Tag Archives: Aimee Semple McPherson

Methodist and United Brethren Churches Embrace 1919 Pentecostal Revival in Baltimore


This Week in AG History–March 19, 1921
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 19 March 2015

Methodist and United Brethren congregations in Baltimore, Maryland, embraced a revival sparked by Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson in 1919. McPherson, the most widely-known Pentecostal evangelist of her era in the United States, was a gifted orator who built bridges between Pentecostals and evangelicals. Her messages, focusing primarily on salvation, healing, and the spiritual life, garnered the cooperation of churches of various denominations. She was a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God for several years (1919-1922) prior to forming the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

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McPherson’s evangelistic efforts in Baltimore began with three weeks of daily services in the Lyric Theatre, December 4-21, 1919. Numerous healings attracted the attention of the secular press. She was invited to hold services in two Methodist and one United Brethren churches, where large audiences gathered to hear the female evangelist who preached that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”

McPherson returned to Baltimore in January 1920, where she held meetings for several weeks at the Franklin Street Memorial United Brethren Church (pastored by Edward Leech). After she left, Leech and another staff pastor at the church continued to hold special prayer meetings and revival services. The Pentecostal Evangel reprinted a 1921 report of the ongoing revival, authored by Leech and originally published in the United Brethren Church’s denominational periodical.

According to Leech, hundreds of people had accepted Christ and “a large number were instantaneously healed” in his church. In an era of religious skepticism, the healings provided proof of God’s power. “Surely no one will be so skeptical,” wrote Leech, “as to doubt the power of God to touch the sick with healing now as in that first century.”

Leech was initially cautious about telling others in his denomination that he had embraced the Pentecostal revival. He remained quiet about it for about a year, he wrote, “to test out my own church and people.” But in his 1921 article he proclaimed, “today I am fully persuaded as to the genuineness of the full gospel program.” He spoke favorably of McPherson’s ministry: “She preaches the whole truth, attracts the crowds, fills the altar with sinners and backsliders, prays down healing for the sick, and seeks to deepen the spiritual life of believers.”

McPherson, like many other early Pentecostals, aimed to build the kingdom of God and not merely a denomination. Leech warmly embraced this aim, writing that he had never before seen such levels of “cooperation” and “Christian love and fellowship.”

Read the article, “Big Revival in Baltimore,” on page 6 of the March 19, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel .

Also featured in this issue:

• “Is the Holy Spirit in All Believers?” by J. T. Boddy

• “The Modern Church in Effigy,” by W. V. Kneisley

• “The Coming Chinese Church”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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From Skeptic to Evangelist: Dr. Charles S. Price


This Week in AG History — February 25, 1933

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, Mon, 24 Feb 2014 – 3:10 PM CST

Dr. Charles S. Price (1887-1947), pastor of the theologically liberal First Congregational Church in Lodi, California, ventured into a Pentecostal revival service in 1921. His purpose was to expose the evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson, as a fraud. He was so confident that he would achieve this mission that he even placed an advertisement in the local newspaper, promoting the title of his next sermon — “Divine Healing Bubble Explodes.”

Some of Price’s church members had attended the revival services in San Jose and reported large numbers of conversions and miracles. He scoffed and replied, “I can explain it all. It is metaphysical, psychological, nothing tangible.” Price arrived at the revival with a pen and paper, ready to take notes. He had difficulty finding a seat, as the revival tent was packed with 6,000 people, but finally was seated in the section reserved for people with infirmities who desired healing.

He was shocked to discover that the revival was being sponsored by Dr. William Keeney Towner, pastor of the prestigious First Baptist Church in Oakland. Price and Towner had been friends when Price had served as a pastor in Oakland. Towner came over to Price and told him, “Charlie, this is real. This little woman is right. This is the real gospel. I have been baptized with the Holy Ghost. It’s genuine, I tell you. It is what you need.”

