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Men prepare for Christian rally in D.C.

October 02, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Dick Marks first learned of the Promise Keepers movement in a Sports Illustrated article.

"The story got my attention," said Marks, 55, executive director of Waynesboro's YMCA. "Promise Keepers is tuned into the Y's interdenominational Christ-centered activities. It's part of who I am."

Like Marks, Todd Sheldon, 56, a program analyst at the Frick Co. in Waynesboro and member of Otterbein United Brethren Church, will join hundreds of thousands of other evangelical Christian men from across America Saturday on the Mall in Washington, D.C., for a rally Promise Keepers call "Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men."

Sheldon will ride in one of six vans to the rally with 60 members of his church and Christ United Methodist Church in Waynesboro. Marks will ride on a bus chartered by his church.

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Promise Keepers was founded in 1990 by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. It is now one of the largest evangelical Christian movements in the nation. The group has held more than 60 rallies in major sports arenas since its inception. Attendance at some has topped 50,000 men. Marks and Sheldon said they have attended stadium rallies.

Saturday's rally promises to be the biggest event Washington has seen, local organizers said.

David Swacina, administrator of Cedar Ridge Ministries in Williamsport, said the Christian radio station WCRH 90.5 FM there has chartered eight buses for the rally. One will leave from Martinsburg, W.Va., two will leave from Chambersburg, Pa., four will depart from Hagerstown and one will travel from Winchester, Va.

The station announced the bus service in February. "All seats were sold out in three days," Swacina said.

According to a Promise Keepers brochure on the rally, interest has been so high that 13 jumbo jets have been chartered from northern California and four DC-10s from the Midwest. Full Amtrak trains have been booked from Florida and Ohio. A Christian motorcycle group left the West Coast and expects to pick up more than 10,000 riders on its way to the rally.

"There will be thousands of men going from our area," Swacina said. He tried unsuccessfully to book an Amtrak or MARC train from Martinsburg, he said. "I could have put 1,000 men on it," he said.

The goal of Promise Keepers is to bring men together in interdenominational and racial harmony to pray and worship God and to become better husbands and fathers as the Bible dictates, Swacina said.

Followers pledge to honor and obey Christ, pursue vital relationships with other men in Christian unity, and practice spiritual, moral and sexual purity, Swacina said. They also promise to build a family message of love, protection and biblical values, reach beyond racial and denominational barriers and follow the great commandments, he said.

"Men have not been taking responsibility to support their wives and families," he said. "The Bible lays the responsibility on men to set the spiritual standards for the family."

"It's God calling men together to live up to their godly responsibilities with a big emphasis on racial and denominational reconciliation," Sheldon said.

"For me, it's the idea of a time when the denominational walls are temporarily laid down so we can focus as one on Christ," Marks said.

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