Archive for the ‘Azusa Street’ Category

The Heavenly Anthem

10 May, 2011

In 1906, the Pentecostals in Los Angeles reported singing in tongues. In addition, they experienced a further Pentecostal phenomenon, which they termed the “Heavenly Anthem” which manifested as an ethereal corporate singing, and many participants and observers claimed to hear celestial accompaniment. Though enthusiastic singing was part of Pentecostal worship from the movement’s beginnings, ecstatic singing in tongues seems to have surfaced among those who eventually formed the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission and added a further dimension of deep spirituality to the meetings at the Mission and beyond.

The inaugural September 1906 issue of the Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the Azusa Street Mission reports:

Many have received the gift of singing as well as speaking in the inspiration of the Spirit. The Lord giving new voices, he translates the songs into new tongues, he gives the music that is being sung by the angels and has a heavenly choir all singing the same heavenly song in harmony. It is beautiful music, no instruments needed in the meetings.

Chronologically, Sis. Jennie Evans Moore, who later married William Seymour, was the first to experience heavenly singing on April 9, 1906 when she became the first woman to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost at prayer meetings on Bonnie Brae Street, she testified: “I sang under the power of the Spirit in many languages . . . “

One of the clearest descriptions of the “Heavenly Anthem” comes from Bro. Frank Bartleman, an itinerant Holiness evangelist who joined the Pentecostal movement and chronicled the advent of the Apostolic Faith in southern California. On June 15, 1906, Bartleman participated in the inspired singing while attending a service at Azusa:

It [the “Heavenly Anthem”] was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe. In the beginning, this manifestation was wonderfully pure and powerful . . . No one could understand this “gift of song” but those who had it. It was indeed a “new song” in the Spirit.

Bartleman was intrigued by the miraculous melodies :

It was a gift from God of high order, and appeared among us soon after the “Azusa” work began. No one had preached it. The Lord had sovereignly bestowed it with the outpouring of the “reside of oil,” the “Latter Rain” baptism of the Spirit. It was exercised as the Spirit moved the possessors either in solo fashion or by the company. It was sometimes without words, other times in “tongues.” The effect was wonderful on the people. It brought a heavenly atmosphere, as though the angels themselves were present and joining with us. And possibly they were. It seemed to still criticism and opposition, and was hard for even wicked men to gainsay or ridicule.

Missionary George Berg recognized some of the languages used by the singers, including Hindustani and Gujerathi. On Christmas Day 1906, the Azusa saints experienced the phenomenon during an all-day meeting, and the singing was fittingly interpreted: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.” According to Bro. Berg, “People are melted to tears in hearing this singing. It is the harmony of heaven and the Holy Ghost puts music in the voices that are untrained.”

Ever critical of the formalization of the developing Pentecostal movement, Bro. Bartleman attributed the demise of the Heavenly Anthem to the assertion of the “human spirit” and claimed that “they drove it out by hymnbooks, and selected songs by leaders.” The Heavenly Anthem seems to be a lost artifact of the earliest days of American Pentecostalism, though singing in tongues does continue with less frequency today. Ultimately, the miraculous musical manifestation brought a glorious power and presence of God and was evidence of the abandoned spirituality of our Apostolic Faith forefathers.

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Messages from Azusa Street

29 November, 2010

https://i0.wp.com/www.azusastreet.org/picts/AFNewspaper.JPGThe Azusa Street Mission is renowned as the epicenter of early Pentecostal revival and as the site of thousands of Spirit baptisms as sinners, Christian pastors, evangelists, workers, and international missionaries flocked to the humble clapboard building in a muddy side street of the teeming city of Los Angeles to take in the Pentecostal outpouring.  In addition to the mighty conversions, healings, and deliverances, Azusa Street also became an auditorium for divine communication as the apostolic gifts of prophecy and tongues and interpretation were restored to the Body of Christ.  Some of these messages were transcribed in The Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the mission published by Elder William Joseph Seymour and were disseminated around the globe through Seymour’s vast mailing list.

In the inaugural issue of The Apostolic Faith, Bro. Seymour indicates that “many have received the gift of singing as well as speaking in the inspiration of the Spirit.  The Lord is giving new voices, he translates old songs into new tongues, he gives the music that is being sung by the angels.”   The phenomenon of singing in tongues was commonly known amongst the early saints as the “heavenly choir” and was deemed one of the most unusual and stunning manifestations of the Spirit at the mission as the congregation would join in singing in unknown tongues.  One such song was interpreted:

With one accord, all heaven rings
With praises to our God and King;
Let earth join in our song of praise,
And ring it out through all the days.

Another heavenly anthem which was “sung through in the Spirit by all” said:

Jesus Christ is made to me
All I need, all I need; 
He alone is all my plea,
He is all I need.

Wisdom, Righteousness and Power
Holiness forevermore
My Redemption full and sure,
He is all I need.

 The Azusa adherents were strongly convinced that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost signaled the last great revival before the return of Christ, and they valued inspired prophecy and found in utterances, visions, and interpretations divine revelation of unfolding events.  One sister, “who is unlearned and works and [sic] washing and ironing for a living” received a message from the Lord prior to the commencement of the Azusa revival predicting the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War.  One Bro. H.M. Allen uniquely interpreted messages he received in tongues by recording them phonetically and consulting foreign language dictionaries to translate the English meanings.    Bro. Allen’s lexical work revealed “ . . . things that are speedily coming on the whole earth. “  While the Holy Ghost told him that he was “not at liberty to tell all,” he was bound to declare that “if He [God] speaks only two words they are well worth listening to.”  Lillian Keyes, daughter of a Los Angeles physician, gave a stirring message on the coming of the Lord in an African dialect recognized by veteran missionary Sister S.K. Mead:  “Jesus is coming again, coming again so soon . . . Prepare your hearts now, for the Lord is coming soon, and ye know not the hour.” 

