c. 1996 Religion News Service
(RNS)-Millions of Christians worldwide are expected to parade through their communities May 25 as part of the 1996 Global March for Jesus, an annual event of worship and music that crosses denominational lines and is billed as a nonpartisan display of faith.”The main goal is to bring Christians of all different denominations together for the single purpose of lifting up Jesus Christ,”said Tom Pelton, director of March for Jesus USA, based in Austin, Texas.
About a million people participated in the United States last year, and a similar number is expected this year. More than 600 U.S. cities are scheduled to have marches. This year’s theme is”A World to Win Together.” Most of the marches are to begin at 10 a.m., with people carrying colorful banners and singing and praying according to a prepared liturgy, called”Songs for the Streets.”The liturgy includes traditional hymns, contemporary choruses and the Apostles’ Creed.
Mobile sound systems accompany the marchers.
The processions end with a prayer rally, where pastors lead participants in prayers for their community and its leaders.”March for Jesus is extremely diverse in its representation,”Pelton said.”There would be evangelicals and there would be the more traditional denominations. We’ve seen a real good response from Episcopalians and from Catholics ….” Promoters do not allow marchers to carry protest signs or signs with the name of their church or denomination.”The march is to promote (Jesus) and not a particular church or denomination,”said Pelton.
Although many of the marches continue to be held in downtown areas, some have moved into high-crime and poor neighborhoods so marchers can pray specifically for residents in those locations. In some cities, teenagers are leading the processions.
Some marches have emphasized racial reconciliation and resulted in groups of black, white and Hispanic pastors meeting regularly to pray together.
The celebration began in 1987 in London, when various Christian groups that had been involved in prayer sessions, ministry to the poor and evangelistic activities chose to march together.”They decided to do a march, and 15,000 people turned out,”said Pelton.”The march always has been, from the beginning, a coming together of Christians who have different motivations, different ministries, but coming together around what they have in common.” The first March for Jesus in the United States was held in Austin in 1990, and the event expanded nationwide in 1992.
The march spread beyond England and the United States, resulting in the first Global March for Jesus in 1994 with about 15 million participants from 178 nations, Pelton said. A 1995 global march that was not heavily promoted drew about 6 million, he said. This year’s event is expected to attract numbers similar to 1994, he said.
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