A Brief History of the Sword of the Spirit: Part 6 Outreach and Mission

The Sword of the Spirit today is a world-wide network of communities, pursuing mission in many places and in many forms. Providing a comprehensive picture of the outreach efforts of the Sword of the Spirit on the local, regional, and international levels would require a great deal more space than is available in this brief history. Accordingly, we have elected to describe some of the early history of mission efforts, and then select a few notable outreaches of the large number that are active today.

The original Pentecostal movement, and later the charismatic renewal, began with people who were eager to bring others to Christ. Therefore it is not surprising that the urge for mission was at the heart of the renewal and of the covenant communities that arose within these movements of renewal. Much of this mission was informal: one friend brought another to a prayer meeting, where he or she encountered the power of the Holy Spirit. 

As the renewal grew, however, the impulse to mission began to take the form of organized outreach and service. Initially, this was expressed through internal organization to foster the renewal itself, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people coming to a deeper relationship with the Lord and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit.

Service to the Charismatic Renewal

The charismatic renewal began as a scattered network of prayer groups. Conferences were one way groups could keep in touch, seek the Lord together, and share teaching. The groups that became communities began organizing conferences well before they became organized as communities.

The work of the leaders in The Word of God and the People of Praise in the development of the broader charismatic renewal included managing the conferences hosted in South Bend and Ann Arbor, and this led to close cooperation between these two communities from the start of the movement. A conference in South Bend in October 1967 became known as the first International Conference on the Charismatic Renewal (Canada was represented by one religious sister): this became an annual event. 

In addition to the annual International Conference, which was a general conference for all, there was also an annual conference in Ann Arbor specifically for the training of leaders. Starting in January 1969, it ran for several years. At first, the groups hosting the conferences undertook the planning and execution of the conferences, as well as the distribution of cassette tape recordings of talks and of other materials. 

After the Third International Conference, in April 1969, a group of the leaders in the “Catholic Pentecostal Movement” decided to set up a Communication Center in South Bend to distribute cassette tapes of the conference teachings and other materials, and to enable leaders from prayer groups across North America to keep in touch with one another. This center was the first formal institution connected to the movement.

A public relations change occurred in December 1969. Steve Clark, in a memo to his fellow Ann Arbor leaders, suggested “that we stop using the term ‘Pentecostal Movement’ and instead use the term ‘charismatic renewal’”[1] He argued that this would better express what Catholics believe about the presence of the Holy Spirit, and identify the renewal, not as a separate movement specializing in the gifts identified with the Pentecostal churches, but as a renewal of the life of the Spirit for the whole Christian people. The new term was introduced to the leaders of the movement at the leaders’ conference the following month and immediately caught on. While this memo certainly represents the first attempt to identify the new movement in that way, the term appears in the final chapter of Catholic Pentecostals (1969), although the term “Pentecostal Movement” is more commonly used in that book.[2]

In June 1970, the leaders of the renewal decided to set up a committee to oversee the services provided by the Ann Arbor and South Bend communities – the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service Committee (CCRSC) – which mainly consisted of leaders from Ann Arbor and South Bend who had participated in the original Notre Dame Cursillo group. At the inaugural meeting on 14 July 1970, the members were Jim Byrne, Kevin Ranaghan, and Fr. Edward O’Connor from South Bend; Steve Clark and Ralph Martin from Ann Arbor; and George Martin, then living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The sole member who had not been in the Notre Dame group was Fr. George Kosicki of Detroit. In January, 1971, Bert Ghezzi, another graduate of the Notre Dame group, then living in Grand Haven, Michigan, also joined the committee.

The CCRSC, incorporated in February 1971 as Charismatic Renewal Services (CRS), oversaw the work of the Communication Center in South Bend, which was also responsible for the annual international conferences, and the Pastoral Newsletter put out by the Ann Arbor community, renamed New Covenant in July 1971. While groups within the charismatic renewal had had informal contacts with local bishops before the founding of the CCRSC, its first official connection to the Catholic hierarchy began when Bishop Joseph McKinney, auxiliary of Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the episcopal advisor to the CCRSC in August, 1971. 

