Archive for the ‘Pentecostal Worship’ Category

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.

Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs: the Music of Early Oneness Believers

6 March, 2009

Music has always been an integral part of the Pentecostal Movement. Bro. Howard Goss, an early Pentecostal pioneer, devoted a chapter of his book, Winds of God, to the advent of Pentecostal music, which he described as “joyous” and an attractive alternative to the mournful worship of traditional churches. Songs were sung “almost at breakneck speed,” and the passionate praises penetrated the souls of saints and sinners alike:

This crescendo of joyous, happy people singing unto the Lord was infectious. The sound of victorious Christian living wrapped around you. Unperceived, it seemed to slip down gently into the deeps of your affections, to tap at your heart’s door, and unsuspected, spread warmly through your entire being. (Goss 208-209)

Bro. Goss saw Pentecostal music as an important and indispensable element of the early revival: “Without it the Pentecostal Movement could have never made the rapid inroads into the hearts of men and women as it did. Neither could we have experienced a constant, victorious revival over the ensuing fifty years, one in which thousands have been accepted, sealed, and shipped through the world in bond, waiting for the appearance of the Lord” (Goss 212).

The centrality of music in the promotion of Pentecostal worship and an abiding spiritual anointing have produced a number of prolific songwriters. When the Oneness Movement emerged after 1913, Apostolics began to pen new hymns intimating the Oneness stand for full Bible truth and melodiously conveying the doctrines of the Mighty God in Christ, the New Birth, and holy living.

The catalog of Apostolic songwriters is an impressive roll call of some of God’s finest preachers and early Pentecostal laborers including: Garfield THaywood, Sis. S.K. Grimes, Alexander R. Schooler, Thoro Harris, Robert C. Lawson, William Booth-Clibborn, and George Farrow. *

G.T. Haywood, first Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is perhaps the most beloved of all Oneness composers. His songs “I See a Crimson Stream of Blood” and “Jesus, the Son of God” gained widespread popularity even outside of the Oneness movement. Many of his hymns, published in The Bridegroom Songs, a hymnal printed at Christ Temple, his Indianapolis church, are distinctly Apostolic. The chorus of “Do All in Jesus’ Name” copyrighted in 1923 says:

Preach in Jesus name, teach in Jesus name,
Heal the sick in His name and always proclaim
It was Jesus’ Name in which the power came;
Baptize in His Name, enduring the shame,
For there is vict’ry in Jesus’ name.
Similarly, the refrain of Haywood’s “The Lord of Lords” says:
He’s Lord of lords and King of kings,
The Beginning and the end,
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The dying sinner’s Friend.
If you will hear His voice,
Be buried in His name,
Then the Comforter will come to abide.

Haywood was a tireless defender of Oneness doctrine; and when he died in April 1931, he left behind not only scores of hymns and a large body of apologetic tracts, sermons, and books.

Sis. S.K. Grimes also authored many songs. She and her husband, Samuel J. Grimes, served as Apostolic missionaries in Liberia for a number of years, and Grimes succeeded Bishop Haywood as leader of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1932. One of her most poignant hymns is aptly entitled “Acts 2:38”:

O what will you do with Acts two thirty-eight?
The way that leads to life is narrow and straight.
“Repent and be baptized,” God is speaking do not wait.
He gives you full directions there in Acts two thirty-eight.

Other significant hymns celebrating the Oneness of God and the Name of Jesus include “The Great I Am” and “Jesus, the Joy of My Soul.”
A.R. Schooler, one of the original PAW bishops from Cleveland, Ohio, wrote a number of distinctly Apostolic songs such as “The Name”, and “God Died for Me.” His 1920 hymn “The Author and the Finisher” proclaims in part: “His word we will obey/In the water we’ll be buried in His name.” Schooler’s “The Bible Manifestation” is an interesting example of Apostolic hymnody. The lyrics are openly critical of apostate denominationalism, which have “left the path apostles trod.” The song defends Pentecostal norms such as speaking in tongues, the anointing “of the sick/By the bishopric”, foot washing, and communion, and militantly declares: “I’ll arise and stand by the Bible manifestation/I’ll stand until the Lord shall come.”
Schooler also co-wrote many hymns with Thoro Harris, pastor of the Lake Street Mission in Chicago, Illinois, and one of the most fruitful and widely published Pentecostal musicians. Harris, whose most famous tune is unquestionably “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, wrote scores of hymns like “Pentecost in My Soul” and “All That Thrills my Soul is Jesus.” He was one of the first musicians to produce exclusively Pentecostal hymnals: The Blessed Hope (1910), Jesus Is Coming Soon (1914), Songs of His Coming (1919), and Songs We Love (1921).