Many of the messages glorified Christ and the work of the Holy Ghost.  One transcribed message said:  “The Spirit comes in mighty power upon His people.  Look up unto Jesus now and receive from Him.  O Jesus is my Almighty King . . . God came into the world to see and to save that which was lost. He has redeemed us by His own precious Blood.” 

In several issues of The Apostolic Faith, Bro. Seymour made an effort to make important theological clarifications about the gifts of prophecy and tongues.  He appealed to Paul’s writing in I Corinthians 14 to argue that tongues with interpretation is as valuable as prophecy.  Elsewhere, he defends the inclusion of women in the ecstatic gifts, citing I Corinthians 11.  He encourages women to work in humility, admonishing them:  “The more God uses you in the Spirit, the more humbled and meek and tender you are and [t]he more filled with the blessed Holy Spirit.”  To the man, he says:  “We have no right to a lay a straw in her way, but to be men of holiness, purity and virtue, to hold up the standard and encourage the woman in her work . . . It is the same Holy Spirit in the woman as in the man.  When one considers how very new these manifestations were in his church, it is remarkable that he possessed such a mature and orthodox view of the gifts of the Spirit in ecclesiastical context and practical operation.

 In many ways, the freedom of Pentecostals at Azusa to participate in the prophetic established a precedent for the greater movement.  Prophecy and tongues/interpretations remain an integral part of the modern Church.  It is interesting that the messages of the Los Angeles revival were transcribed and preserved, as this publication of interpretation of tongues was not widely continued beyond the first decade or so of the Pentecostal movement.  But, they heard in the inspirative words and songs the voice of the Lord promising revival and His soon return.  Though the utterances recorded in The Apostolic Faith are over a century old, they continue to thrill the soul with their spiritual power and anointed unction.

Glenn Cook: Oneness Apostle

19 October, 2010

As the Azusa Street meetings began to produce concentric waves of revival throughout Los Angeles and Southern California, many holiness ministers visited the mission at 312 Azusa Street to contend with William Seymour, the African American leader of the burgeoning Pentecostal group, concerning his strange new doctrine of speaking in tongues.  One of the early preachers to withstand Bro. Seymour was Glenn A. Cook, who was conducting holiness tent meetings at Seventh and Spring Streets in Los Angeles.  Cook was deeply impressed by Seymour’s humility and patience and began to attend the Pentecostal meetings.  He eventually apologized to Bro. Seymour for his “hard sayings” and spent five weeks in heartfelt repentance and spiritual agony before receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost: 

I felt that I was really lost and unless I received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues I would miss all.  When I had just about given up all hope, the Holy Ghost fell on me as I lay in bed at home.  I seemed to be in a trance for about twenty-four hours and the next day in the meeting began to speak in tongues.

Bro. Cook proved to be an important asset to the work of the Azusa Mission and was soon ordained an elder by Bro. Seymour.  A former news reporter and a printer by trade, Cook assisted with the publication of The Apostolic Faith, the mission’s international publication, answered correspondence, and handled the mission’s finances. 

            In December 1906, Bro. Cook began an effective evangelistic campaign throughout the West, Midwest and South, spreading the Pentecostal message.  He arrived in Lamont, Oklahoma where “quite a number were tarrying and waiting for Pentecost.”  Hungry souls traveled to his meetings from over 100 miles away.  Heading eastward, he delivered the doctrine to Mother Mary Moise in St. Louis then on to Chicago.  In Indianapolis, he held powerful meetings, where several members of the Christian Missionary Alliance received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, including the Flower family, defectors from Dowie’s Zion who later became influential leaders in the Assemblies of God.  In an Apostolic Faith report, Cook accurately predicted that Indianapolis would become “a center of power, being an inter-urban railway center like Los Angeles.”  Cook was gladly received by a number of Church of God in Christ adherents in the South, while their bishop, Charles H. Mason, was on site at Azusa receiving the Holy Ghost. 

            In 1914, Cook was evangelizing in the east when he received a letter from Frank Ewart, who was conducting meetings in Los Angeles “stating that he and a number of my friends had started a tent meeting and were baptizing people in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ewart invited Cook to return to Los Angeles to assist in the work.  He accepted Ewart’s scriptural message, and he and Bro. Ewart rebaptized one another in a rented trough.  “During the following months,” wrote Bro. Cook, “the great revival broke out, many hundreds being baptized in the Name of Jesus.” 

            Bro. Cook’s acceptance of the doctrine of the mighty God in Christ placed him in the ranks of the Oneness Pentecostals, who were transforming the movement with a deeper revelation of Jesus Christ.  As a church planter, Cook took up the burden to revisit the works he had helped to found in 1906 and 1907 with the Oneness message:

During the spring of 1915, the call came to me from the Lord to go back East and carry the message to the places where several years before I had carried the message of the Holy Ghost baptism with speaking in tongues.  My first stop was St. Louis, where I visited the Rescue Home of Mother Moise . . . Before leaving St. Louis, Mother Moise, Ben Pemberton, and about forty others were baptized in the Name of Jesus in the Mississippi River.

Afterward, he traveled on to Indianapolis where:

. . . the saints were prepared and hungry for the new message.  Great crowds turned out from the beginning, people coming in from different points in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois.  During the thirty days of the meeting, I was informed by those who kept a record that some 469 were baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Among those baptized were G.T. Haywood, L.V. Roberts, the new Bishop [Samuel N.] Hancock, Brother [T.C.] Davis, and about all the leaders of that day.  The Lord made a clean sweep, leaving few Pentecostal people in te city who were not baptized in the Name of Jesus.