When CRS began, the two communities that sponsored it were True House, led by Jim Byrne in South Bend, and The Word of God in Ann Arbor. In 1973, the True House community merged with the People of Praise, whose principal leaders were Kevin Ranaghan and Paul DeCelles, a Notre Dame professor of physics. Jim Byrne resigned from the Service Committee to pursue new directions and DeCelles took his place. The People of Praise took over the True House role as the sponsoring community. The membership of the committee changed, but most of the members were from either People of Praise or The Word of God. Both Bert Ghezzi and George Martin moved to The Word of God in the mid-1970s to work for CRS there, further tying the ministries that served the charismatic renewal to the two communities. 

As the charismatic renewal spread outside the United States, the members of the CCRSC found themselves taking a global concern. To deal with the increasing international demands, the Committee decided in October 1972 to begin an International Communications Office (ICO) in Ann Arbor, with Ralph Martin directing it. The ICO was publicly established in January, 1973. In March 1973, Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, who had been one of the moderators of the Second Vatican Council, visited The Word of God.[3] In October of that year, at the first International Leaders Conference in Grottaferrata near Rome, the ICO was formally recognized by the leaders as the clearinghouse for the international charismatic renewal. Cardinal Suenens was among those who participated in the conference.[4] With his help, the International (General) Conference in 1975 was held in Rome, bringing people from all over the world, and culminating in an audience with Pope Paul VI in which he gave his encouragement to the movement.

It was at that conference that Suenens invited Ralph Martin and Steve Clark to move to Brussels and bring the ICO there as well. Martin and his family, Clark, and others from The Word of God, moved to Brussels in August, 1976. The work of ICO grew rapidly, and Fr. Tom Forrest later moved to Brussels to take over from Martin as director of ICO.In the summer of 1980ICO moved to Rome, where it changed its name to International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS).

Ecumenical Outreach

Because of the strong conviction of Word of God leaders that the community had a call to work ecumenically, they had from the very beginning worked with pastors and teachers from a variety of church backgrounds. Early on they established what was known (somewhat tongue in cheek) as the “Ecumenical Council.” Ralph Martin, Steve Clark, Paul DeCelles, and Kevin Ranaghan were part of this group, along with five charismatic Protestant leaders: Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Don Basham, and Ern Baxter. The latter five men were leaders in a movement among Protestant charismatics which was labeled by some as the “Shepherding Movement,” which fostered a form of personal discipleship similar to the system of pastoral care in covenant communities.[5] Larry Christenson, a leader in the Lutheran charismatic renewal, was also a member of the Council. 

The community leaders participated in a “Men’s Shepherds Conference” at Montreat, North Carolina, in late May 1974,[6] and organized another, with the same title, in Kansas City in September 1975 that drew five thousand leaders.[7] As opposition to the “Shepherding” leaders arose among independent Protestant charismatic leaders during the period, Word of God and People of Praise and other community leaders tried to help bring reconciliation.[8]

The greatest achievement of the Ecumenical Council was the 1977 Conference on the Charismatic Renewal in the Christian Churches in Kansas City.[9] In 1974, Ralph Martin had called for the “three rivers” of renewal – Classical Pentecostal, Protestant, and Catholic – to “flow together.”[10] Shortly afterward the Council began to plan for such a conference. Under the leadership of a very broadly ecumenical committee, adroitly led by Kevin Ranaghan, the conference was organized as a “conference of conferences.” The planners of the conference came from a wider group of leaders known as the Charismatic Concerns Committee, which had been established in 1976 to help deal with the controversy over “shepherding.”[11] Because the planning committee included leaders from this larger group, many different elements within the charismatic renewal could be represented. There were daytime sessions for Catholics, Protestant denominations, classical Pentecostals, and two non-denominational tracks to accommodate both the Shepherding leaders and those opposed to them. In the evening, all the tracks, about 50,000 people in all, met together in Arrowhead Stadium. That remarkable conference was one of the most broadly ecumenical Christian gatherings ever held, and notable for the unity expressed in the joint sessions. 