Robert C. Lawson, who left the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World to found the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, also contributed a large number of songs to the Pentecostal repertoire. In “Praise Our God”, Lawson summates the Oneness view of Jesus Christ:

He overshadowed the Virgin Mary,
Was born a babe in Beth’lem cradle
God vailed [sic] in flesh,
His name was Jesus
Being interpreted was God with us.

Two of his most memorable hymns are “God is Great in My Soul” and “His Name Should be Praised” which boldly states: “I will praise Him for the ev’ning light/That I have entered in/Which shows us that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are One;/Oh praise the Lord ‘’tis finished’, On Calvary ‘twas done!”

William Booth-Clibborn was the grandson of William Booth, the illustrious founder of the Salvation Army. Booth-Clibborn was a powerful Pentecostal evangelist and authored one of the most beloved Oneness compositions, “Down from His Glory.” This majestic song inspired in 1921 declares the glory of Christ, the incarnate God:

Down from His glory, ever living story,
My God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name;
Born in a manger to His own a stranger,
A man of sorrows, tears and agony!

What condescension, bringing us redemption,
That in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight,
God gracious, tender laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul!

Without reluctance, flesh and blood His substance,
He took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan;
O glorious myst’ry sacrifice of Calv’ry!
And now I know He is the great “I AM”!
Chorus: Oh how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!

Perhaps the most well-known anthem of Oneness Pentecostalism is George Farrow’s “It’s All in Him”, which so clearly delineates the inter-testamental Oneness revelation of Jesus Christ as the manifest Jehovah God:

The Mighty God is Jesus, the Prince of Peace is He
The Everlasting Father, the King eternally,
The wonderful in wisdom by whom all things were made.
The fullness of the Godhead in Jesus is display’d.

Emmanuel, God with us, Jehovah Lord of hosts,
The omnipresent Spirit who fills the universe,
The Advocate, the High Priest, the Lamb for sinners slain,
The Author of redemption, O glory to His name!

The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End,
The Living Word incarnate, the helpless sinner’s Friend.
Our wisdom and perfection, our righteousness and pow’r
Yea, all we need is Jesus, we find this very hour

‘Our God for whom we’ve waited,’ will be the glad refrain
Of Israel recreated when Jesus comes again.
Lo! He will come and save us, our King and Priest to be,
For in Him dwells all fullness, and Lord of all is He!

Chorus: It’s all in Him, it’s all in Him,
The fullness of the Godhead is all in Him.
It’s all in Him, it’s all in Him,
The Mighty God is Jesus, and it’s all in Him!

The hymns of early Apostolic believers were inspired by deep spirituality and the freshness of Bible revelations. They were simultaneously anointed and apologetic, glorifying Christ and intimating the deep truths of the Scriptures. The popularity of many of these hymns lasted throughout the early decades of the Oneness movement. Sadly, today their lyrics and tunes are virtually unknown to Apostolic young people, and many of the Oneness songs are indeed endangered. But the musical contributions of our Pentecostal predecessors make up an important part of our Apostolic heritage, and it is the responsibility of the contemporary Church to rediscover and revive the powerful songs of Zion that remain relevant to our strong stand for Acts 2:38 salvation and New Testament doctrine of the Mighty God in Christ, passing from generation to generation the “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” that so clearly articulate the message of “the faith once delivered unto the saints”, born in the Spirit-fueled conflagration of early Pentecostalism and the rich experiences of our Apostolic ancestors.

Sources:

Goss, Ethel. The Winds of God: the Story of the Early Pentecostal Days (1901-1914) in the Life of Howard A. Goss. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1977.

Hymns taken from The Bridegroom Songs Indianapolis: Christ Temple, 1924 and Pentecostal Praises. St. Louis: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1947.