At the time, McPherson was an Assemblies of God evangelist. She later formed her own denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. While Price expected McPherson’s sermon to be rife with fanaticism, he was surprised to discover that her message was thoroughly biblical and compelling. Hundreds responded to an invitation to go to the altar and accept Christ. He returned that evening and, although still skeptical, was seated on the platform with the other ministers. He quickly became a believer, however, once he began witnessing numerous healings, including a blind person regaining sight and a lame person being able to walk.

When McPherson invited people to raise their hands if they wanted to accept Christ, Price raised his hand. A fellow minister leaned over and whispered, “Charlie, don’t you know she is calling for sinners?” Price responded, “I know who she is calling for.” He quickly went down to the altar, recommitted himself to Christ, and later would state that he left that tent “a new man.”

Price continued to go back to the nightly revival meetings. He felt conviction about his pride and ambition and lack of integrity. After four nights praying at the altar, Price was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Price shared his experience with his congregation, and soon 500 of his church members also were baptized in the Holy Spirit. The once-liberal congregation became a center for revival in the community and began holding evangelistic street meetings in nearby towns. Price ultimately became one of the best-known Pentecostal evangelists of the twentieth century. He went from skeptic to believer because he witnessed the reality of God’s healing power.

Read an article by Charles S. Price, “Why I Believe in Divine Healing,” on pages 2, 3 and 7 of the February 25, 1933, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “As They Went,” by Lilian B. Yeomans

* “Healed of Tuberculosis,” by Clarence W. Hougland

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA

Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free:  877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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Seize the Moment

How will the current economic troubles affect the Assemblies of God? According to common wisdom, economic downturns bring spiritual upturns. As the theory goes, when people discover they cannot be self-sufficient, they look for spiritual solutions to their problems.

But is this really the case? History reveals that the Assemblies of God grew significantly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but its growth was a deviation from the norm. Most churches suffered great setbacks. What really happened during the Great Depression? What lessons can this history provide for the Assemblies of God of the twenty-first century?

Mainline Decline
The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated many segments of American Christianity. Historian Mark Noll noted that mainline Protestants not only faced economic uncertainties, but also theological uncertainties as liberal theology had begun to replace historic Christian beliefs. Many mainline congregations, schools, and ministries had to close or drastically cut back. Their institutions, funded by endowments that disappeared with the Wall Street crash, were running off the fumes of the past.

However, there was a noticeable exception to the decline of religious institutions in the 1930s: evangelical and Pentecostal churches made significant gains. According to Noll, these “sectarian” churches “knew better how to redeem the times.”

Pentecostal Growth
In September 1929, the AG reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members in the US. By 1944, this tally increased to 5,055 churches with 227,349 members. During that 15-year period, the number of AG churches tripled and membership almost tripled.

This growth didn’t happen by accident. Our forefathers and foremothers during the Great Depression laid a foundation for the expansion of the Assemblies of God, often at a tremendous cost. Of today’s seven largest AG colleges and universities, four were started during the Great Depression: North Central University (1930); Northwest University (1934); Southeastern University (1935); and Valley Forge Christian College (1939).

Myer Pearlman was a prolific writer during the Great Depression.

It was during these hard times that AG scholarship blossomed. Myer Pearlman (1898-1943), P. C. Nelson (1868-1942), and E. S. Williams (1885-1981) wrote many of their influential theological books in the midst of the Great Depression. Pearlman and Nelson literally worked themselves to death, their health breaking under the strain of constant writing, teaching, and preaching.

The AG’s foreign missions enterprise was centralized and strengthened during the Depression. This change encouraged coordination of efforts and accountability. The AG published its first Missionary Manual in 1931 and in 1933 the AG began providing funding for a missions staff at Headquarters. While the Great Depression made finances tight, in 1933 the Foreign Missions Department trumpeted that it did not have to recall any missionaries because of shortage of funds. Indeed, from 1930 to 1939, AG world missions giving increased by 47 percent, the number of world missionaries increased by 25 percent, and the constituency outside the US increased by 132 percent. When other denominations were retreating, the AG was making significant advances in missions.

