Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Co-sponsors Demonstration of Unity, Marking Unlikely Dual Anniversary of Springfield Lynching and Azusa Street Revival
On April 13-15, 2009, people from various ethnic, social, and denominational backgrounds gathered in Springfield, Missouri, to celebrate their unity in Christ. This demonstration of unity, dubbed “A House No Longer Divided,” was sparked by the unlikely dual anniversary of two events — the horrific Springfield Lynchings and the beginning of the multiethnic Azusa Street Revival, which has become a worldwide symbol for racial reconciliation. The meetings were held each evening from 7-9 pm at Timmons Temple Church of God in Christ (April 13-14) and at the William J. Seymour Chapel at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (April 15).
On April 14, 1906, three African-American men were lynched by a mob on the Springfield town square. The lynching of Horace Duncan, Fred Coker and Will Allen led to the flight of possibly hundreds of blacks to less hostile areas. The ethnic makeup of the community, to this day, reflects that horrific event. The African-American community in Springfield remembers the event much like Jews remember the Holocaust.
That same day, on April 14, 1906, William J. Seymour began holding services at the run-down mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The interracial Azusa Street revival, which emerged from meetings in a home on Bonnie Brae Street, became a focal point for the emerging Pentecostal movement. Azusa participant Frank Bartleman famously exulted that “the color line was washed away in the blood.” A little more than one year later, Rachel Sizelove, a Free Methodist-turned-Pentecostal evangelist, brought the movement to Springfield from Azusa Street and started what became Central Assembly of God.
“A House No Longer Divided” featured special speakers, preaching, and music. Timmons Temple Pastor T.J. Appleby emceed the services, and speakers included both seasoned and young ministers. Organist Beverly Daniels and the Timmons Temple gospel choir led participants in worship each evening. Half of each evening was devoted to gospel music, which was interspersed between speakers (each was given either 10 or 30 minutes to speak).
Student organizers for the “A House No Longer Divided” were: John F. Wheeler (Central Bible College), Dan Morrison (AGTS), and Michael Ryswyk (Evangel University). This event was birthed out of John F. Wheeler’s desire to build bridges across racial and denominational divides. Wheeler is the great-grandson of Church of God in Christ founder Bishop Charles H. Mason. The event was sponsored by Timmons Temple Church of God in Christ, Kingdom Movement Ministries, the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
According to Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers, “April 14, 1906 was witness to both the darkness of humanity and the light of God. It is important that we not only remember, but also overcome, our painful history of racial disunity. ‘A House No Longer Divided’ offered an opportunity to tell the world that, just like at Azusa Street, ‘the color line has been washed away in the blood.’”
Overview of events
Monday, April 13, Timmons Temple
Scott Temple (Director of Intercultural Ministries, Assemblies of God US Missions) recounted the events surrounding the lynchings, and Darrin Rodgers traced the history of the Azusa Street Mission, as well as the ensuing racial unity and division within the Pentecostal movement. Evangel University student Natasha Dash also delivered a sermonette, noting that her own status as an African-American female who is credentialed by the AG is evidence of progress made on racial inclusion. Dr. Stanley Horton, the 92-year-old eminent Pentecostal theologian who is a child of the Azusa Street Revival, offered his own remembrances of the early days of the revival. Elder T.J. Appleby (Timmons Temple Church of God in Christ) concluded the meeting with an impassioned plea for unity – suggesting that the Pentecostal church should be the antidote for racism. The Timmons Temple choir led lively worship, and a blind Central Bible College student, Adam Willis, rocked the house when he led the congregation in singing some rousing gospel songs.
Tuesday, April 14, Timmons Temple
Five young ministers delivered ten-minute sermonettes, interspersed with gospel music provided by the Timmons Temple choir and the Iglesia del Pueblo (AG) (Springfield, Mo) worship team. Dan Morrison (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) delivered the opening message, showing “the Holy Spirit as the great equalizer among people, no matter your gender, ethnicity, or social class,” drawing from the account in Acts 10 of the conflict between Gentiles and Jews and their ultimate reconciliation. Ryan Beaty (Royal Rangers National Office) brought the crowd to its feet with a stem-winding admonition to be “men and women full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Ben Jury (Central Bible College) and Michael Ryswyk (Evangel University) both spoke from Philippians, identifying ways Christians should love each other. John F. Wheeler (Central Bible College) brought the concluding message, showing that Christian unity is based on “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” The evening concluded with an extended time of prayer at the altar.
Wednesday, April 15, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
Following robust worship, Gwen Marshall (Deliverance Temple, Springfield, Mo) addressed the importance of identifying and empowering the next generation of leaders. Sophia Garcia (Iglesia del Pueblo) provided special music and led those gathered in singing The Comforter Has Come, the hymn often sung at the Azusa Street Mission. Winston Larry (Assemblies of God US Missions) provided the capstone message for the event, emphasizing that the various parts of the Body of Christ need each other. He stressed the need for participants to get out of their comfort zones and to form ongoing relationships, which is the only way to tear down the current walls of separation. The three-day demonstration of unity concluded with the breaking of bread.
Posted by Darrin J. Rodgers