Throughout his lifetime, Cook continued to promote the powerful message of baptism in the Name of Jesus and the fullness of the Godhead in Christ.  He contributed articles to a number of Apostolic circulars including The Blessed Truth, The Herald of Truth, and Meat in Due Season.  He continued a deep friendship with Bro. Frank Ewart, who introduced him to the Oneness truths, and worked alongside him in Pentecostal ministry in Los Angeles, where he pastored a work in Belvedere.  When he died in 1948, Bro. Glenn A. Cook was memorialized as a trailblazer.  The seeds of truth that he scattered throughout the United States as an apostle of the Faith continue to bring forth a mighty harvest.

 

 

Man with a Mission: Frank Bartleman at Eighth & Maple

2 July, 2010

Frank Bartleman, who was so instrumental in the advent of Pentecost in Los Angeles, was an itinerant in spirit. He was possessed of a mild but mercurial nature, which led him hither and yon working for the cause of the Kingdom. Bro. Bartleman seemed always to be looking for the next deeper move, a sincere body of Christians that would pray, fast, and worship with his same level of intensity and desire. Ultimately, he was often disappointed in those who began in spiritual fervency but dulled to secular formalism. He was terrified of denominationalism; and once he discovered Pentecostal practitioners, Frank Bartleman was even more determined to follow the Spirit, wherever He might lead.

Bro. Bartleman was an early and enthusiastic participant in the Azusa Street Revival. Inspired by reports of the Welsh renewal, led by Evan Roberts, Bartleman had joined prayer bands throughout Los Angeles to seek a Pentecostal outpouring in the city. He prayed diligently, though he had little notion of what Pentecost might look like when it arrived. When William Seymour brought the newly-articulated Apostolic Faith doctrine to a small Holiness mission, it did not take long for word to reach Frank Bartleman, who began attending cottage prayer meetings on Bonnie Brae Street, where some of the first seekers in Los Angeles were filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

But, somewhat characteristically, Frank Bartleman became disenchanted with the Azusa Mission. According to him, the Spirit revealed a dangerous pitfall for the mission—the “party” spirit, which was Bartleman’s euphemism for denominational sectarianism. He delivered a message at Azusa, warning the saints to avoid becoming “entangled again in a yoke of (ecclesiastical) bondage.” He firmly believed that sectarianism had “been the curse and death of every revival body sooner or later.” If Azusa was to succeed where others had failed, she would have to contend for unity and resist organization and formalism.

Bartleman’s worst fears for the mission were realized when the day after he delivered his portentous sermon to the Azusa congregation, the words “Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission” were crudely painted on the building’s clapboard side. According to Bartleman, the Lord said to him: “This is what I told you.” This was enough for Bartleman to declare: “They had done it.” There is a sense of grave disappointment in Bartleman’s record of the change, which seemed so significant to him. He even declared: “The truth must be told. ‘Azusa’ began to fail the Lord also, early in her history.”

Disillusioned by the move, Bartleman began his own Pentecostal mission in an old German Church at Eighth and Maple about a mile from Azusa in August 1906. The Lord had led him to the building back in February of 1906, two months prior to the commencement of meetings at Azusa, but it had been occupied by the Pillar of Fire, a Holiness group led by Alma White, a fierce opponent of the spreading Pentecostal revival. However, by August, Bro. Bartleman says “The ‘Pillar of Fire’ had gone up in smoke, not able to raise the rent.” Bro. Fred Shephard provided Bartleman with the $50.00 for the first month’s rent, and the first service was held on 12 August.

Eighth and Maple, as the mission continued to be generically known, became another center of Pentecostal revival in the city. Bro. Bartleman described mighty outpourings in the church: “The atmosphere was almost too sacred and holy to attempt to minister in. Like the priests in the Tabernacle of old we could not minister for the glory.” Many were converted, and Bartleman said that the “atmosphere was terrible for sinners and backsliders. One had to get right in order to remain at Eighth and Maple.”

Frank Bartleman craved Spirit control. He had no tolerance for fleshly interruptions or the trappings of order. In his view, a Pentecostal service constituted hours of prayer, inspired exhortations, groaning and travail, and spontaneous manifestations of humility and ecstasy. He often remained prone on the floor throughout the services “while God ran the meetings.”

Though he had many times felt the control of the Spirit during his Christian experience, Bro. Bartleman received the Holy Ghost on 16 August 1906, while pastoring a Pentecostal work. Like Seymour, who received his own baptism after preaching it to others, Bartleman had witnessed several seekers filled at Eighth and Maple in the first few days of services when he had yet to acquire the Spirit himself.

In September, Eighth and Maple grew exponentially when an entire Holiness congregation of about 40 members merged with Bartleman’s mission after their pastor, William Pendleton, was excommunicated from the Holiness group for speaking in tongues. Shortly after this merger, Bro. Bartleman turned the mission over to Bro. Pendleton and resumed evangelization throughout southern California. Eighth and Maple continued to be a significant participant in the Apostolic Faith movement in Los Angeles and worked in good fellowship with Azusa and other Pentecostal works to spread the fires of revival that emanated from Los Angeles throughout the world.

Source:

Bartleman, Frank.  Witness to Pentecost:  the Life of Frank Bartleman.  New York:  Garland Publishing Inc., 1985.

God’s Property: a Look at 312 Azusa Street

10 February, 2010

In April 1906, William Joseph Seymour and a small band of newly-baptized Pentecostals moved cottage services from a small bungalow on Bonnie Brae Street to the Azusa Street Mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. This humble building was to become the legendary epicenter of the Apostolic Faith movement that emanated in concentric waves of revival from its ramshackle frame structure to the farthest reaches of the world. The story of the building that housed the mighty move of God in the twentieth century is a fascinating chapter in Pentecostal history and reveals God’s penchant for exalting the humble and glorifying the lowly. Azusa Street is a modern euphemism for the boundless faith of our Pentecostal predecessors, who cared nothing for form or fashion but sought the face of God for the mighty revival that we still enjoy today.