While Pentecostals decried the Social Gospel movement, which they viewed as caring for physical needs while neglecting spiritual needs, many churches strove to evangelize in both word and deed. One of the best-known churches engaged in social outreach during the Depression was Pentecostal — Angelus Temple, the Los Angeles congregation founded by Aimee Semple McPherson. The congregation operated numerous soup kitchens and free clinics in the 1930s. Countless smaller storefront rescue missions dotted the Pentecostal landscape of that era.

Large-scale population migrations forced by the economic upheaval of the 1930s resulted in the unplanned evangelization of new regions. Pentecostals who left the Midwest during the Dustbowl established numerous Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Holiness, and Pentecostal Church of God congregations in the western states. African-American Pentecostals from the rural South migrated to northern cities and started Church of God in Christ congregations in almost every major city. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the U.S. returned to Mexico, including many new Pentecostal believers who, in effect, became indigenous missionaries to their homeland. In the providence of God, the painful social dislocation of the 1930s helped bring about the rapid spread of Pentecostalism. Like pollen scattered by a strong wind, Pentecostal refugees planted churches wherever they happened to land.

In raw economic terms, an economic downturn offers a great opportunity for churches to expand their base. Finances will be tight in the meantime, but once the economy turns around, the churches will be much better off than they had been previously, with a larger and more committed membership.

Despair or Desperation?
Some Pentecostals actually seemed to celebrate the challenges of the Depression. The monthly magazine of The Stone Church (an AG congregation in Chicago) published this editorial note: “Our chief difficulty is that we have been bitten by the luxury bug. Nations can stand almost any adversity better than that of the debilitating, enervating, calamity of prosperity. The Word of God declares that, ‘In prosperity the destroyer shall come’” (Job 15:21). One can almost hear the writer saying, “Bring it on, financial struggles will only make us stronger.”

C. M. Ward and his wife, Dorothy, were married just after the stock market crashed in 1929.

C. M. Ward, the voice of the Revivaltime radio broadcast from 1953 to 1978, echoed this sentiment. He and his fiancée, Dorothy, set their wedding date for Christmas Day, 1929. Of course, one month before their wedding, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Ward couldn’t afford to buy a wedding ring, much less presents, for their first Christmas. He later learned that times of deprivation like this birthed one of two things: either despair or desperation. Despair caused people to simply give up, but desperation spurred people to work hard and be creative.

Need for Vision
Churches, however, are not guaranteed to grow during bad times. Indeed, AG evangelist Christine Kerr Peirce observed in 1935, “Instead of the depression driving people to God, there has developed an apathy and indifference which has not characterized previous periods of distress, when men have turned to God for help.”

Peirce’s lament for the church in 1935 could easily describe the condition of the American church in 2009: “Our modern methods are fast wearing out. That which a few years ago attracted the great crowds, attracts them no more. We have worn out every spectacular appeal we could make and while a few are reached here and there, yet the truth stares us plainly in the face that nowhere are we doing more than just scratching the surface, in comparison with the great number of unchurched and unsaved that should be reached.”

Why was the church in such a state of spiritual stupor? According to Peirce, “The backslidden, apathetic, lethargic condition of the pew today is due largely to the fact that this work [evangelism] has been left in the hands of the pulpit.” Instead, she averred, every Christian is called to be a witness.

How can the church remedy this problem? Peirce dismissed the idea that the church needs methods that are even “more spectacular.” Instead, she propounded, “The need of the present moment is Men and Women of Vision!” Christians first “must see God Himself,” and then must have a “vision of others.” She elaborated, “A true vision of the lost world will prostrate us on our face with a burden of intercession.”

According to Peirce, then, the visionary church must be worshipful and missional. While Peirce’s critique was aimed at the American church in general, she recognized that Assemblies of God members could very easily lose their vision and replace their passion for God and for souls with a reliance on modern methods. However, visionary Assemblies of God leaders viewed the economic crisis as an opportunity, leading the Fellowship to engage in ardent prayer and great personal sacrifice to advance a cause that was much bigger than any one person.