In October 1980, this cooperation took a further step with a meeting of mainly Catholic and Evangelical Protestant pastors, scholars, and writers in Ann Arbor, devoted to formal presentations on the place of Christianity in the modern world and its challenges. The participants included some of the leaders in the communities and other members of the Ecumenical Council and extended beyond charismatic circles to include academics and authors who had no previous connection to the charismatic renewal or covenant community. Papers from this meeting were published the following year as Christianity Confronts Modernity by Servant Books, the community’s publishing outreach. The 1980 conference was followed by several more “Allies for Faith and Renewal” conferences attended by well-known leaders from both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well as the Evangelical world. 

The Center for Pastoral Renewal in Ann Arbor emerged from the “Christianity Confronts Modernity” conference of 1980 and was the sponsoring organization for the subsequent conferences. The staff of the center were drawn from The Word of God. In addition to the conference, the Center published Pastoral Renewal (later renamed Faith and Renewal), a monthly publication featuring articles by a wide range of authors, Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox.

Publishing

Publishing began on a modest scale. In the late 1960s, in order to maintain communication with the far-flung movement, the leaders in Ann Arbor began sending out a mimeographed newsletter edited by Ralph Martin. Originally entitled the Pastoral Newsletter, the publication developed from a few stapled sheets to a small magazine by 1970. In July 1971, this became New Covenant, subtitled “The Monthly Magazine of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.” Originally published from the basement of Martin’s house in Ann Arbor, New Covenant was an international magazine almost from the first, with charismatic renewal members, such as Tim and Mimi Turner from London, England, receiving bundles of the magazine and then distributing them more locally. At its peak, circulation reached almost 100,000 worldwide. New Covenant continued to be published from Ann Arbor until 1992, when it was sold to Our Sunday Visitor Publications. 

Soon the community in Ann Arbor began publishing books through another “basement” outreach, Word of Life publishing. The first book published was Fr. George Montague’s Riding the Wind: Learning the Ways of the Spirit. Word of Life expanded, publishing books like the team manual for the Life in the Spirit Seminars (1973). In 1976, Word of Life became Servant Publications after it was learned that there already was an evangelical publishing house called Word of Life.

Servant Books started as a publishing outreach serving the Catholic charismatic renewal, but quickly began publishing books derived from teaching by renewal leaders, many of them members of ecumenical covenant communities, becoming part of their ecumenical outreach. In the 1980s, Servant began reaching a wider audience, publishing books by Evangelicals like J. I. Packer, Donald Bloesch, Harry Blamires, and Elizabeth Eliot. Several of these authors published more than one book with Servant. Indeed, Servant published Eliot’s newsletter for several years.

By the time Servant Publications officially closed in 2003, according to Publishers Weekly, “The not-for-profit company had annual sales of about $4 million and published about 50 titles per year.”[12] Many of Servant’s books are still in print with other publishing houses, including Franciscan Publications and Ignatius Press. 

Music

Music has always been a feature of charismatic prayer meetings. At the time the charismatic renewal began, the songs featured at prayer meetings were a selection of older Protestant Pentecostal and Evangelical songs, some of the new worship music current in Catholic circles at the time, with a few traditional Catholic hymns like “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.” Prayer groups and communities proved to be fertile sources of new worship songs. In particular The Word of God in Ann Arbor produced many songs, as well as performers, many of them trained at the University of Michigan School of Music.

In an effort to acquaint the wider renewal movement with some of the new music, The Word of God music ministry issued its first record in 1972, entitled simply “Songs of The Word of God.” In the years that followed, The Word of God Music, which became part of Servant Publications, issued several albums. In 1975, Servant published Songs of Praise, followed by three supplemental volumes, which finally were published in a combined edition. The impetus for this publication was the observation that many prayer groups were using song sheets and booklets that reprinted music without securing proper copyright permission or paying royalties. 

