April/May 2016 - Vol. 85

hands raised in worship 
The Growth of the Renewal: Communities

by Steve Clark

A number of years ago, while I was visiting one of our communities, the Ligaya community, I was walking down a major street in Manila. I heard some music being broadcast to all who were nearby and recognized a song often sung in the charismatic renewal. I went to find out where it was coming from and found what looked like a storefront church that was evangelizing on the street. When I got closer, I could read that they were advertising a Life in the Spirit Seminar that would begin that weekend. When I got closer I found out that the “storefront church” was a covenant community.

To me this was a surprise. I thought I was familiar with the communities in Manila, and here was one I had never heard of. My surprise increased when I turned onto the next major cross street and came across another “storefront church” meeting in an old movie theater and found that it too was a covenant community. I gradually learned that in Manila and many countries in the world, there were hundreds of Christian communities, covenant communities and others, that had grown out of the charismatic renewal.

In 1998 and then again in 2004 Pope John Paul II held a rally on the eve of Pentecost for the new movements like the charismatic renewal and the new communities like the charismatic communities at which an estimated 500,000 people gathered. On the latter occasion he said, “I energetically repeat what I said on that occasion (Pentecost 1998): the ecclesial movements and the new communities are a ‘providential answer’, ‘inspired by the Holy Spirit’ given the present need of new evangelization, for which ‘mature Christian personalities’ and ‘strong Christian communities’ are needed.”

Charismatic communities go back to the very beginning of the Renewal. The date normally given for the beginning of the renewal is 1967. As the Renewal began to spread, communities began to form, two of the first being at Notre Dame and in Ann Arbor. By 1970 when the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service Committee (CCRSC) was established, (forerunner of the current National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal), the communities had provided significant endeavors for promoting the Renewal. They had developed the international conference, the national communications office, the magazine that later became New Covenant, and Charismatic Renewal Tapes and Literature, all of which worked under the CCRSC to feed the early explosive growth.

Since then, both the broader renewal, mainly found in prayer groups, and the charismatic communities have spread to almost every country in the world and have touched millions of people. The community of communities I belong to, the Sword of the Spirit can be found in over 40 countries and adds new communities every year. We do not just develop communities, but we also sponsor many outreaches. We are perhaps most known for our outreaches to young people. But there are many other charismatic communities that begin new communities and sponsor outreacheslike the ones I discovered in Manila.

[This article © 2015 by Stephen B. Clark.originally appeared  in PENTECOST Today Magazine, Volume 40 Fall 2015. Used with permission.]

Steve Clark is past president of the Sword of the Spirit and founder of The Servants of the Word.   

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