devote full attention to what she considers the movement of God in Hayward. She said she "cashed in her savings, and when the money is gone, God will have to provide." Her husband works, but she was "the major breadwinner," she said.
...As many as 60 service projects will take place all over Richmond, Va., including feeding the homeless, distributing groceries, painting and fixing houses, visiting nursing homes and detention centers, washing cars for free, and handing out free soft drinks on busy streets. Other Christians will host a block party in a housing project with free hot dogs, clowns, and face painting.
...Members of 135 churches from many denominations will gather for prayer and a march to the state Capitol, organizer Jeanine Guidry told Religion Today. "If you love Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, we would love to walk the streets with you."
...Congregations in Denver are using Jesus Day to link with faith-based service organizations. The next day, services across denominational lines will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Christian church. [ Related links: 1: http://www.jesusday.org/what.html 2: http://www.awakening.org.au/gmfj2k/ ]