“The Lady Evangelist”: Maria Woodworth-Etter and the Pentecostals

3 November, 2008

In 1912, Maria Woodworth-Etter burst on the Pentecostal scene, holding meetings at F.F. Bosworth’s influential church in Dallas, Texas (Bosworth, “Pentecostal . . . ” 10). Fred Bosworth, who was an early convert of Charles Parham in the failed utopian community of John Alexander Dowie’s Zion, Illinois, invited Woodworth-Etter to Dallas after hearing her speak in Indianapolis. A five-month campaign ensued in the city, and reports of the meetings were publicized in Word and Witness and the Latter Rain Evangel, which held wide circulation amongst Pentecostals. One such article describes a veritable heaven on earth:

The lame, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the palsied, the paralytic, cancers, those suffering from operations, and others dying with incurable diseases, have been wonderfully converted and healed by the power of God. Sinners are converted and flock to Jesus for salvation; and Christians are baptized with the Holy Ghost. This meeting is nothing to what it shall be by the grace of God. Sister Etter will remain here for some months. (Bosworth, “Wonders of God . . . ” 3)

During her sojourn at Bosworth’s thriving work, Woodworth-Etter ingratiated herself to many Pentecostal audiences with her flamboyant and zealous preaching and her emphasis on holiness, healing, the power of the Spirit, and the preeminence of the Name of Jesus.

Maria Woodworth-Etter had a patchwork theological history. Her family joined the Disciples of Christ Church when she was a girl. She felt called to the ministry as a teenager, but Disciples of Christ disallowed female preachers. When she married Philo Harrison Woodworth, a Civil War veteran with little spiritual inclination, she resigned herself to the daily grind of agrarian life; but after the death of five of her six children, she began to yield herself to the calling. Despite opposition from her remaining daughter and husband, Woodworth-Etter could not resist the overpowering burden for souls that seemed to transfix her. She experienced a series of visions, including the suffering of souls in hell and unharvested fields of wheat. At last, her will was broken, and she answered “Yes, Lord; I will go” (Woodworth-Etter, DSW, 25-28). She attended several Quaker meetings, where she testified, but her preaching ministry began under the auspices of the United Brethren in 1880. In 1884, she received licensure with the Churches of God (Anderson, Indiana) as “Eldership Evangelist” (Warner 4, 30).

It is not at all clear when Maria Woodworth-Etter received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, but she seems to have accepted the sign of the baptism, though she had no direct association with the Pentecostal Movement before the protracted revival in Dallas in 1912. She often referred to the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” in her journalistic books, but she never explicitly mentions speaking in tongues in any of her early writings, though her language is “Pentecostal”:

The power of the Holy Ghost came down as a cloud. It was brighter than the sun. I was covered and wrapped up in it. My body was light as the air. It seemed that heaven came down. I was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and fire, and power which has never left me. Oh, Praise the Lord! There was liquid fire, and the angels were all around in the fire and glory. (Woodworth-Etter 28)

Maria Woodworth-Etter was undoubtedly the most successful female evangelist of the early 20th Century. She attracted as many as 25,000 to a single service, and she crossed the country filling churches, halls, and tents with seeking souls (Warner 30). Her meetings were marked by the manifestations that many associated with frontier revivals of the early 19th Century, and her pulpit persona was commanding. A front-page New York Times article from January 1885, detailed some of the “strange scenes” at meetings held in Hartford City, Indiana: “Scores have been stricken down at these meetings, and whatever forms the limbs or body chance to assume in that position, immovable as a statue, they remained . . . ” Further, the newspaper described the revival’s charismatic leader: “The lady evangelist, Mrs. Woodworth, is a lady of fine physique, comely, and of a commanding appearance, and while not highly cultured and refined yet she is an impressive speaker, and when speaking keeps her hands in constant motion.” During the meeting, she was also subject to the ecstatic catalepsy and trances, which became a trademark of her campaigns (“Said to Be Religion . . . ” 1).

Her ministry was marked by controversy. Detractors often accused her of hypnotizing audiences. In 1890, Dr. Wellington Adams and Dr. Theodore Driller led a campaign in St. Louis to have Woodworth-Etter committed to an insane asylum (Warner 214). Dr. Arthur C. Bell, Dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, came to Woodworth-Etter’s defense in Dallas, praising the woman of faith and authenticating physical healings that he personally observed. He offers a catalog of miracles, concluding: “Mrs. Etter wants your soul saved, and then she will pray for your bodily healing. Both were provided for on the cross.” He also acknowledges the ferocious opposition of many medical physicians to Woodworth-Etter’s healing campaigns: “I have seen the doctors enraged over these healings. I have known that they called meeting after meeting of the Medical Association to discuss steps of suppressing her work. One would naturally ask why? The only reason I can imagine is that Jesus healed them after they had failed, and it reflected their ability” (Woodworth-Etter AHG, 119). Certainly, her ministry provoked both interest and awe.

