The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced on Thursday that Rev. Graham has accepted an invitation to lead an evangelistic crusade in New York City’s Madison Square Garden next year in June.
Pastors from more than 150 Tri-State area churches attended an event at Madison Square Garden Thursday, where evangelist Rev. Billy Graham announced his acceptance of their invitation to hold his final New York area crusade at that facility.
“Today we are gathered to extend an official invitation to Dr. Graham to come to New York City at Madison Square Garden in June 2005, and bring with him a history, a legacy, and most important, the anointing God has placed on him to speak a simple message by God’s Spirit to the hearts of thousands,” said Dr. A. R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn and chair of the crusade.
“In response to 9-11, the churches in New York City expressed a ‘collaborative’ effort to come together in response to a need,” Dr. Bernard continued. “My prayer is that this crusade will bring us to a stage of ‘collective’ effort – where each church plays a part, but we will make a difference together as a whole.”
Cliff Barrows, longtime choir and program director for Billy Graham crusades, responded positively, referencing the movement of God in past New York crusades. “We pray that God will ‘do it again’ as a result of these meetings.”
The Greater New York Crusade will be the evangelist’s seventh campaign in the area and third at three different Madison Square Garden locations following meetings in 1969 and 1957. His first visit in 1957 was the most historic as meetings initially planned to last for six weeks were extended to sixteen.
More then two million people attended the crusade, including 30,000 at a lunchtime rally on Wall Street, a turn-away crowd of 120,000 at Yankee Stadium in sweltering heat, and 125,000 at the closing meeting in Times Square. It became a turning point in the evangelist’s ministry and sent a message that no city was too large or too “hard” for a Billy Graham crusade to reach.
Other crusades in the New York City vicinity were held in 1969 at Shea Stadium, 1990 at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and in 1991 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Outreaches across the state of New York include Syracuse (1953 & 1989), Buffalo (1988), Rochester (1988) and Albany (1990). The series of meetings held in 1988-1991 were part of “Mission New York State,” designed to reach the entire region rather than individual cities.
Most recently, the Billy Graham Central Park rally on September 22, 1991 set a record for the largest religious assembly in New York, with more than 250,000 individuals gathering in the park that day. This was also a record for the largest one-day crowd at a Billy Graham crusade in North America.
At Thursday’s event, pastors viewed compelling black and white video clips of a younger Billy Graham preaching in 1957. “I realize that although nearly 50 years have passed and many things have happened since, that anointing is just what this city needs,” said Rev. Bob Johansson, pastor of Evangel Church in Long Island City and chair of the crusade’s Pastors Committee.
Rev. David Epstein, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, commended the crusade for its dual emphasis of addressing both spiritual and physical needs across greater New York. “Post 9-11, there is a growing spiritual hunger here. I believe it is a great time for the Lord to bring Billy Graham back with his emphasis on the Gospel and the love and mercy of God, but also social justice and compassion.”
As for the remainder of this year, Graham’s evangelistic crusade schedule includes meetings Oct. 7-10 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, and a Nov. 18-21 outreach at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Both crusades had originally been planned for the summer of 2004, but were postponed to allow Mr. Graham more time to heal from two falls resulting in surgeries performed earlier this year.