Servant Publications, along with New Covenant and The Word of God Music, was originally part of Charismatic Renewal Services (CRS), owned jointly by The Word of God and People of Praise. At the dissolution of the Association of Communities in 1980, the operations that had been based in Ann Arbor continued as Servant Ministries, owned by The Word of God, while the rest of CRS remained under the People of Praise. 

Around the World

Other communities around the world have developed local outreaches of various kinds. For many years, the People of Hope in New Jersey ran “Jesus Weeks,” evangelistic rallies that drew many thousands, as well as taking responsibility for organizing regional conferences for the charismatic renewal. The People of Hope also gave birth to the Brotherhood of Hope, a Catholic brotherhood of celibate men that now has houses in New Jersey, Boston, Tallahassee (Florida), and St. Paul, Minnesota. In Monterrey, Mexico, Jésed community has, among other outreaches, established a mission to married couples which now numbers over 1500 married couples. There are many examples of outreaches like these around the world, but perhaps none so extensive as those of 

Ligaya ng Panginoon

Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) in Manila, Philippines, is by far the largest community in the Sword of the Spirit, and also has the most extensive outreaches. Ligaya began in 1973 with a group of religious sisters at Assumption Convent in Manila, some of whom had encountered charismatic renewal in Paris, France. During the same period, a Jesuit missionary assigned to the Philippines, Herb Schneider, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit during his studies in Germany in 1971. 

Schneider participated in the first international leaders’ conference in 1972 in Rome, where he met Ralph Martin, Steve Clark, and other members of the early communities. He subsequently traveled to the United States and visited both The Word of God and the People of Praise. When he returned to the Philippines after his ordination in 1974, Fr. Schneider joined the prayer group at Assumption Convent, which had grown to include hundreds of participants. Later that year, the core group of leaders decided that, with over a thousand people attending the meetings, some sort of organization was necessary. In July 1975, they held a retreat along with members of another Manila prayer group, where they received a prophetic word giving them the name they subsequently adopted. Fr. Schneider and a group of laymen, including Vic Gutierrez, Larry Gamboa, and Mike Joseph, Jr., became the leaders of the group. Gutierrez participated in a number of international charismatic conferences and served as a member of the International Service Committee of the charismatic renewal. When Fr. Schneider went on a leave of absence for one year to complete his Jesuit training in 1976, the three laymen were formally appointed as coordinators. The community entered into contact with The Word of God and became part of the first Association of Communities. It joined the Sword of the Spirit in 1982, as one of the first communities to do so.

By the time Ligaya ng Panginoon joined the Sword of the Spirit, it had already developed extensive outreaches. As Gutierrez recalls, at the time it was beginning Ligaya was like an atom, so small and yet so full of energy that it was almost ready to explode into action. Some members wanted to go out and bring Ligaya to serve the poor. Others wanted to do healing sessions. We had social activists too. Still others just wanted to serve where there were invitations to serve from other prayer groups.[13]

Eventually, all these ideas would bear fruit. Ligaya’s first outreach, begun in 1975, was Word of Joy Foundation, a publishing house that reprinted and distributed literature on the charismatic renewal, including New Covenant magazine, in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, where shipping from the United States would have put the prices of these books and magazines beyond the resources of many in the region. Ligaya also took the lead in organizing conferences for charismatic renewal leaders in the Philippines and beyond. In 1980, the community began a weekly meeting of business executives that grew into the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. The same year, the community began an outreach to university students that became Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA). Mike Joseph, Jr., who was instrumental in founding CYA, had visited Ann Arbor and spent time with the Servants of the Word. When he returned to Manila, he worked with Fr. Schneider to start a household of single men. After the founding of the Sword of the Spirit in 1982, this became a household of Servants of the Word. Ken Noecker moved to Manila to lead the house in 1986, a position he held for 25 years until he became presiding elder of the brotherhood and moved to its center in Michigan. The Servants of the Word were very active in establishing CYA and its outreach to students, as they had been with University Christian Outreach in the United States.

