Praise chorus: Milwaukee's Promise Keepers rally draws 8,000 faithful

Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee/September 9, 2006
By Lee Bergquist

Some proclaimed themselves to be bikers for Jesus, while others evoked the spit and shine of the Marine Corps.

Some sat stoic while others wept openly. And many jumped up and down as though they were at a football game.

But on this it can be agreed: There was no larger group of kindred souls singing wildly off key on Saturday than the men and boys who filled the Bradley Center for the first Promise Keepers rally in Milwaukee in six years.

Promise Keepers is the international ministry devoted to encouraging men to keep their promises to their families, community and God. It was founded in 1990 by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney.

While the ministry once packed stadiums, it has endured with its special blend of spirituality, catchy Christian music, humor and well-crafted storytelling that appeals to guys.

Joseph Garlington, founder and senior pastor of the Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, told the crowd of 8,000 that a few years ago, a psychologist had diagnosed him with attention deficit disorder.

He looked into the crowd. "I don't really have ADD," he said, pausing for effect. "I'm a guy!" The crowd erupted in applause.

As he was preparing to ask members of the audience to accept Christ, he noted that the simple act of "lifting your hands is not a religious experience."

"You walk into a bank and see people lifting their hands, and you wouldn't think, 'Pentecostal church service.'

"It's surrender!"

Which is exactly what he was asking the men to do as the music reached a crescendo and hundreds of men threaded through the crowd to pray at the front of the stage.

This was Gary Walters' first experience attending a Promise Keepers event.

"It was exciting to feel all of the energy," said Walters, 48, who has worked for 30 years carving corned beef and pastrami at Benji's Delicatessen & Restaurant in Shorewood.

Walters said he became religious 2 1/2 years ago.

He had heard about criticism that Promise Keepers is a vehicle for men to exert more control over their wives and family, but he said he heard no such talk during the two-day event, which ended Saturday afternoon.

Walters said he came away with the message that all men struggle with issues of spiritually and relationships and how best to make their mark in life.

"Everybody here is fighting something," he said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.