Even before I hit the door I could feel the spirit. I have to be in the right place because familiar faces are scattered around the room. It's definitely not what I expected. The place is packed.
In the back a gospel choir is lining up to sing. I thought I recognized the woman speaking. Someone hands me a program that reads "God Made the Mountains... Praise His Holy Name." After a chorus of Amens and Hallelujahs, I am sure I've stumbled onto a Baptist revival. Like any Baptist church, the congregation is meticulously dressed. "Sunday best" for this crowd, is fashionable skiwear from head to toe.
At the podium is the dynamic Dr. Bertrice Berry - a respected figure in the Black community. She has her own nationally syndicated talk show and best selling book. Sounding like the Reverend Bertrice Berry this Sunday morning, she paraphrases James, Chapter III, verse 15, admonishing lust, jealousy and selfish ambition. Instead, she preaches, "strive for peace." She then reminds her brothers and sisters they've come together... so that a few can go further. "We must consider ways to do something for someone that will make them want to do something for someone else." And do it, she demands, with a sense of purpose. The message is powerful. The audience is powerful.
I can't say I've ever seen a sporting event begin with a Gospel celebration. Maybe they all should. Sitting in the crowd is Ollie Barnes of the Diamond Ice Ski Club in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He says the spirited gathering is as it should be. Skiing, celebrating Black culture and praising God, he says, are all part of the experience. "We (African Americans) convene differently than other people, socially and professionally. Sororities, fraternities, and on from there. The way we do things is different from the way other groups do."