Can Revival 1010 bring old fashioned praise to the streets of Santa Cruz?
For many people, certain images and connotations may spring to mind upon hearing the words "tent revival." Maybe a scene from an older time, in a backwoods—distinctly Southern—locale, an evangelical priest gripping the forehead of a newly converted boy as he twists in the throws of glossolalia … Well, it turns out that's not all that accurate.
Tent revivals have been around since the turn of the 19th century (and did actually begin in the South, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, though the official site and state are points of contention) as a way to gather Christians for church rallies, healing ceremonies, and to attempt to enlighten those who were, as of yet, untouched by God. But as entertaining as an archaic, cartoonish vision of a tent revival may be, an upcoming Santa Cruz event wants to prove that it’s downright wrong. On Oct. 8, 9 and 10, Downtown Santa Cruz will host Revival 1010, its first Old Fashioned Tent Revival.
"Our hope is that we'll get a multitude of people that will come out and will look at God in a different light," says Donald Williams, head deacon of the Progressive Baptist Church of Santa Cruz. Williams is also a professor in the UC Santa Cruz theater department and the director/producer of Rainbow Theater.
Revival 1010 (the 10th month of the 10th year of the millennium, if you were wondering) is the brainchild of Pastor Ken Williams, also of the Progressive Baptist Church. His vision was of a multi-church, non-denominational event to reach out to the community.
"More and more churches are climbing on board," says Deacon Williams. "It's really a non-denominational revival that's going to call out to the old, the middle-aged, and to the youth."
A huge tent will be erected on the 500 block of Center Street, enough to easily hold 300 to 400 people according to Williams, and sermons, lessons, singing, and prayers will continue from Friday, Oct. 8 through Sunday, Oct. 10.
Pastor Robert E. Dorsey, Sr., a Los Angeles native, will be the main speaker and master of ceremonies for the event. "He's a wonderfully gifted minister," he says. "He'll preach the word each night and present the texts to the public as a whole."
Because the event is non-denominational there will be opportunities to meet and talk with a variety of priests and other spiritually devout folks on any of the days. Organizers hope this could afford a rare opportunity for the undecided Christian Cruzan to hear what a number of churches in the area have to offer, and pick and choose which one they'd like to attend.
There will also be classes on how to live your life “in a godly way,” one taught by Deacon Williams and his wife on how to raise your family among them. "There's no real pathway of how to really raise your kids," says Williams. "To bring forth wisdom and knowledge is our hope."
Even for the non-religious, the event promises to be one part religion, one part entertainment. The Revival is about reviving and enlivening the people as much as the texts, and participation is encouraged. "We'll have a choir that will actually sing, and if you want to have great, great fervor, and clapping in your hands, and stomping in your feet, I guarantee that you will be moved by the Spirit," says Williams, beaming like a newly polished solid gold harp just thinking about it. "You will get up, and you will clap, and you will get your praise-dance on."
For some locals, the event may seem outmoded, but Williams thinks the time is right, and that Revival 1010 may be just what some people need.
"I think we're at a time now where, especially with the economy being the way it's been, there's a wake-up call to a whole bunch of people—what is life really about? Is it about chasing the dollar or having peace and joy inside yourself?" Part of the benefit of embracing God, says Williams, is "you're able to say ‘I'm thankful for the things I do have.’"
But this is Santa Cruz—spiritual but not religious, connected to the universal divine but not affiliated with his/her/its organizations—does this seem like the kind of thing people will go for?
"This really is a tight community here in Santa Cruz," says Williams, completely unfazed by the cynic's perspective. "And it's such a diverse community, in more ways than one; there's room for the gospel here … I think it was pretty clear when we had the major earthquake here, there were a lot of churches that stepped up in a big way supporting folks who lost things. It was a funnel—other churches and states would funnel funds to distribute to the people who were hurting at that time, and folks have not forgotten that. You remember where your help comes from."
And the giving keeps going. All proceeds that go beyond covering the cost of the event for the church will be donated to Love In the Name of Christ (LoveINC), an affiliate group that receives donations from many churches and redistributes them back into communities with individuals who fall in great need.
"This is a big thing that we're doing, and, from what I understand, having a tent revival of this magnitude in this area has never been done," says Williams. "Striving to do something of this size has been a challenge. But, as our pastor always says, we're praying that God's hand is in this; that he will help us and guide us through it. Anything that we're able to accomplish, we give Him the praise, Him the glory."
Revival 1010 is currently accepting sponsors, from an $100 Family Sponsorship, to a Platinum Presenting Sponsorship at $10,000. All sponsorships come with VIP setting for the revival and an array of other perks. More information on becoming a sponsor, the tent revival in general, or the Progressive Baptist Church itself and other events (in case you miss the revival), can be found at revival1010.org.
"I would say, if you really want to have a greater sense of how real God is, I challenge you to come out, and to come out with an open mind,” says Williams, extending an invitation to Cruzans of all makes and models. “An open mind willing to hear. An open mind willing to participate. If the music is good it's OK for you to clap your hands. It's OK to sing along with it. It's OK to engage fully in the experience—and if you do I guarantee that you'll move away from there with a changed mind, a changed attitude. A spirit that has some peace, and a joy to it. A mind saying I'm so glad I did that."
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