Perhaps the most important movement that began in Ligaya was Couples for Christ. It began as an outreach of Ligaya in 1981 and spread throughout the Philippines and beyond in the following years. Although it separated from Ligaya in 1993 with some difficulty, good relations were restored beginning in 2008. By this time, the movement had been officially recognized by the Catholic Church as an association of the faithful “of pontifical right,” that is, officially approved by the Vatican.

Few aspects of life have been untouched by Ligaya’s outreaches. Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon (The Servant of the Lord), an outreach to single professionals, began in 1984. In 1986, Ligaya began to form a number of small communities among the poor of Manila called Tahanan ng Panginoon (House of the Lord). Familia, a movement to strengthen family life in parishes, began in 1993. In 1998, Ligaya founded a school, now called Cradle of Joy Catholic Progressive School, for children from preschool through twelfth grade. While evangelization has always been part of Ligaya’s mission, a formal evangelistic movement, beyond the community itself, began in 2005. Called Pathways, this movement operates in ten sites, and airs a radio program called “Kakaiba Ka!” (“You Are Different!”).

One of the most important activities of Ligaya has been helping to found other communities, many of which are now members of the Sword of the Spirit. In 1985, the first missionary group of community members moved to Malaybalay, a city in Mindanao, the southernmost large island of the Philippines, to aid in developing a community that is now Ang Buhing Pulong (The Living Word), a full member of the Sword of the Spirit. Groups from Ligaya have helped develop communities in other parts of the Philippines, and in India and Singapore, and have carried out evangelistic missions in Indonesia, Thailand, China, and other parts of Asia.

Ligaya’s community-building outreach has gone beyond Asia to the Filipino diaspora, mainly in North America. As members of Ligaya moved abroad for work, they began to form communities in the United States and Canada. City on the Hill in Los Angeles, Family of Faith in New Jersey, Families for Christ in Dallas, and Families for Christ in Vancouver were the first of many communities that developed in this way. For a time, Vic Gutierrez, one of the founders of Ligaya, moved to Los Angeles to work with the diaspora. Seven communities in the Sword of the Spirit in the United States, Canada, and Australia are the result of Ligaya’s efforts among Filipinos abroad.

Ligaya now has thousands of members, so many that it has had to divide into several sector communities. Its influence goes beyond the organized outreaches. The Catholic Church in the Philippines has made use of the community to lead several charismatic and evangelistic efforts. The community also includes prominent business leaders and political officials, who can bring a Christian witness to the highest level of government. One coordinator of the community was appointed Secretary of Public Works and Highways, where he has rooted out corruption in one of the most scandal-plagued government departments.[14] Another community member led the Commission on Audit, where she directed an investigation into government corruption that resulted in “having three incumbent senators detained and hauled into court.”[15]

The outreaches of Ligaya span the range of outreaches found in communities throughout the Sword of the Spirit. Of all the types of outreach, mission to university students is the one that has achieved the widest reach. 

University Outreach

Many communities in the Sword of the Spirit had their origins on university campuses. It is not surprising, then, that outreach among university students has been a regular part of life in most communities. This outreach goes by many names, but they all follow a similar pattern. In North America, many of the university outreaches are part of University Christian Outreach (UCO).

UCO grew out of the continuing work of student evangelism in The Word of God and the Work of Christ in Lansing, Michigan. In The Word of God, when most of the members of the community were students, there was no separation between outreach in the university environment and outside it. Even the University of Michigan dormitories were included when the community initially formed itself into sub-communities. Within a few years, however, the community had come to consist mostly of those outside the university, both single people and families. When the community moved to division by districts in August 1974, one of the districts, the Dorm District, comprised the University dormitories. Since the students living in the dorms were quite young, the leaders attached to the district did not actually reside there; many of the male leaders, including the coordinator (Doug Gavrilides until 1977, and then John Keating), were Servants of the Word. In most respects, the Dorm District functioned like other community districts, and the goal of its outreach was to bring students not only to Christian commitment, but to community commitment as well.

