September 25, 2001

C.U. Overrun by 'Flood of Faith'

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“Who loves Jesus in the house tonight!” yelled Sam Chacko, a seminary student from Tulsa, Okla. to the 300 person crowd at the Flood of Faith. Campus Christian organizations sponsored the non-sectarian night of entertainment and prayer last Friday evening at Barton Hall.

“Let’s worship Him tonight,” Chacko said, beginning the three-plus-hour long event which at times resembled a rock concert, live theater and evangelical services — all in praise of God.

Chacko along with the Philadelphia-based Kaleo Ministries, which he heads, played music and addressed the crowd for most of the night. The Ministries joined other acts in the celebration including the Cornell Christian Fellowship, Panjoma Ni Gospel Choir and other outside service leaders.

These groups performed and called for the crowd to observe their time in celebration of their common worship. Although simple in design, that plan seemed to work.

“It turned out really well. I’ve heard a lot of stories afterward about how people were just blessed. [They were] blessed by the night, blessed by the performers and blessed by the speaking,” said Stephen March ’04, head organizer for the Flood of Faith (FOF), a group of around 15 to 20 members of different campus Christian organizations that came together specifically for this event.

“I’m just so happy that I could have brought that [blessing] to them,” March said.

In turn, bringing the night to the faithful ended up being a six-month odyssey for March and the FOF coordinators beginning with invitations and culminating with the celebration itself.

“So as the vision [of the event] started to take form in my head, I started to recruit more and more people,” March said.

The people March and the organizers recruited spanned 24 Christian organizers on campus and 130 area churches. March and the organizers aimed to make an event that was wholly non-sectarian and welcome for anyone who wished to take part in worship.

“That’s how it started. It began with a vision, trying to form a truly ecumenical event and trying to get each group involved,” he said. March found that Chacko and Christopher Hopper, an outside speaker and private recording artist, joined the Cornell community and were at first surprised by the event’s cohesion.

“[Chacko] was real excited to come [to Cornell]. He hasn’t done too much large speaking yet. He’s pretty new to it, and we’re pretty new to it,” March said.

Many attendees were also pretty new to an event like the Flood of Faith. They noted that the wide-scale advertisement on campus, which included posters in many University halls and the trademark “FOF” chalkings which lined Ho Plaza, were a unique draw to the occasion.

Sitting together in the bleachers, Mona Olsen ’05 and Bonnie Tominack ’05 awaited the celebration’s beginning, anticipating what was to come. “I’ve never been to one of these [type of faith events] before,” Tominack said.

“We really didn’t know what to expect,” Olsen said while Tominack agreed readily.

Although Christian entertainment’s rise in popularity prompted a “Jesus Rocks” cover story in the July 16th issue of Newsweek, both Olsen and Tominack agreed that the event promotions’ ambiguity added to their curiosity and willingness to attend. Was that part of the idea?

“I don’t think we meant to leave God out of our advertising. We held two meetings to figure out the name [Flood of Faith] and I guess we just tried to find a name to [encompass the different groups],” March said.

He denied that the organizers left God out of their advertisements in order to draw newcomers such as Olsen and Tominack, saying that the message of the service was always implicitly stated.

Nevertheless, many attendees and participants there understood the message and were pleased to take part, including the Ithaca Chapter Salvation Army, Ithaca Pregnancy Center and the HUSH: Help Us Stop Hunger organization.

“It’s fun thinking that these young people can get together,” said Dorothy Manley, an Ithaca-area resident who spent the evening with her friend Mary Crawford, a University library retiree. “I just want to get together with one another to celebrate Jesus,” Crawford said.

During these troubled weeks, other attendees found the event to be particularly important.

“We’re here to pray for our country and that God is there for anything that happens to us,” said Moses Choi ’03.

March finds this community celebration an added benefit for the faithful. “I was mourning for a week and I know everyone else was too,” he said.

The unity that brought Americans together in faith and mourning following the Sept. 11 attack may not be enough to support the Flood of Faith through another year.

While event organizers wait for a Student Assembly Finance Commission funding decision to supplement the almost $2000 they already have raised, they have no plans to bring the event back for a second year.

March admits that while they may not focus on putting together large events in the near future, anything may happen.

“We’re just getting started,” Manley said summing up the night before it had even concluded.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins