112 years ago on April 9th, 1906, a small meeting took place at the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry located at 216 North Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles, California. Soon they would outgrow that space and move to a building located at 312 Azusa Street that had once housed an AME church. The building on Azusa Street was so run down that a Los Angeles newspaper referred to it as a “tumbledown shack.” This meeting, led by a one-eyed man who was the son of freed slaves, William Seymour, erupted into an all out revival that would last almost 9 years. From this small meeting the modern day Pentecostal and Charismatic movement was born. Christian denominations such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, TN), Foursquare, Pentecostal Church of God, and Church of God in Christ all point back to the Azusa Street Revival as their origin.
Seymour, a black man with little education, led a revival that sparked a worldwide movement. Revivals began to break out in other parts of the United States including Nyack, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; San Antonio, Texas; Dunn, North Carolina; and Cleveland, Tennessee. Revival also broke out to the north of us in Winnipeg, Toronto and St. John’s, Newfoundland. Across the globe in places such as Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway, the fire of revival was burning. It seemed that there wasn’t a place in the world you could go that had not been touched by Pentecost.
The revival also saw people of many different ethnicities worshipping together, something that was very rare at the turn of the twentieth century. Gary B. McGee notes:
For a short time, African Americans, Hispanics, Caucasians, and others prayed and sang together, creating a dimension of equality that allowed men, women, and children to have fellowship collectively and participate in the worship as led by the Spirit.
An eyewitness to the revival, Frank Bartleman (a Pentecostal writer), noted that “the ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.” The Azusa Street Revival predated the Civil Rights Act by almost 60 years! Pentecostals, empowered by the Spirit, have historically stood by those who were victims of injustice, and have been strong advocates for the civil rights of all.
While many historians lump all Pentecostals together, they were not always so similar. Many were poor, yet some were wealthy. Some were uneducated, yet a few held Seminary degrees. Pentecostals also differed in regards to doctrine. Some believed speaking in tongues was required evidence of the Spirit’s baptism, others did not. Probably the most well-known doctrinal difference between Pentecostals had to do with the nature of the Trinity. Some Pentecostals held to the orthodox Christian view of God in three persons, others conceived God as one person in Jesus Christ (Oneness).
What began as an insignificant meeting in a small home blossomed into a world-wide movement with hundreds of millions of adherents today.
Source: Gary B. McGee. People of the Spirit. Springfield, MO. Gospel Publishing House. 1984.