Walking up to hundreds of thousands of Christians on the National Mall to join them and Crowder singing “how he loves us all” could not have been a better introduction to Together 2016. Five years ago planning began for an event in Washington, D.C. with the idea that “we are gathering as one – lifting a unified sound, asking Jesus to reset our generation.” The theme was to reset our lives as a singular body of Jesus Christ. Of course, when the date of July 16 was selected, the planners had no way of knowing about the violence, anxiety and division in our country that would make the gathering so timely.
A wide variety of speakers, preachers, poets, singers and bands were part of the day’s line-up. Evangelist Lou Engle called people to their knees on the grass and made references to Minneapolis, Ferguson and Dallas, asking God to “break racism.” Ravi Zacharius quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel peace prize acceptance speech. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” He went on to present a compelling message about Jesus being the truth and our one perfect example of unconditional love. We strive to live and love the way Jesus did.
At one point the crowd was led in singing “Amazing Grace” and towards the end we joined Hillsong United in “Oceans.”
The Washington Post had a wonderful article about the event with some telling insights. “Anjelica and Joseph Tynes, an African-American couple who attended the event on Saturday, said they arrived hoping to hear a message of racial reconciliation aimed at evangelicals. Anjelica said she wondered beforehand if a one-time event could really make a difference, but when she saw the crowd on the Mall, she changed her mind. In fact, she thought the day of prayer would do more for racial healing than the presidential election could. ‘If Trump’s in office, we’re responsible to pray for Trump,’ she said. ‘If Hillary’s in office, we’re responsible to pray for Hillary.’ The Tyneses, like many others on the Mall, said they would not discuss whom they’re voting for, preferring instead to devote the day to prayer. There wasn’t a political sign or shirt in sight.”
It is awesome the way that communities are transformed as Christians exemplify the fact that our faith transcends socio-economic status, race, gender, and political affiliation. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)