Azusa Street was never much more than a rutted alleyway and has never been longer than about one city block. The street was formerly known as Old Second Street. In 1888, the Stevens African American Episcopal Church was constructed on the site. A small house was moved to the back of the lot and served as a parsonage. The Los Angeles City Directory (1898) reveals that the neighborhood included a mix of African Americans, Jews, and immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia, and Japan. Incipient businesses began to fill in the vacant lots near the church. A lumberyard is clearly marked next door to the A.M.E. church (Robeck “Uncovering . . . “ 12).

A single extant photograph of the Stevens African American Episcopal congregation reveals a large staircase in front of the church that ascended to the sanctuary, located on the 2nd floor of the structure. Three gothic windows are visible across the front of the frame church. In 1903, the congregation outgrew their facility and relocated to 8th and Towne and was renamed First African Methodist Episcopal Church (Robeck, “Uncovering . . . “ 14). Today, the First A.M.E. congregation is still the oldest and largest A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles.

After the church vacated the property, an arsonist set fire to the building, destroying the roof and damaging its structure. In order to sell the real estate, First A.M.E. elected to remodel the building as tenement housing and partitioned the interior 2nd floor into apartments with a central corridor. The first floor became a stable and housed horses and lumber. This was the condition of the building when William J. Seymour negotiated a lease with purchase option from First A.M.E. (Robeck, “Uncovering . . . “ 15).

The Pentecostal mission at Azusa Street was serviceable but far from sumptuous. Arthur Osterberg organized a work crew that consisted of the interracial converts from Bonnie Brae and some Mexican workers, who worked with Bro. Osterberg at the McNeill Construction Company during the week. Much of the debris was hauled away in a wagon, and straw and sawdust were scattered on the mission floor. The walls, which were eventually painted, were exposed down to the studs in the earliest days. The saints decided to worship on the first floor, which had a low ceiling of only 8 or 9 feet. The assembly room was lit by a single row of incandescent lights. Redwood planks supported by nail kegs made up benches, which were shortly supplemented by an assortment of mismatched chairs, which were arranged in a square around the makeshift pulpit. Mr. McNeill, Osterberg’s employer, donated lumber for a proper altar in the mission despite the fact that he was himself Catholic (Robeck 72-73).

Other interesting fixtures in the building included a mailbox inside the entrance for offerings. Following the precedent of his mentor Charles Parham, Bro. Seymour did not receive offerings in the mission. As miracles began to take place, walls were covered with the leavings of the healed and delivered, including crutches, braces, and smoking pipes. This tradition also had precedent amongst others in the earlier holiness movement.

There was also some signage in the mission. Interestingly, the words of God’s judgment to Belshazzar “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharisin” were displayed in the mission, painted in green (Robeck 74). A sign hung in the upstairs tarrying room where many prayed for Spirit baptism that read: “No talking above a whisper” (Bartleman 62). The most controversial sign at Azusa proved to be the crudely painted name of the mission: “Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission.” Many early Pentecostals were fiercely anti-denominational, and some feared that this nomenclature indicated sectarianism. Bro. Bartleman, who chronicled the early revival in Los Angeles, lamented:

The truth be told, “Azusa” began to fail the Lord also, early in her history. God showed me one day that they were going to organize, though not a word had been said in my hearing about it . . . Sure enough, the next day after I dropped this warning in the meeting, I found a sign outside “Azusa” reading “Apostolic Faith Mission.” The Lord said, “That is what I told you.” They had done it. Surely a “party spirit” cannot be “Pentecostal.” (Bartleman 78-79)

All said, the Azusa Street Mission was never to grow into an ecclesiastical showplace. The people were hungry for God and eschewed the trappings of denominational decorum—no stained glass, organs, or choir robes for these humble people! Money was not used to embellish the edifice but to build the Kingdom of God—to send forth missionaries and to distribute the Apostolic Faith, a free publication that was instrumental in disseminating the Pentecostal message around the world.

 

Despite its initial status as the focus of Pentecostal revivalism, Azusa Street was not destined to remain at the center of the spreading movement. The very evangelistic nature of Pentecostalism meant that revival was carried place to place, and the enthusiasm of Azusa was replicated over and over again around the globe. After 1915, the mission reverted to the home of a small, mainly black congregation led by William J. Seymour. After Seymour’s death in 1922, he was succeeded by his wife, Jennie Evans Moore Seymour, who continued to lead the Apostolic Faith Mission. In 1931, the old mission, which had fallen into greater disrepair, was declared unfit for use as a church by the Building Department of the City of Los Angeles. The small congregation vacated the structure. The property was offered for sale to the Assemblies of God for preservation, but church leaders reportedly said: “We are not interested in relics” (Synan xxxiii). Sadly, only a commemorative plaque marks the spot of the Azusa Street Mission in modern Los Angeles. It is perhaps fitting that God chose this ephemeral edifice as a tinderbox for Pentecostal fire. Christ seems to have a penchant for humble abodes. He, who was born in a stable, returned to a converted stable in Los Angeles, favoring a rundown construction over an opulent cathedral.

Sources:

Bartleman, Frank. Azusa Street, an Eyewitness Account: the Roots of Modern-day Pentecost. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1980.

Robeck, Cecil M. “Uncovering the Forgotten Story of the Azusa Street Mission.” Heritage (11 Dec 2005), 12-17.

Robeck, Cecil. Azusa Street Mission and Revival: the Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2006.

Synan, Vinson. Frank Bartleman and Azusa Street. Azusa Street, an Eyewitness Account: the Roots of Modern-day Pentecost. By Frank Bartleman. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1980.