Following the 1912 revival in Dallas, Wordworth-Etter included a number of Pentecostal churches, missions, and camp meetings in her evangelistic itinerary. Revival reports continued to appear in many Pentecostal circulars. She received accolades from very prominent early Pentecostal ministers including Stanley Frodsham, A.A. Boddy, George B. Studd, A.H. Argue, and G.T. Haywood.

In April 1913, Woodworth-Etter was invited to be the morning speaker at the World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting in Arroyo Seco, California. Woodworth-Etter’s presence was an important boon to the convocation; though according to Frank J. Ewart, who attended the gathering: “Early in the meetings the preachers rebelled against turning the meetings over to Mrs. Woodworth Etter. There was a great desire to hear other of God’s servants, who might have a new message that would take us forward to the glory and power of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints'” (Ewart 93). Despite the apparent controversy, G.T. Haywood wrote of the camp meeting, offering a glowing description of the Woodworth-Etter services:

The power of God to heal was miraculous. Sick were brought from far and near, and multitudes were touched by the power of God through the instrumentality of His humble servant, Sister Etter, whose simple faith brought deliverance to many. The lame walked, the blind received their sight, the deaf heard, CANCERS were cured, TUMORS and TAPE WORMS passed away and dropsy and CONSUMPTIVES healed.
While there were many whose lack of faith hindered them from being healed, yet those who were healed were most re-remarkable [sic]. On one occasion many were healed as Sister Etter raised her hands toward heaven, while she was leaving the tent.

One afternoon such conviction fell on the sinners that many ran to the platform and were saved at once. It was a scene seldom, if ever, witnessed anywhere. There were times that the big tent resembled a battlefield on account of the many that were slain by the power of God. At times the power fell like rain, and the heavenly anthems filled the atmosphere (Woodworth-Etter, DSW, 253).

The Apostolic World Wide Camp Meeting is best remembered for the baptismal sermon delivered by R.E. McAlister that ignited the Oneness Pentecostal Movement. Before immersing a number of converts, McAlister noted that “the apostles invariably baptized their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ, that the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism” (Ewart 93-94). The question of Apostolic baptism spawned prayerful study of the Scriptures concerning the Godhead, and Ewart and others received the full revelation of the Mighty God in Christ. Despite Woodworth-Etter’s Christ-centered preaching and elevation of the Name of Jesus for healing and deliverance, she utterly rejected the Oneness revelation, which she seems to have sadly misunderstood. She called the doctrine “the biggest delusion the devil ever invented” and accused Oneness proponents of “denying the existence of the Father” (Liardon 856-857).

Maria Woodworth-Etter never became exclusively Pentecostal, but she continued to enjoy fellowship and popularity with Trinitarian Pentecostals throughout the remainder of her life. Her ministry continued to focus on divine healing and the Coming of Christ. She founded Woodworth-Etter Tabernacle in 1918 in Indianapolis, Indiana, which she led until her death in 1924 (Warner 277). A brief notice of her death appeared in The Pentecostal Evangel in September 1924, noting: “She has been the means of blessing to hundreds of thousands and many will rise up to call her blessed” (“Sister Etter with the Lord” 9). In many ways unorthodox, Woodworth-Etter never embraced the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, but her ministry was contributive. Her acceptance amongst Pentecostals paved the way for other women evangelists and Christian workers, and her acceptance of Pentecostals undoubtedly garnered greater respect for the fledgling movement as a valid expression of Christianity.

Sources:

Bosworth, Fred F. “Pentecostal Outpouring in Dallas, Texas.” Latter Rain Evangel, 10 July 1912, p. 10.

Bosworth, Fred F. “The Wonders of God in Dallas.” Word and Witness. 20 August 1912, p. 3.

Ewart, Frank J. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. (Hazelwood, MO: 1947), 93.