By 1979, the coordinators and other leaders of outreach among students took note of weaknesses in this approach. They surmised that there might be something better than the “all or nothing approach” of the Dorm District.[16] Rather than have university outreach as an integral part of the community, they established University Christian Outreach, which was to function in many ways as a separate organization. The mission of UCO was to proclaim the Gospel, and to present community as an option, but not as the principal goal of membership. In some ways, UCO would function as a district of The Word of God, but UCO members interested in community would make only a temporary “affiliate” commitment to the community during their student years. Even if they had no interest in this commitment, they could be part of UCO and benefit from community support and teaching while at the university. Many UCO students did stay in Ann Arbor after graduation and become members of The Word of God, while others went elsewhere; many retained their connection to UCO as alumni.

As The Word of God developed relationships with other communities internationally and founded the Sword of the Spirit, the UCO idea spread as well. During the 1980s, UCO connected with the university outreaches of a number of other communities to become an international movement. These included Cristianos en Marcha (Christians on the March), the university outreach of Árbol de Vida community in San José, Costa Rica; Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA) in the Philippines; and Misión Católica Universitaria (University Catholic Mission) in Monterrey, Mexico. 

Many of the leaders of these university outreaches came to Ann Arbor for training, and the Servants of the Word established houses in several communities, whose main mission was university work. By 1987, there were four major chapters of university outreach, supported in each case by households of Servants of the Word: Southeast Michigan (Ann Arbor and Lansing); San José, Costa Rica; Manila; and London, England, where the outreach was called Koinonia. Smaller chapters were located elsewhere in the United States, Latin America, and Europe.

The crisis years 1990-92 affected UCO as well. The Ann Arbor chapter in particular was shaken but persevered with the help of the Servants of the Word, who provided most of the leadership. Several chapters associated with communities that were no longer part of the Sword of the Spirit no longer formed part of UCO, and many others had to fold for lack of staff. Only the East Lansing and Ann Arbor chapters were fully staffed before 1995, although a new chapter in Pittsburgh emerged during this time.[17] The alumni of the Ann Arbor chapter became an important part of the re-formed Sword of the Spirit community in Ann Arbor, which became Word of Life. Throughout UCO, as throughout the Sword of the Spirit, the early 1990s were a period of rebuilding. After 1995, there was more stability and growth.

During these years, UCO established a relationship with St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO), a very similar but Catholic university group based in St. Paul, Minnesota. SPO had been founded in 1985 by Gordon DeMarais, a coordinator of a Catholic covenant community in St. Paul, the Community of Christ the Redeemer. Members of the senior staff of UCO began to make contact with SPO in the early 1990s, and SPO members began to attend retreats with UCO in Ann Arbor. At the same time, relations between the Community of Christ the Redeemer and the Sword of the Spirit were also developing. Christ the Redeemer became an affiliated community in 1998 and a full member in 2010; by 2000 UCO and SPO were holding a regular joint conference each year during the New Year holiday.

UCO and SPO likewise engage in various shared missions. One of these is the support of the mission outreach in Detroit, Michigan, begun by the Servants of the Word and Word of Life community. 

Outreach in Detroit

The outreach in Detroit began in 1995 with a summer program started by two Servants of the Word, Dave O’Connor and Stan Mathay, who were teaching at a school in Detroit sponsored by several local Protestant churches and by the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. This summer program, later called YouthWorks Detroit, drew on young volunteers, initially from UCO chapters, who came to the city to work with the poor and particularly with young people in a city beset with unemployment from the decline of the local automobile industry. In 2000, the regional leaders and the coordinators of Washtenaw Covenant Community (now Word of Life) proposed a year-round community outreach in Detroit. This proposal, which required a financial commitment from the community, was approved by the membership, and the Detroit Community Outreach (DCO) began. A household of Servants of the Word, led by Dave O’Connor, a family from Word of Life, and a household of single men moved to Detroit. The purpose was not to construct a community in Detroit that could be part of the Sword of the Spirit, but to work with local Christian churches and other groups to help the people of the city in whatever way they could. From the beginning, the Servants of the Word house also hosted two young men from other communities for a year of training and service.