West Side Story: the Heritage of One Indianapolis Congregation

14 December, 2009

West Side Pentecostal Church is one of the oldest Apostolic assemblies in the city of Indianapolis, beginning in 1912, just a few short years after the Pentecostal message was introduced to the city. In January 1907, Bro. Glenn Cook, an evangelist from the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, began holding Pentecostal meetings in the on Shelby Street in the Fountain Square area of Indianapolis. Another evangelistic party arrived from Azusa in March, including Thomas Hezmalhalch, Fred Dexheimer, Celia Smock, and Lenora Hall. These early workers helped spread the revival, and congregations began to form throughout the city (Flower 5-6).

The roots of West Side Pentecostal Church begin with Bro. Joseph Rodgers, who opened a mission in 1912 on the corners of West Ohio and Minker Street (now Reisner Street). A Bro. Edwards served as Assistant Pastor of the fledgling congregation, and the work was called Apostolic Faith Helping Hands Mission. It is interesting to note that Bro. Rodgers chose to name the mission. Many Pentecostal assemblies were simply known only by their location, a nomenclative tradition, which grew out of early Pentecostal suspicions about denominationalism and formal organization. Bishop G.T. Haywood’s large Indianapolis church was simply known as 11th and Senate. Additionally, in August 1912, E.N. Bell published an article in Word and Witness, a widely-read Pentecostal circular, asking ministers not to use the terms “mission” or “Apostolic Faith” in their church names: “Nowhere in the Bible is a congregation of believers in Christ called a ‘mission’ nor an ‘Apostolic mission’ but we read of the ‘Church of God at Corinth.’” Bell favored “Church of God in Christ” as a suitable name, which undoubtedly reflects some of the early ministerial connections with the organization of that name (Bell 2).

Bro. Rodgers continued to lead the church that he started, and the congregation steadily grew under his leadership. Unfortunately, the pastor, who was an interior decorator by trade, was tragically killed while working on a church. The scaffolding collapsed, and he fell to his death.

Part of the church’s history is rather nebulous, but it is likely that the church joined the Assemblies of God at its formation in 1914. Following naming conventions of that fellowship, the church name became West Side Assembly Church. However, Bro. Jim Jackson, who succeeded Bro. Rodgers, must have been a key figure in moving the church into the Oneness camp when the message came to Indianapolis in 1915.

Bro. Jackson’s pastorate was followed by the ministry of Bro. Hedges, who was saved at West Side Assembly. After only a few years at the church, Bro. Hedges became ill and called on the help of Bro. Delbert Spall, a young minister from Christian Tabernacle, one of the most well-established Apostolic assemblies in Indianapolis. When Bro. Hedges went to be with the Lord on 15 July 1954, Bro. Spall became the pastor. Bro. Spall recalled that the last time Bro. Hedges ministered in the West Side pulpit, he felt the spiritual mantle from Bro. Hedges pass to him.

Bro. Delbert Spall was born in Carothersville, Indiana in 1919. As a child, Bro. Spall had attended Christian Tabernacle with his parents Freeman and Freda, a dynamic Apostolic church led by Sis. Lena Spillman. At the age of 17, Bro. Spall had an attack that brought him near to death. His family called for Sis. Spillman to come and pray. The young man received the Holy Ghost and was healed and became a faithful member of Christian Tabernacle. In 1950, Bro. Spall recognized his call to the ministry.

Bro. Spall’s wife, Mary Ellen (McMorris) also has a wonderful Pentecostal heritage. As a baby, her first trip outside of the house was to Oak Hill Tabernacle, one of the oldest Pentecostal works in Indianapolis led by Bro. L.V. Roberts. Sis. Spall’s mother, Dora McMorris, was purportedly amongst the first group of Indianapolis Pentecostals to be immersed in the Name of Jesus by Bro. Glenn Cook on 6 March 1915.

This wonderful couple led West Side Pentecostal through decades of Holy Ghost revival, completing a new sanctuary in 1959. In May of 1989, they retired from full-time ministry, but both are still living and are wholly committed to the Lord.

Bro. Donald Winters became the pastor of West Side at the Spalls’ retirement. Recently, his son, Donald Jo Winters assumed the pastorate, and Bro. Anthony Oliver is his Assistant Pastor.

The West Side Pentecostal Church continues to stand strong on its historic foundations of faith and service. From its most humble beginnings as a small Apostolic Faith mission to a well-established Pentecostal congregation, West Side Pentecostal Church is undoubtedly the oldest Indianapolis congregation in the fellowship of the United Pentecostal Church International. Their unwavering commitment to the cherished doctrines of Bible salvation, holiness, and the mighty God in Christ are a testament to generations of solid, anointed leadership as they continue to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jud. 1.3).

Sources:

Bell, Eudorus N. “Not Missions, but Churches of God in Christ.” Word & Witness Vol. 8, Is. 6. 20 August 1912, p. 2.

Flower, Alice Reynolds. “When Pentecost Came to Indianapolis, a First-Hand Report of the Revival which Began in 1907.” Heritage 5 (4) Winter 1985/1986, pp. 5-6.

*Special thanks to the Spall family for conducting this interview at a difficult time.

Earthquake Evangelism: the San Francisco Quake & the Azusa Revival

12 February, 2009

At 5:12 AM on the morning of April 18, 1906, San Francisco, California was struck by a deadly and powerful earthquake. Most seismologists believe the quake exceeded 8.0 on the Richter Scale. Though it only lasted between 45 and 60 seconds, the earthquake and subsequent conflagration left over 3,000 people dead, destroyed over 28,000 buildings, and rendered over a quarter of a million people homeless (“San Francisco Earthquake”). The devastating disaster caused panic throughout southern California, and the saints of the newly-formed Azusa Street Mission, who viewed the convulsions as a sure sign of God’s judgment and might, used the opportunity to escalate evangelism and call men to repentance.

