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Discuss the significance of the Azusa street pentecostal Revival
The United States of America can be considered a cradle of different Pentecostal religious movements. However, among the most important and influential ones, there was the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival movement. This religious movement was founded by William D. Seymour. His teachings and sermons were highly attractive to common people; hence, the movement rapidly attracted many followers. Despite the fact that the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival mission has decayed with time, it gave an enormous impulse to the spreading of the Pentecostal doctrine. The mission of Azusa became known throughout the world. People of different nationalities and skin color from many countries of the world came to Seymour. After hearing his sermons and receiving the blessing of Holy Spirit, they returned to their communities as missionaries of Pentecost. Under the Azusa Mission, followers went to China, Japan, the Philippines, India, South Africa, and Egypt in order to preach the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit for every believer. Thus, the history of the presented religious revival is extremely significant as it has established the biggest Pentecostal-charismatic movement in the world.
Charles Parham and William D. Seymour
While discussing the significance of the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival, one should pay attention to Charles Parham and William D. Seymour as they both played a vital role in the establishment of the discussed Pentecostal movement. Charles Parham was a young Methodist preacher in the city of Topeka (Bremer 43). Parham belonged to the holiness movement; he believed that the time of world evangelization would begin soon; thus, it was necessary to have a special power of the Holy Spirit for carrying out this work. He arrived at the conclusion that speaking in other languages is a sign of the baptism by the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, one of the followers of Parham church, a young girl, Agnes Ozman, asked Parham to lay his hands on her, and when he did it, the Holy Spirit descended upon the girl, and she began to speak in other languages (Bremer 50). The awakening of Ozman that happened within the walls of the biblical school began to spread from one church to another. However, this movement was fiercely criticized by the church leaders, and the doors of the houses of prayer were closed for Charles Parham and his friends. Therefore, it was obvious that the society was not ready to accept the new Pentecostal revival.
In 1905, Parham opened a new biblical school in Houston (Texas). Among the first students of his school was a preacher from the Methodist church, William D. Seymour (Cox 87). The beginning of the mass dissemination of the Pentecostal doctrine is associated with this name. The personality on Seymour is truly significant and unique because, despite being one-eyed African-American and the son of freed slaves, he managed to establish one of the biggest and influential movements in the Protestant Church (Synan 45). In 1905, in the American society, official laws forbade black people to study and go to the same church with the whites (Cox 91). Therefore, Seymour was allowed to listen to Parham's lectures in the next room behind the open door. A month after the opening of the new school, Seymour received an invitation from Los Angeles from Mrs. Julia Hutchins (Synan 48). She opened a new church of the Holiness Movement and invited Seymour to become a pastor of the young congregation. Parham opposed this proposal, as he wanted to have the black student in among the young Pentecostal doctrine among the black inhabitants of Texas. One of the arguments was that Seymour had not yet experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Cox 88). Despite the lack of support from Parham, Seymour decided to accept the offer and moved to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles and the Beginning of the Azusa Mission
When Seymour arrived in Los Angeles, he began to teach about baptism with the Holy Spirit and sign of other languages as the proof of baptism. However, the leaders of the church perceived his teachings extremely hostile. First, it was something new, because no one of them spoke in other languages. Secondly, Seymour preached only the theory since he himself had not been baptized and could not confirm his teaching in practice (Deininger 102). In a couple of weeks, when Seymour came to preach once again, the doors of the church were closed, and he was not allowed to enter the building. However, the family of Lee invited him to hold prayer services at home on the Bonnie Brae Street (Kerwin 62). After moving there, Seymour continued to preach, but no one received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
However, a significant event happened with Seymour and his followers. Before Easter, 1906, Seymour took a ten-day fast, in which he decided to pray intensely to God and ask him to confirm His Word and send His Spirit (Kerwin 79). On the third day of fasting, on his way to the meeting, Seymour went to pray for the healing of one person. When he began, the Holy Spirit descended on the sick man, and he not only received healing but also spoke in an incomprehensible language. Rejoicing, they together ran to the service on Bonnie Brae Street. When the healed brother began to tell his testimony at the ministry, the situation in the church heated up to the limit. Later, after that testimony, everyone stood up for a prayer; the healed raised his hands to heaven and loudly began to pray. As a result, the Holy Spirit descended, and six of the present spoke in other languages, including Jennie Moore, Seymour's future wife (Kerwin 84). Such a significant event showed people from this community that the man was a true preacher and revival was real.
The news that Holy Spirit descended on believers in the prayer ministry at Bonnie Brae Street spread across California and beyond. Because of the large influx of people, services were held outside, on a huge terrace next to the house (McKinney). Once during the service, the terrace collapsed, and everyone realized that the church needed another building. Someone offered an old stable in Los Angeles's poorest area on 312 Azusa Street for just $8 a month (Menzies & Menzies 205). After cleaning the building and making wooden shops hurriedly, the newly-built church moved there.
The Development of the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival
After moving to the Azusa Street, the religious movement obtained popularity and acknowledgment among people. Special meetings were organized for pastors and ministers of different churches, which were held in the morning on every Monday (Robeck 97). Seymour allowed preaching at meetings of the Mission to anyone, who felt blessed. In September 1906, the mission began publishing the own newspaper, Apostolic Faith. Over the time, its circulation grew to 50,000 copies (Robeck 88). On March 9, 1907, the mission on the Azusa Street received its official registration under the name the Mission of the Apostolic Faith (Robeck 89). A month after the registration, at the end of the lease of the building at 312 Azusa Street, Seymour bought this building for $15,000 (Robeck 96). Therefore, it could be stated that the presented religious movement managed to transform significantly and develop from a small community to the large Pentecostal movement.
Significance of Sermons and Preaching in the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival
Divine services in the new church were highly emotional and unusual. According to eyewitnesses, people danced, jumped joyfully, raised their hands up, and shouted loudly. Some of them fell to the floor being slain by the Holy Spirit, as they called it (Seymour 108). Someone was starting to speak fast in different languages, while others were speechless. The most significant phenomenon of the presented movement was that the meetings were attended by the poor, rich, whites, and blacks (Synan 73). There was no segregation or prejudice in Seymour Church. There were no prepared sermons or songs at the services as everything was spontaneous. Anyone who felt the grace of Holy Spirit was able to preach. When some preachers wanted to show their talents and impress the public with their wisdom, they often started to choke and could no longer continue their performance, so they had to sit down with shame (Synan 138). Pastor Seymour always sat on the first bench, and when the service began, he knelt down and prayed. The movement was extremely charismatic and popular. Everyone was surprised by one thing, how God chose the most desolate area of Los Angeles and a simple, illiterate, one-eyed son of a slave, who spoke very illiterate English, to become the catalyst for the greatest awakening in the history of humankind (Synan 93). However, such rusticity of Seymour and simplicity of sermons in the church made the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival one of the most influential and significant movements in the world.
To conclude, the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival made a great and determinative contribution to the establishment and development of the Pentecostal religious movements. The history of the creation of Azusa Street religious movement is inevitably connected with the Parham and William D. Seymour. Both men were rejected by the local churches; however, they managed to create their unique movements. Seymour, being the student of Parham, received an invitation to Los Angeles to become the pastor of one of the Churches. His arrival to the city marked the emergence of the discussed movement. While leading the community in Los Angeles, Seymour and his sermons became highly popular and attracted many followers. There were many breathtaking stories of how Holy Spirit descended on Seymours followers. However, the main significance of the Azusa mission was its simplicity, accessibility, and emotional experience. The Azusa Street Revival movement gave rise to many new churches and organizations.
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