From right: William Seymour, Original Azusa Street Mission, Proposed Azusa Street Spiritwalk Promenade
One Hundred Years Ago, A Black Pastor Started a Multi-racial Church Which has Changed the World.
A z u s a S t r e e t M i s s i o n . c o m
A Century of Faith
Event Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Azusa Street Revival
This year marks the centennial of the great San
Francisco earthquake, but 100 years ago another kind of temblor
erupted in Downtown Los Angeles.
by Andrew Moyle
Now seen as the great awakening of the
Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, the Azusa Street Revival took
place from 1906 to 1909. This week's Century of the Holy Spirit
event commemorates the anniversary at venues large and small in and
"Really, in many ways, the Azusa Street
Revival is one of the most significant things that ever happened in
Los Angeles," said Rev. Billy Wilson, head of the Azusa Street
Centennial organization. "And yet, it is one of the most unknown
things that happened in Los Angeles, especially to
Events will take place all week at an array of
spaces, from houses of worship in Echo Park, South Los Angeles and
Crenshaw, to the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Revival
culminates on Saturday, April 29, with a celebration at the Sports
Arena and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Exposition Park.
Wilson has secured a lineup of major Christian evangelists,
including Bishop T.D. Jakes, Pastor Benny Hinn and Rev. Paula
If everything goes according to Wilson's expectations,
the Exposition Park event will draw as many as 50,000
Toward the end of the 19th century, a schism
was forming in the Protestant Church. A handful of believers in Los
Angeles began experiencing what they could only describe as the
touch of "the Holy Spirit," a blessing that most Christians at the
time saw as a one-time event (that coming to Jesus' disciples at the
Feast of the Pentecost).
The blessing took on distinct
elements: speaking in tongues (glossolalia), the full-body
expression of the Holy Spirit and the channeling of the spirit into
William Seymour felt it. The African-American
preacher had come from Houston to preach in early 1906, but within
days was driven from his congregation. After a stop-off at the house
of one of his congregants (where Seymour experienced his first
blessing of the Holy Spirit), the flock settled in a rundown
building on Azusa Street in what is now Little Tokyo.
new digs, and in a charismatic style characteristic of the growing
faith, Seymour spread the word to the poor and the disaffected. The
movement quickly gained media attention and rippled outward.
"The people at Azusa Street encountered God in
a fresh way, a dramatic way, and in a life-changing way," Wilson
said. "A great spiritual hunger was met by great spiritual
experience. Extreme desire was met by extreme experience with God.
Ultimately, what happened there changed the world."
revival spawned preachers like Robert Semple, husband of noted Los
Angeles evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. Though she never called
herself a Pentecostal, "Sister Aimee" became a mainstay of the Los
Angeles evangelical movement, creating in the early 1920s the
Foursquare Gospel Church and the domed Angelus Temple that overlooks
Echo Park Lake.
Over the next century, certain Protestant and
Catholic sects adopted elements of Pentecostalism, spawning what is
commonly known as the Charismatic Movement. The movement is diverse,
with people believing in different elements of it, Wilson
It is also widespread, and is one of fastest growing
religious movements in Africa and South America. It's gaining
influence in many countries, said Diane Winston, Knight Chair in
Media and Religion at USC.
But it is something that few
attending this week's events will address, Winston
"Most of them focus on the religious meaning of
this event and how it was a seminal development. They're done from
the perspective of people who are themselves a part of the
Pentecostal community," Winston said. "I think that's all correct,
but Pentecostalism has a had a big effect on politics."
response to Wilson's revival commemoration, Winston organized a USC
and Pew Forum conference to address the social and political impact
of the revival. The noon lunch conference takes place Monday, April
24, at USC's Davidson Conference Center, 3415 S. Figueroa
"All of a sudden, it becomes a political, social and
cultural movement, rather than just a religious one," Winston said.
"They've spread so fast."
Wilson sees the success in poorer
countries as cause for celebration. Diversity and unity are the
themes of the Revival, which is expected to draw people from more
than 100 nations, he said.
"This is the most diverse event,
perhaps, in the history of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement,"
That diversity, he hopes, will prompt people to
open their hearts.
"We hope that during the week, by
reflecting on the revival that took place in L.A. 100 years ago,
that people will be encouraged to seek spiritual revival and renewal
in our generation," he said.