Frank Bartleman, who chronicled the early Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles, was spiritually spurred by the event and went to great lengths to spread the Gospel in the weeks following the earthquake. Before the quake, Bartleman had written a tract entitled “The Last Call.” He and other Christian workers in the city distributed over 10,000 of the pamphlets on April 22. According to Bro. Bartleman, many preachers in California were “working overtime to prove that God had nothing to do with earthquakes and thus allay the fears of the people.” Bartleman, along with other Pentecostals, aptly attributed the destruction to God’s hand and felt compelled to warn others of their need to speedily repent before incurring the further wrath of the Almighty.

Bartleman clearly saw the disassociation of God with the quake as an infernal campaign: “The devil put on a big propaganda on this line . . . He [God] showed me all hell was being moved to drown out His voice in the earthquake, if possible” (Bartleman 50). In 1907, John Casper Branner, a renowned geologist published a chapter in an anthology about the earthquake, which denies the divine origin of tectonic activity:

But whatever theory one adopts regarding the remote causes of earthquakes, the conclusion is inevitable that they are produced by natural causes, one of which is the relief of strains within the earth’s crust along the lines of fracture. The knowledge that they are due to natural causes ought to contribute to a philosophical view of them and rid them to some extent of the terror they inspire in the minds of those who attribute them to the wrath of God and other supernatural causes. (76-77)

In Bartleman’s view, scholars, scientists, clerics, and schoolteachers were all involved in the diabolical conspiracy to undermine God’s voice in the earthquake.

On 28 April 1906, God began to give Bro. Bartleman a firm message about the earthquake, and he penned a tract on the subject. He finished writing at 12:30 AM and interceded in prayer for California until 4 AM, rising at 7 to take the tract to the printer. The pamphlet was primarily a conglomeration of Old and New Testament Bible verses, systematically strung together to demonstrate the sure judgments of the Lord against evildoers with repeated references to the shaking, turning, quaking, trembling, and melting of the earth. He concludes the tract with a quote from John Wesley, the primogeniture of the Holiness Movement, from which the Pentecostals in Los Angeles had emerged: “Of all the judgments which the righteous God inflicts on sinners here, the most dreadful and destructive is an earthquake” (Bartleman 52-53).
Bro. Bartleman and a network of Pentecostal and Holiness workers throughout southern California distributed 75,000 of the tracts throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding cities. Frank Bartleman personally carried the publication to “missions, churches, saloons, business houses, and in fact everywhere, both in Los Angeles and Pasadena.” He documents resistance to the message by both people on the streets and “nearly all the preachers.” He was even followed by a policeman, but he claimed: “The Spirit warned me and I saw him coming. I was enabled to dodge him” (Bartleman 51).

The atmosphere in Los Angeles was frenetic. Bro. Bartleman reported that business in the city was at a standstill and that “the people were paralyzed with fear” (Bartleman 52). “Men were at the breaking point,” writes Bartleman, “They would fly to pieces even on the street, almost without provocation” (53). Despite the palpable terror, Bartleman says: “I found the earthquake had opened many hearts” (50).

In October 1906, William Seymour, pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, published an article entitled “Earthquakes” in The Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the mission. Bro. Seymour claimed prophetic warning of the San Francisco quake in 1905 and believed it to be a harbinger of future destruction.

The Lord says that earthquakes will come as they never have before and more often, because of the wickedness of the people. He wants His people to get ready. The only way He can get you ready is to bring disaster. If you do not repent, a great many of you will be lost. (2)
Bro. Bartleman certainly saw the cataclysm as a catalyst for the Azusa revival: “The San Francisco earthquake was surely the voice of God to the people on the Pacific Coast. It was used mightily in conviction, for the gracious after revival” (Bartleman 53).

There is no way to quantify the impact of the great San Francisco earthquake upon the Apostolic Faith revival that swept Los Angeles and the surrounding cities in 1906. However, considering Frank Bartleman’s passionate account of his own personal burden after the earthquake and the swift response of Christian workers throughout southern California, we can well imagine the evangelistic emergency sensed by the Azusa saints. Undoubtedly, the reverberating effects of the seismic rupture created a social and spiritual juncture that facilitated the spread of the Gospel message and attracted seeking souls to the humble mission at 312 Azusa Street, the true epicenter of Pentecostal revival in California.

Sources:

Branner, John Casper. “Geology & the Earthquake.” The California Earthquake of 1906. David Starr, Jordan, Ed. San Francisco: A.M. Robertson, 1907. Pgs. 64-7.

Seymour, William Joseph. “Earthquakes.” The Apostolic Faith 1 (2), October 1906, pg. 2.

“San Francisco Earthquake.” The Great American History Fact-Finder. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Credo Reference. 09 November 2008 <http://www.credoreference.com/entry/6601476/.&gt;.

First Baptist Church, Anticipators of Pentecostal Revival

4 August, 2008

First Baptist Church of Los Angeles

Bro. Frank Bartleman, a journalist who meticulously documented the spiritual happenings in Los Angeles around the time of the Pentecostal revival, often frequented meetings at First Baptist Church. Bartleman, who was himself given to zealous evangelistic work and much prayer, described the environment at the church:

 

I found this meeting of an exact piece with my own vision, burden, and desire, and spent two hours in the church in prayer, before the evening services. Meetings were being held every day and night there and God was present. (Bartleman 16)
 

This prayerful church began attracting souls from all over the metropolitan area; and in July, Bro. Bartleman published articles in The Way of Faith, The Christian Harvester, and God’s Revivalist publicizing the expectant atmosphere at First Baptist. While the meetings predate William Seymour’s introduction of the Apostolic Faith, God was surely preparing the city for revival. Bartleman wrote: “The fear of God is coming upon the people, a very spirit of burning. Sunday night the meeting ran on until the small hours of the next morning. Pastor Smale is prophesying of wonderful things to come.” He closed the article with the plea: “Pray for a ‘Pentecost.'” (Bartleman 19). Even the secular press accepted Bartleman’s articles on the revival at First Baptist, and his article “What I Saw in a Los Angeles Church” was printed in the Pasadena paper, The Daily News (Bartleman 22-23).

