It will be the first major religious rally sponsored by Lutherans in Los Angeles since a one-day event in 1967, so it was understandable that last January a group of laymen were worried whether their low-key evangelistic festival planned for May 15-17 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena would leave them saddled with huge debts.
But officials of the Lutheran Laymen's League, Southern California District, who annually sponsor a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade, promised in January to make up any financial shortfall incurred by the festival. Tickets are free but the sponsors are looking to donations to defray part of the estimated $500,000 in costs.
As of Thursday, nearly 40,000 free tickets had been distributed for the 16,000 seats available each day at the Sports Arena, and sponsors are breathing easier.
The musical "God and Country" rallies were conceived by a group of 20 lay members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Singer Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter, are featured on the opening program at 8 p.m. Friday. Actress Lisa Whelchel of the "Facts of Life" television series is on the Saturday night program and singer Debby Boone is featured on the 3 p.m. Sunday program.
The Rev. Oswald Hoffmann, the longtime preacher for the Missouri Synod's "Lutheran Hour" radio program, will speak each evening, said program chairman Ardon Albrecht of Woodland Hills. Albrecht is executive producer of Ammi Productions, which produces the TV religious drama series, "This Is the Life," supported by Missouri Synod Lutherans.
"We think a lot of people who are not terribly interested in paying a visit to a church might come to an event like this," Albrecht said.
"But there will not be an emotional appeal for a faith commitment," Albrecht said. The audience will be told at the end that counselors are available and that literature can be requested by filling out a postcard, he said.
Bishop Nelson Trout of the American Lutheran Church will bring greetings to the audience Friday night and the Chinese Children Dancers from a Lutheran Church in America congregation in Monterey Park will appear two nights. Otherwise, the festival has been organized by and expects most of its support from churches of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Author-teacher Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of "human dignity," will lecture twice next week on "When the Unspeakable Happens: Implications of the Holocaust for the Nuclear Arms Race." Wiesel, who chairs the federally funded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, will speak Sunday night at Valley Beth Shalom, Encino. Responding to the talk will be Rabbi Harold Schulweis of the host temple. Archbishop Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Roman Catholic archdiocese will respond to the lecture Monday night at Sinai Temple, Westwood. Tickets, which cost $12, are available at the door only before each lecture, which begins both nights at 8:15. The University of Judaism is sponsoring the lectures.
How pastors can blunt the stigma of death from AIDS will be the keynote address at a clergy seminar Thursday morning at the Hall of Liberty, Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills. The speaker, Dr. Earl Shelp of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, will describe his founding of a clergy consultation in that city to combat acrimony surrounding victims of acquired immunity deficiency syndrome. His organization, credited with meeting fear and prejudice with education and compassion, now involves 100,000 churchgoers in 60 churches of varying traditions, said a spokesman for the clergy seminar.
Ex-Jesuit priest Terrance A. Sweeney of Los Angeles, who quit his religious order rather than obey a Vatican directive to cease his research on survey responses from U.S. Catholic bishops on questions about celibacy and women's ordination, says he will marry actress Pamela Shoop. A winner of five Emmys for his work in television and film production, Sweeney, 42, said he met Shoop, 38, two years ago while he was on the staff at a Beverly Hills parish. Sweeney resigned from the Jesuits last August but remains a priest. Despite church rules that he must be returned to lay status before he may be married by a Catholic priest, Sweeney said he has been seeking a priest willing to conduct the wedding ceremony.