Azusa Street revival

Azusa Street revival
   A Pentecostalist revival broke out in a church on Azusa street in Los Angeles in 1906, which became one of the more important events in 20th-century Protestantism.
   Pentecostalism can be traced to the Topeka, Kansas, Bible school led by Charles Fox Parham. There, in 1901, Agnes Oznam became the first person in modern times to pray for and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the expectation that the baptism would manifest in her speaking in tongues. The experience soon spread to the other students and to Parham.
   Parham eventually settled in Houston, Texas, where he introduced his new teaching to an African-American Holiness minister, William J. Seymour. Seymour was subsequently invited to become the pastor of a small congregation in Los Angeles in February 1906. His preaching about the Pentecostal experience was rejected, so he moved his ministry to the home of supporters on Bonnie Brae Avenue. On April 9, Edward Lee and Jamie Evans Moore became the first of the group to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to speak in tongues. Others soon followed, including Seymour himself on April 12.
   Crowds at the Bonnie Brae home soon forced a move to larger facilities. A former African-American Methodist church building, then used as a stable, was rented at 312 Azusa Street. A makeshift pulpit and seating area were put together, and a meeting was held every night. While the original group was largely African-American, the new audience included many whites and Latinos. The congregation took the name Apostolic Faith Mission.
   On April 18, a Los Angeles newspaper ran an article critical of Seymour and the meetings. That same day, the San Francisco earthquake occurred. Frank Bartleman, an itinerate evangelist, then published a tract tying together the revival, the earthquake, and the end of the world. Tens of thousands of copies were distributed all along the West Coast. Thousands soon flocked to the small building. A periodical was begun, The Apostolic Faith, whose circulation soon climbed into the tens of thousands.
   Services were held thrice daily. Seymour continued to lead the group, which gradually became predominantly white. People from across North America came to Azusa Street, experienced the baptism, and returned home to found new Pentecostal churches or to convince older groups to accept the new teachings. Others, believing that speaking in tongues would give them facility in foreign languages, left Azusa for the mission field.
   The Azusa Street revival fed a desire for interracial harmony in the Pentecostal movement. Over the next few decades, however, the movement became segregated, with only a few exceptions, most notably the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. The Azusa Street experience bore fruit in the largely African-American Church of God in Christ and the major white Pentecostal bodies, the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee).
   By the end of the decade, seymour was somewhat isolated from the movement, though he continued to lead the more permanent congregation at the Lost Angeles Mission and traveled for a national African-American Pentecostal denomination. Because he was black, his role in the revival was largely forgotten by several generations of white Pentecostal leaders, but he became more widely known in the post-civil rights era of Pen-tecostalism.
   Further reading:
   ■ Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles (Los Angeles: the author, 1928) - this small work reprinted under variant titles Larry Martin, Holy Ghost Revival on Azusa Street: The True Believers (Joplin, Mo.: Christian Life Books, 1998)
   ■ Cheryl J. Sanders, Saints in Exile: The Holiness-Pentecostal Experience in African American Religion and Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996)
   ■ Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001 (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2001).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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