Liardon, Roberts. Maria Woodworth-Etter: The Complete Collection of Her Life Teachings. (Tulsa: Albury Publishing, 2000), 856-857.

“Said to Be Religion: Strange Scenes at ‘Revival Meetings’ Held in Indiana.” New York Times. 24 January 1885, 1.

“Sister Etter with the Lord.” Pentecostal Evangel, 27 September 1924, p. 9.

Warner, Wayne. The Healing & Evangelizing Ministry of Maria Woodworth-Etter. (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2004), 4; 30.

Woodworth-Etter, Maria. Acts of the Holy Ghost, or the Life, Work, and Experience of Mrs. M.B. Woodworth-Etter, Evangelist. (Dallas: John F. Worley Printing Co.), 1912.

Woodworth-Etter, Maria. A Diary of Signs and Wonders. (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1916), 25-28.

Holy Rollerism

7 October, 2008

Holy Roller was an early assignation to Pentecostals, but the term is an Americanism that has existed since the mid-nineteenth century. In 1842, Holy Rollers were identified in the Southern Quarterly Review, published in New Orleans, as a “new species of religion,” and was loosely used for decades to refer to any Christian religions characterized by extreme emotionalism or physical manifestations. Many “sanctified” Wesleyan and Methodist groups fell into this category. Speaking of one Mr. Cummings in his memoirs, published in 1894, Charles Godfrey Leland says:

He was a Methodist . . . “They say he is a Jumper, but others think he has gone over to the Holy Rollers.” The Jumpers were a sect whose members, when the Holy Spirit seized them, jumped up and down, while the Holy Rollers under such circumstances rolled over and over on the floor. (216)

Holy Roller was not solidly considered a euphemism for Pentecostalism until the 1920s. In the 1925-1928 Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, anyone searching for “Pentecostal Movement” found the reference: “See Holy Rollers.” In time, Holy Roller became synonymous with Pentecostal and was sometimes considered a pejorative term.

In the popular press, Holy Roller was initially used to describe any extreme sect. The term made its unfortunate debut in the New York Times in April 1904, when a crazed mother from Oil City, Pennsylvania burned her 8-month-old daughter and cut off the child’s hand. The woman was identified as a Holy Roller (“Cut Her Child’s . . . ” 5). In March 1905, the term was included in the headline of a New York Times article: “Bearded Angel Leads Holy Rollers Here,” an interesting piece about a small group of millennial cultists led by a couple who claimed to be angels guiding the remnant of the Lost Tribe of Israel to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where they awaited the imminent coming of Christ (“Bearded Angel . . . ” 16).

Mostly, Holy Rollers made their way into newspapers through their boisterous services. What all Holy Rollers have in common is the fact that they are historically a rowdy bunch. Holy Rollers, whether simply sanctified or positively Pentecostal, had regular run-ins with neighbors, police and judges. Before the days or hermetical faith, sealed inside the well-insulated walls and double pane windows of our contemporary climate-controlled cathedrals, the saints of God worshipped often in the open air, homes, tents, or buildings with doors and windows open to the world, and their nightly meetings could extend for hours into the night, disrupting sleep for blocks around!

All over the nation, Holy Rollers were repeatedly enjoined, fined, and even jailed for their raucous religion! While the term Holy Roller was never applied to the saints of Azusa Street Mission, police did raid their meetings, and they were popularly called “Holy Kickers” and “Holy Jumpers” in the Los Angeles Times. In August 1909, a Cleveland, Tennessee group of Holy Rollers were issued an order against “making loud and unusual noises” after they marched throughout the town singing and praying (“Holy Rollers Enjoined”). In March 1917, a “white man” named Barnes was arrested in Sherman, Texas for conducting all night “Holy Roller” meetings (“Holy Rollers Arrested” 9). Holy Rollers in Evanston, Illinois made front page news in Chicago in June 1919 when they ran into trouble with neighbors, who “appealed to police to quiet the religious acrobats” (“Police Clamp Lid . . .” 1). In St. Louis, a local “Holy Roller” group was turned over to Prosecuting Attorney F. Ralph by neighbors who charged that the church “creates loud and unnecessary noises, tears their clothing and rolls upon the ground until late in the night” (“Holy Roller Sect . . . “1). In Philadelphia, an entire Holy Roller congregation, including “several young women”, was arrested on 29 October 1921 and held for $600 bail for disorderly conduct (“Policeman Break Up . . . ” 1). A York, Pennsylvania pastor and his followers were also taken into custody in September 1931. The fervent worshippers continued their shouting and dancing at the police station, and the city mayor was called from bed and sternly warned the group: “Now understand you can’t have any more such performances here. You had those people in a frenzy tonight; you might have driven them crazy. They did not even know who they were or what they were doing. No more of it.” The congregation lifted an offering to cover their pastor’s fine and was released (“Old Time Back Rolling Religion . . . ” 3).