 

In September 1905, First Baptist became embroiled in controversy when some of the church officials presented Smale with an ultimatum: ” . . . either stop the revival, or get out.” Choosing to leave rather than stifle the move of the Spirit, Smale formed the New Testament Church (Bartleman 28-29).
 
The church, which met in Burbank Hall, continued to seek the Lord.

When the Holy Ghost fell in April 1906, Smale was reluctant to receive the manifestation; but by June, he had fully accepted the message. First New Testament became another center of Pentecostal revival in the city. A July article in the Los Angeles Times sensationally describes services at Smale’s church much like the meetings at Azusa Street Mission:

Believing they have the “gift of tongues” and are chosen of God to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, members of Pastor Joseph Smale’s First New Testament Church worked themselves into a wild religious frenzy at a meeting last night in Burbank Hall. (“Rolling on Floor” . . . II1)

Saints in the church reportedly rolled on the floor, screamed, screeched, jumped, and spoke in tongues.

While Azusa Street has assumed a central place in the Pentecostal story, the Apostolic revival may owe a great debt to the seeking souls of Pastor Joseph Smale’s assembly whose quest for a spiritual outpouring prefigured the Azusa meetings and certainly prepared the city for the widespread outpouring of the Holy Ghost and fire. Revival never comes without prayer and expectation, and Joseph Smale and the First New Testament Church were hungry for the “real Pentecost” that came to Los Angeles in 1906.
 
Sources:
 

 

“Rolling on Floor in Smale’s Church.” Los Angeles Times. July 14, 1906. pg. II1.

 

 “A Wave of Religion Spreads Over Wales.” New York Times. 18 Dec 1904, pg. 4. 

 

 

1924: Redrawing the Color Line

3 June, 2008

Interracial Leadership Group from Azusa StreetIn 1918, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World merged, unifying Oneness Pentecostals into a large, interracial body. After being ousted from the Assemblies of God in 1916, the “Jesus Only” faction soon organized into the GAAA under the leadership of Daniel C. O. Opperman. The organization was destined to last only a short while. When the United States entered World War I on April 16, 1917, the government refused to recognize combat exemption for ministers of the fledgling church. In addition, GAAA ministers did not qualify for clergy train fare rates. For these two reasons, the organization sought a merger with the older Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (Clanton 29-30).

The PAW had a nebulous beginning in Los Angeles in 1906. Initially, few records were kept, which is not surprising considering the reticence of early Pentecostal believers to organize or to model themselves after the traditional denominations from which they had emerged. The alignment of the PAW with the Oneness camp may be historically attributable to the influence of Bishop G.T. Haywood, pastor of the large Pentecostal work at 11th & Senate in Indianapolis. Haywood along with his entire congregation accepted rebaptism in Jesus’ Name and the doctrine of the mighty God in Christ when Glenn Cook, Pentecostal pioneer and evangelist, came through Indiana in 1915 preaching the Oneness revelation.

While the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World was interracial from its inception, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies was essentially a white organization. The merger of these two groups recreated the racial unity that characterized the Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. Bro. Frank Bartleman, journalist and chronicler of the Pentecostal movement in Los Angeles, said of Azusa Street: “The color line is washed away in the blood!” The mission, led by Bro. William Joseph Seymour, a black brother, became a bastion of multiracial unity as believers of every race and color gathered in the makeshift mission to experience the democratizing power of the Holy Ghost. When the GAAA joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, retaining the latter name, an initial, conscious effort was made to maintain racial integration.

Unfortunately, the merger was plagued by problems from the beginning. The most critical difficulty seems to have been the location of the annual conference. The South was considered too racially sensitive, and meetings had to be held in the North. At a time when Pentecostals were much less affluent, many Southern ministers could not afford to attend conventions in Northern cities. In 1922, leading white ministers in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World organized the Southern Bible Conference. William Booth-Clibborn’s record of the meeting, A Call to Dust and Ashes, describes a glorious visitation of the Holy Ghost and a prevailing unity and anointing, but the exclusive convention offended many of the black PAW brethren (1).

The following year, the General Conference adopted Resolution 4, with devastating results. The resolution read:

Be it further resolved, that because of conditions now existing in many parts of the country through no fault of the brethren, but rather those that oppose the work of the Lord, it is deemed advisable that two white Presbyters sign the credentials for the white brethren (especially in the southland) and two colored Presbyters sign the papers of the colored brethren. (Golder 78)

While the wording of the resolution seems to suggest the necessity of this measure due to external social forces, it seems likely that the real reason for the policy was racial prejudice. Oneness historians sharply disagree on the meaning and context of Resolution No. 4. White writers like S.C. McClain and Arthur Clanton attribute the adoption to the social mores of the South, repeatedly arguing that racial integration was hindering the work of the Lord, especially below the Mason-Dixon line. Bishop Morris E. Golder, PAW historian, logically asks: “How could any person picking up a credential and looking at the signatures tell who wrote them? Would the ink of the black man be different from that of a white man?” (79). The fissure that began with the passage of Resolution No. 4 broadened over the next year; and at the close of the 1924 General Conference, a majority of the white brethren withdrew and formed the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance, electing L.C. Hall as the first chairman (Clanton 46).

