The men cried. They hugged. They laughed, cheered and showed emotions normally as taboo as a pair of pink briefs.
Michael Jordan’s return to basketball? The end of the baseball strike? Free schooners at the corner tavern?
No. The Promise Keepers “Wake Up Call,” where Christian men are preached at, chastised and encouraged to become leaders in their homes and churches.
The special Saturday morning service in the Spokane Opera House drew 1,550 men who could have been ogling monster bucks at the Big Horn sports show or watching Oklahoma State stomp Alabama in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Instead, they listened for 2 1/2 hours, as speakers told them to love their wives, spend more time with their children, worship God and remain sexually pure.
“They’re bringing these men to their feet repeatedly,” said Donovan Khalar, 37, a salesman. “They’re reaching down and hitting these people where they live.”
Promise Keepers is the men’s movement of Christianity.
Organizers estimate a quartermillion men have attended conferences across the United States since Bill McCartney founded the organization in 1991.
They hope to draw 500,000 to 13 conferences this year, including one in Seattle and another in Boise.
Saturday’s mini conference was a primer for those weekend conferences.
About 100 men, many of them weeping, responded to the Rev. Rob Moorhead’s invitation to come to the stage for prayer and counseling.
Others prayed, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, in quiet corners of the Opera House.
“Folks, I want you to know that Satan lost a major battle right here,” Moorhead told the cheering crowd.
Paul Spencer came to the Opera House a skeptic about the Christian men’s movement. He left slightly less so.
“A lot of what they’re saying isn’t exactly ground-breaking,” said the Whitworth College debate coach.
“They’re saying common-sense things that I can apply later, when I marry, and when and if I decide to raise a family.”
Ann Hall of Sandpoint sat in the lobby, waiting for her husband of 43 years to leave the service.
John Hall attended a Promise Keepers’ meeting two months ago in Pullman, and hasn’t been the same since, said Hall.
“He’s a man of prayer,” she said. “He notices details around the house, comments on the meals I prepare, little things like that.
“It makes me feel special again.”