In 1931, Rev A. O. Bell, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey, complained to police about the “Holy Rollers of the Church of God” across the street from his assembly, complaining that his sermon could not be heard over the din of their worship. Bell staged a revival of his own, and police refused to get involved (“Holy Rollers Win . . . ” 11).

Carter G. Woodson, a renowned African American historian and the initiator of Black History Month, countered the criticism of Clarence Darrow, famed “Monkey Trial” attorney, who said that “the Negro emphasizes ‘narcotics’ or religion” by highlighting examples of the high-spirited Holy Rollerism of white “Holiness” churches. Woodson used the example of a white Church of God congregation in Huntington, West Virginia, “where they daily indulge in such whooping and screaming in ‘unknown tongues’ that the Negroes have had to report them to the police as a nuisance.” Woodson concludes: “I have made a carefully study of the Negro church, but I have never known Negroes to do anything to surpass this performance of these white heathen” (“The Negro Emphasizes . . . ” 9).

Today, the term Holy Roller is a veritable euphemism for Pentecostals. It is still primarily derogatory, implying all of the ugliness of religious extremism and fanaticism and has been widely applied in recent media to vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. Despite its unbecoming origins and its consistent usage as a slur, it does characterize the emotive and powerful response of revival-minded Christians, recalling the days when Sanctified people did, in fact, roll on the floor. While we may not wear Holy Roller as a badge of honor, as Apostolics, we remain inextricably connected to the fiery faith attributed to earlier generations of Holiness and Pentecostal people who chose a passionate personal experience over dreary dogmatism and changed the face of worldwide Christianity with the power of Pentecost. We are still Holy Rollers!

Sources:

“Bearded Angel Leads the Holy Rollers Here.” New York Times, 24 March 1905, pg. 16.

“Cut Her Child’s Hand Off. Act of a Mother Insane on Religion Victim May Recover.” New York Times, 12 April 1904, pg. 5.

“Holy Roller Sect Disturbers of Peace.” Chicago Defender, 27 September 1919, pg. 1.

“Holy Rollers Arrested.” Chicago Defender, 17 March 1917, pg. 9.

“Holy Rollers Enjoined.” New York Times, 9 Aug 1909, pg. 3.

“Holy Rollers Win in N.J. Noisefest, Police Hands Off.” Afro-American, 8 Aug 1931, pg. 11.

Leland, Charles G. Memoirs. London: William Heinemann, 1894. Pg. 216.

“The Negro Emphasizes ‘Narcotics’ of Religion. Whites as Emotional in Field of Religion as Negroes, Says Writer.” Philadelphia Tribune, 18 Jun 1931, pg. 9.

“Old Time Back Rolling Religion Irks York Cops.” Afro-American, 19 Sep 1931, pg. 3.

“Policemen Break Up Holy Roller Meeting. Chicago Defender, 30 Oct 1920, pg. 1.

“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. 

Without Form and Fashion: the Early Pentecostal Service

20 May, 2008

 When the Holy Ghost baptism was given at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, the seekers of the Father’s promise were caught up in a state of spiritual ecstasy. Their Upper Room experiences inspired curiosity and ridicule as onlookers surmised that these passionate Pentecostals were early-morning drunkards (Acts 2). Along with the restoration of Apostolic truth in the early part of the twentieth century came a return to an authentic style of worship and service, driven not by dead liturgy or ritualistic tradition but rather infused with anointing and fresh power. Countless descriptions of early Pentecostal services help us recapture the spiritual spontaneity of our Apostolic ancestors. Universally, the narratives recreate an atmosphere of divine direction unfettered by denominational traditionalism and formality.

