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placeholder April 17, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 8    •   Oakland, CA

Revs. Ken Hamilton, SVD, and William Mason, OMI, bless people during the final evening of revival.
Carrie McClish/The Catholic Voice

Faith-sharing, hymns part of parish's Lenten Revival

"God has blessed me," said a woman named Teresa, who has been living with leukemia for the past 15 years, but despite the challenges she's experienced, she says life has been a blessing.

Richard, who sat in another section of the church, said that when his dad died several years ago he was in a sad place. But as time went on, he met his wife and, he noted, they had married a month ago.

Another woman shared her testimony: "He loves us. He loves me. His arms are powerful. He gives me all that I need!"

Each shared testimony was greeted by others in the congregation with bursts of applause, the clanging of tambourines and murmurs of "amen."

These moments of faith-sharing as well as soul-stirring hymns and spirituals sung by a gospel choir and the dynamic preaching of Rev. Kenneth Hamilton, SVD, were central elements of the three-day Lenten Revival held March 27 to 29 at Oakland's Sacred Heart Church in Oakland.

Revivals come out of the Protestant Black Church tradition, said Father Hamilton, a member of the Divine Word Missionaries, who has led revivals, workshops and retreats throughout the country during his 30-plus years in priestly ministry. The event includes singing and preaching and there is testifying as well as what the priest described as "falling out" or ecstasy.

"There are all types of things that go on," he said. "A lot of the time other churches come in. It is more like a party."

It is a party led by the Holy Spirit, Father Hamilton said. "I always say that the Holy Spirit gives us revivals, whatever way She or He wishes to do it."

The revival at Sacred Heart had as its theme "Paschal Mystery: No One Banned from the Promised Land," and like many revivals, was held during Lent to help those who attend prepare for Easter.

"To live, to die, to live again — it's easy to say but what does it mean? It is the centrality of Christianity, the Paschal Mystery," said Father Hamilton during an interview.

Noting that Sacred Heart Church has a Black Catholic lineage, the parish community comprises a multicultural blend of families from Italian, Filipino, Vietnamese and Nigerian backgrounds. The revival brought together a Lenten congregation from several nearby parishes.

Father Hamilton explored topics of suffering, death, love and faith through spoken word, in song, in brief autobiographic snippets — sometimes evoking his mother's advice, "'Honey, just pray! Jesus had to pray!'"

As he preached the priest added healthy doses of humor. "Never trust a preacher who says that he's almost through," he quipped.

"Don't brag about your faith because it is a gift," Father Hamilton said during the final evening of the revival. "Somebody gave it to you."

Some people brag about being able to pray, however that is also a gift, said the priest. "It doesn't just come to you. That's the Holy Spirit — it comes to you on the road. Even great saints had problems with prayer."

"Hold on to your faith," he said. "It's for you."

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