While it is difficult to recapture the social context that led our predecessors to divide into essentially white and black organizations, Oneness Pentecostals should work at every level to restore greater interracial fellowship and cooperation. Manmade organizations can never replace the true unity of Apostolic believers and the transcendental power of our common Acts 2:38 salvation. Huge strides in fellowship have been made by both the United Pentecostal Church and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and we look forward to the day when Christ’s prayer “that they all may be one” (Jn. 17:21) is fully answered when the saints of every color and creed gather at God’s great throne!

Sources:

Clanton, Arthur. United We Stand: a History of Oneness Organizations. Hazelwood: MO: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1970.

Booth-Clibborn, William. A Call to Dust and Ashes. St. Paul, MN: 1924.

Golder, Morris E. History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Indianapolis, 1973.

“And They Heard Them Speak with Tongues”

27 May, 2008

When the Pentecostal baptism first fell in 1901, the students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas were unsure of the deeper meanings of their experience. Agnes Ozman first received the Holy Ghost on 1 January 1901, and Bro. Charles Parham, founder of the Bible college, quickly identified her speaking in tongues as “Chinese” (Blumhofer 83). Bro. Parham became increasingly convinced that Spirit-filled tongues were always identifiable human languages and were given expressly for the final evangelization of the world before Christ’s return:

We have for long believe that the power of the Lord would be manifested in our midst, and that power would be give us to speak other languages, and that the time will come when we will be sent to go into all the nations and preach the gospel, and that the Lord will give us the power of speech to talk to the people of the various nations without having to study them in schools. (Parham 4)

A.B. Simpson, who founded the Christian Missionary Alliance, held a similar view:  “We are to witness before the Lord’s return real missionary “tongues” like those of Pentecost, through which the heathen world shall hear in their own language ‘the wonderful works of God'” (qtd. in Bartleman 65).

Unfortunately, their understanding of tongues as a mechanism to evangelize the world was somewhat misunderstood, and many missionaries were sent out into the field ill- equipped to overcome the language barriers they faced.

The hypothesis that tongues was intended for this purpose was primarily founded on widespread reports of Pentecostals speaking in human languages understood by their hearers. These miracles were popularly detailed in The Apostolic Faith, official publication of the Azusa Street Mission, and a selection of these testimonies follow:

 On Aug 11th, a man from the central part of Mexico, an Indian was present in the meeting and heard a German sister speaking in his tongue which the Lord had given her. He understood, and through the message that God gave him through her, he was most happily converted so that he could hardly contain his joy. All the English he knew was Jesus Christ and Hallelujah.” (“Untitled”).

 The power of the Holy Spirit was greatly manifested in the meetings by the speakin [sic] in unknown tongues. This was much criticized by the town and vicinity, so that the principal physician, who was familiar with several different languages, was prevailed upon to go to the meetings in order to denounce the whole as a fake. Miss Tuthill, in an unknown language to herself, but known to him as Italian, spoke his full name, which no one in the town knew save himself, telling him things that had happened in his life twenty years ago, and on up to the present time until he cried for mercy and fell on his knees seeking God (“Tongues Convict Sinners”).

 Sister Anna Hall spoke to the Russians in their church in Los Angeles in their own language as the Spirit gave utterance they were so glad to hear the truth that they wept and even kissed her hands . . . The other night, as a company of Russians were present in the meeting, Bro. Lee, a converted Catholic, was permitted to speak their language. As he spoke and sang, one of the Russians came up and embraced him. It was a holy signt, and the Spirit fell upon the Russians, as well as on others, and they glorified God (“Russians Hear in Their Own Tongue”).

 A preacher’s wife, who at first opposed Pentecostal truth, went home and read the second chapter of Acts, and while she read, the Spirit fell upon her and she began to speak in tongues . . . As she was on the way to the church she met a brother whom she had been instrumental in leading to the Lord. He is a foreigner and as soo[n] as she saw him, she began to pour out her soul in French. He was amazed and said, “When did you learn French?” “What did I say?” she asked. “You said: “Get ready! Get ready! Jesus is coming soon!” (“The Second Chapter of Acts”).

 Pueblo, Colorado is a city of many nationalities . . . The Lord had opened up a mission there when the Pentecostal Gospel came. The woman in charge of the mission went right to seeking and received the baptism and before she got off her knees, was speaking in Chinese. One day when she was speaking, the Spirit began to speak another language through her. Nobody understood till they saw some uneasiness manifested in the back of the room where some Japanese were sitting. They began to wring their hands and cry and bury their face in their hands. Someone went to them and they said, “Talk my tongue. Tell me all about my God how he died for the Japanese” They had never heard anything like that before (“Japanese Hear in the Their Own Tongue”).

These brief accounts remind us that speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Ghost. A myriad of such stories exist and have been retold in Pentecostal biography, missionary accounts, and circulars. While the early vision of world evangelization through speaking in tongues was largely unrealized, unknown tongues was certainly one method that God used to spread the wonderful message of salvation and the power of the Pentecostal baptism.
 
Sources:
Blumhofer, Edith. The Assemblies of God: a Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism. Vol. 1. Springfield: Missouri. Gospel Publishing House, 1989.

Bartleman, Frank. Witness to Pentecost: the Life of Frank Bartleman. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985.

“Japanese Hear in Their Own Tongue.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 4. Dec. 1906, p. 4.

Parham, Charles F. Topeka Journal 7 (1901), 4.

“Russians Hear in Their Own Tongue.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1. September 1906, p. 4).

“The Second Chapter of Acts.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1906, p. 2.

“Tongues Convict Sinners.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1, September 1906, p. 4.

“Untitled.” The Apostolic Faith, Vol. 1, No. 1, Sept. 1906, p. 3.