Within a few years, DCO had spawned a number of outreaches to youth and had begun to build relationships with local churches and other groups. It was not easy to bridge the gap between a group of white, mostly middle-class, outsiders and the mostly African-American urban poor community. Nevertheless, the outreach has achieved some success. Detroit has become a favorite destination for young people from UCO, SPO, and communities throughout the Sword of the Spirit. The summer programs attract dozens of volunteers to work with young people on renovation projects and to engage in direct aid to the poor. Others have moved to Detroit to live year-round either temporarily or for a longer term. Both single people and families have moved to Detroit for work or education, creating a cell of community there. Local individuals and families participate in prayer meetings and other events hosted by DCO or YouthWorks. Once a year, Word of Life holds its community gathering in Detroit, and many members of the community help in the outreach. Several young people from Detroit have gone on to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and joined UCO. Detroit Community Outreach has been largely successful in building ecumenical and interracial bridges, in extending help to the poor, and in providing an opportunity for meaningful service for young people throughout the Sword of the Spirit.

Youth Outreach

Like the work with youth in Detroit, outreach to youth in their teenage years has taken many forms in the Sword of the Spirit. Another that has been successful in a very challenging environment is Youth Initiatives (YI), an outreach of Charis community in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It began with a series of parish missions in the impoverished neighborhood of Poleglass on the outskirts of predominantly Catholic West Belfast from 1988 to 1990. In 1991 it was established as a charity with a team of thirty volunteers.[18] Like the community from which it arose, YI is an ecumenical outreach. The branch in predominantly Protestant East Belfast began in 2008, and it now counts branches in the towns of Downpatrick (Catholic majority) and Banbridge (Protestant majority). The latest effort of YI is in the second largest city in Northern Ireland, Derry (or Londonderry), which, like Belfast, is a confessionally divided city. 

An ecumenical group of young Christians in Northern Ireland is a miraculous phenomenon. As one young participant observed speaking of a YI social gathering, “Look at this, a real miracle. People from all over Belfast, Catholics, Protestants, different social backgrounds, yet I consider them all my family.”[19] As with many Sword of the Spirit outreaches, YI has benefited from the support of the Servants of the Word, who established a house in Belfast in 1989 and in 2017 set up a house in Derry-Londonderry to support the work there. Youth Initiatives runs a wide variety of programs for youth from eleven to nineteen years of age such as jobs training, after-school activities, and summer camps.

While the many Sword of the Spirit outreaches to young people – both those to teenagers and to university students – have their own identity and need to be suited to their own circumstances and challenges, they use many of the same methods. These include small groups led by experienced mentors that encourage young people to share their experiences of God and receive personal support in their faith. The common methods also include training more experienced participants to provide leadership among their peers. As these outreaches have developed, the leaders in the various communities have sought ways of sharing these lessons and other resources across the Sword of the Spirit. 

In 1995, the Servants of the Word and the Sword of the Spirit in North America set up a program to be shared among the communities in the region, called the Regional Youth Program, later called Christian Youth Challenge. This program, first directed by Dave Quintana, a Servant of the Word then based in East Lansing, sought to pool the resources of the various communities to provide retreats and other programs for young people from about twelve years of age to young adulthood.[20] This was not entirely a new program: it aimed to draw on existing programs and resources, including UCO and SPO, to encourage young people who grew up in community to come into a personal relationship with Christ and to embrace the vision of Christian community for themselves. Intergenerational community had long been a goal of the Sword of the Spirit, but efforts in that area had not always been successful. Some communities, in fact, had lost most of the new generation of children. 