Some of the most poignant vignettes of Pentecostal meetings come from Los Angeles, the humble cradle of worldwide Pentecostal revival. Bro. Frank Ewart gives an early description of the earliest Pentecostal baptisms received in the home of one Sister Asbury of 214 Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles:

When Brother Lee walked into the house, he threw up his hands and began to speak in other tongues. Six people were already on their knees praying, and the power fell on them and all six began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This happened on April 9, 1906. This was followed, as at Pentecost, by a great noise that was spread abroad. The new recipients were beside themselves with joy. They shouted and praised God for three days and nights. It was the Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near that house. Those who could gain an entrance would fall under God’s power as they entered and commence to speak in other tongues; and this continued until the whole city of Los Angeles was mightily stirred. (Ewart 66-67)

When services moved to the mission at 312 Azusa Street, the saints operated with great spiritual freedom. Bro. William J. Seymour, the African American leader of the group, assumed no position of direct authority or governance over the proceedings at Azusa. Bro. Frank Bartleman’s early depictions of the Azusa mission demonstrate both Bro. Seymour’s personal humility and the liberty of the Spirit:

Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour, night and day. The place was never closed nor [sic] empty. The people came to meet God. He was always there. Hence a continuous meeting. The meeting did not depend on the human leader. God’s presence became more and more wonderful. In that old building, with its low rafter and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride and self-assertion, self-importance and self-esteem, could not survive there. The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly. No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God, through whoever [sic] he might speak. We had no “respect of persons.” The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much hard death to die. We only recognized God. All were equal.” (Bartleman 58-59)

The services at Azusa were truly free, and early practitioners of the Apostolic Faith were afraid to grieve the Spirit or to hinder God’s sovereign work in their midst.

Worship, testimonies, and even preaching were spontaneously conducted. An early issue of The Apostolic Faith, the periodical published by the Azusa Street mission, describes how the saints sang in other tongues:

One of the most remarkable features of this Apostolic Faith movement is what is rightly termed the heavenly anthem. No one but those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost are able to join in-or better, the Holy Ghost only signs through such in that manner. Hallelujah! . . . a beautiful song was sung in tongues: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9) . . . We afterward learned of a remarkable coincidence. The same song was being sung at the Pentecostal Mission at 3271/2 S. Spring St., and was interpreted there the same.” The saints worshiping in these two places were in perfect harmony of spirit, and the Holy Ghost witnessed to it. (“The Heavenly Anthem” 3).

Bro. Bartleman himself experienced this Pentecostal phenomenon:

Friday, June 15 [1906], at “Azusa,” the Spirit dropped the “heavenly chorus” into my soul. I found myself suddenly joining the rest who had received the supernatural “gift.” It was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe . . . In the beginning in “Azusa” we had no musical instruments. In fact we felt no need of them. There was no place for them in our worship. All was spontaneous. (Bartleman 56-57)

Preaching was also impromptu, wholly inspired by the Spirit:

The Lord was liable to burst through any one. We prayed for this continually. Some one would finally get up anointed for the message. All seemed to recognize this and gave way. It might be a child, a woman, or a man. It might be from the back seat, or from the front. It made no difference. We rejoiced that God was working. No one wished to show himself. We thought only of obeying God. (Bartleman 59)

Likewise, the altar invitation was spiritual and spontaneous:

Some one might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over th house, like the slain in battle, or rush for the altar enmasse [sic] to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees . . . God himself would call them. And the preacher knew when to quit (Bartleman 60).

The space allotted here is not ample enough to depict the composite service enjoyed by early Pentecostals in the glorious days of the Los Angeles outpouring. But the details, fortuitously preserved for us, recapture a time when worship was not synthesized from syncopation, sermons were not recycled from revival to revival, and altars were not gratuitously graced by passionless penitents. We must be careful not to replace spiritual unction with modern function, extinguishing the flames of revival with form and fashion. Rather, we must reserve spacious room in our contemporary worship for a Pentecostal visitation of the Holy Ghost, allowing God’s Spirit to direct and define every service for by His divine power and for His eternal purposes.

Sources:

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: as It was in the Beginning, 2nd. Ed. Los Angeles, 1925.

Ewart, Frank. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Word Aflame Press: Hazelwood, MO, 2000.

“The Heavenly Anthem.” The Apostolic Faith 1 (5). January 1907, p. 3.