Other regions of the Sword of the Spirit began similar programs, and discussions among the leaders of these programs led to fruitful cooperation. More and more young people, generally of university age, began to visit communities in other regions, sometimes for extended periods. The “Standing in the Gap” program, in which young people – some as young as eighteen and just out of high school – go to live and serve in other communities, even other countries, had its official start in 1996 in Monterrey, Mexico (in Spanish En La Brecha). It has fostered enduring relationships among youth in the Sword of the Spirit worldwide. In fact, one of the unexpected fruits of these contacts has been an increasing number of international marriages.Beginning in 2004, the leaders of the various regional youth programs began to look for some way to give a common identity to the diverse groups that served youth in the Sword of the Spirit. In January 2007, the various regional youth programs adopted the common name “Kairos.”[21] While some local groups have adopted this as a name, most of the groups united under the Kairos name have retained their own names and missions. UCO and CYA, for example, continue to operate under their own names while being affiliated with Kairos. By coordinating plans for youth programs from childhood to early adulthood, Kairos seeks to implement the vision of the “youth bridge” developed by Mike Shaughnessy, a Servant of the Word based first in London and later in East Lansing.


[1] Steve Clark papers, “Proposal on the ‘Pentecostal Movement’” December 1969, p. 1

[2] E.g., Ranaghan and Ranaghan, Catholic Pentecostals, p. 213.

[3] Ralph Martin, “An Interview with Cardinal Suenens,” New Covenant 2:12 (June 1973), 1-5.

[4] “Encounter in Rome,” New Covenant 3:5 (December 1973), 3-7. Some of the participants, including Ralph Martin and Steve Clark, had an audience with Pope Paul VI on 10 October 1973. See “International Leaders Meet with Pope Paul VI” Ibid., p. 5.

[5] On the Shepherding movement, see S. David Moore, The Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclesiology(London: T & T Clark, 2003). Concerning the relationship of the Shepherding movement to covenant communities, Moore observes, “There was no doubt considerable mutual influence between the Shepherding movement and the Catholic Charismatic communities, particularly Ann Arbor. The Shepherding movement emphasized more the personal authority that came through definite vertical pastoral relationships…while the Catholic communities put more emphasis on being joined to the community leadership as a whole versus the one-on-one pastoral relationship.” Ibid, p. 137.

[6] Moore, The Shepherding Movement, pp. 64, 91; “Charismatic Leaders Meet,” New Covenant 4:2 (August 1974), p. 26. 

[7] Moore, The Shepherding Movement, pp.127-30; “Recognizing the ‘Hazards of Walking Alone,’” New Covenant 5:6 (December 1975), pp. 22-23.

[8] Moore, The Shepherding Movement, pp. 99-124.

[9] Ibid., pp. 130-35.

[10] Ibid., p. 131.

[11] Ibid., p. 118.

[12] Sean Fowlds, “Servant Publication Folds,” Publishers Weekly, October 20, 2003.

[13] Vic Gutierrez, “Historical Notes on the Ligaya ng Panginoon in the Context of the Second Vatican Council” (private document, 2015), p. 12.

[14] Kayo Ang Aking Ligaya: Heartbeat of a People (2015), pp. 106-7. 

[15] Ibid., pp. 110-11.

[16] Dan Keating, “The Dorm District and UCO: Facts and Figures” (c. 2007).

[17] Dan Keating, “A Brief History of University Christian Outreach” (13 August 2013).

[18] “The Youth Initiatives Story,” Servants of the Word Newsletter, Spring 2016, pp. 1-2.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Raising Up the Next Generation: A Vision for Our Work with Young People in the Region” (January 2003), p. 4.

[21] Mike Shaughnessy, “Kairos: For Such a Time as This” (10 October 2010), p. 4.


This article © 2021 The Sword of the Spirit is adapted from A Brief History of the Sword of the Spirit, by Bruce Yocum, Bob Bell and Henry Dieterich, commissioned by the International Executive Council of the Sword of the Spirit to mark the 50th anniversary of covenant community.

This is part of the series: A Brief History of the Sword of the Spirit

Top Photo credits: Worship group at Pentecost 2017 Conference in Rome, and Youth Group prayer meeting, Sword of the Spirit archives 


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