Seize the Moment
The history of the Assemblies of God illustrates the Fellowship’s compelling vision of world evangelization through voluntary cooperation to accomplish what individual Pentecostal believers or churches could not do alone. Hopefully, these testimonies will encourage readers to likewise see the current economic turmoil as an opportunity to reassess priorities, to love those who are hurting, and to lay a broader foundation for the future of the Assemblies of God. Even as we look back at the heroes of the faith who grabbed hold of big ideas and sacrificed greatly to bring them to fruition, I pray that we, the inheritors of this legacy, will seize this moment and invest in the future of our faith.

To learn more about the history of the Assemblies of God, visit the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center’s Web site.

Written by Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin J. Rodgers, this editorial was published in the 2009 Assemblies of God Heritage magazine.

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Review: Heart for the Harvest

00104_Farmer-Johnson

Heart for the Harvest, Stories of Vision, Faith, & Courage, by Jeff Farmer and Andrea Johnson. Des Moines, IA: Open Bible Publishers, 2009.

Two Pentecostal groups starting from revival movements in the Northwest in 1919 and in Iowa in 1932 eventually discovered they shared most of the same doctrines and passion for spreading the gospel around the world. After comparing notes, praying, and attending each other’s conferences, they reasoned that they could more effectively minister for the Kingdom together than apart. They consolidated their efforts in 1935, becoming the Open Bible Standard Churches with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. Today the group—much larger than in 1935—is known as Open Bible Churches and still operates from the capital city of Iowa.

The Northwest group began when Fred Hornshuh and other young Pentecostal ministers associated with Florence Crawford and her Apostolic Faith group in Portland, Oregon, came to disagreements with the leadership. They struck out on their own as the Bible Standard Mission to evangelize and plant churches. And they soon sent missionaries to foreign fields; created two periodicals: Bible Standard and Bible Standard Overcomers; and launched a Bible school in Eugene, Oregon.

Their evangelizing passion and excitement during the 1920s and the Great Depression apparently knew no bounds. Big game hunter Hornshuh could throw up revival tents, dig church basements, hammer nails, and advertise his meetings as well as he could preach from street corners and crude tent pulpits.

Sixty years after he pioneered as the Bible Standard Mission, Hornshuh reminisced: “We did things on the spur of the moment. We had no higher officer to consult like a district superintendent or board of evangelism. We had to find the mind of God quickly and then move as he directed. When we acted without analyzing all the difficulties, everything fell into line. As we bulldozed ahead, the Lord met us.”

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Dr. Rolf K. McPherson with the Lord


On Thursday, May 21, 2009, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson, son of the founder and the president emeritus of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, passed away at his home in Los Feliz, California. He was 96 years old.

Rolf Kennedy McPherson was born March 23, 1913 in Providence, Rhode Island to Harold S. and Aimee Semple McPherson. As a small child he traveled to the West Coast with his mother, who evangelized her way across the country to Los Angeles, where she established Angelus Temple in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles.

Upon the death of Aimee Semple McPherson in 1944, Rolf McPherson became president of the four corporate entities she had established: Echo Park Evangelistic Association, The Church of the Foursquare Gospel, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and LIFE Bible College. In addition, he became the pastor of Angelus Temple.

For 44 years, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson led the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, expanding its ministry into 63 countries around the world; the number of churches worldwide grew to more than 19,000 (Currently there are almost 60,000 Foursquare churches and meeting places in 144 countries.). Dr. McPherson retired from the presidency of The Foursquare Church in 1988, but he remained president emeritus. He was also pastor emeritus of Angelus Temple, having retired from actively directing the affairs of the church in 1997.

He is survived by his wife, Evangeline Carmichael McPherson; his daughter, Alicia McPherson Santacroce; three grandchildren; a niece, Victoria Salter; a step-daughter, Carol Parks; and two step-granddaughters. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Lorna De Smith McPherson, and a daughter Marlene McPherson LaRue.

A memorial service will be held at Angelus Temple on Saturday, May 30, at 11 a.m. A viewing will be held at Forest Lawn Glendale on the evening of Friday, May 29.

Obituaries have been posted in the Los Angeles Times, Christian News Wire, and Foursquare News Service. See also the Arrangements for the Memorial Service with addresses to send memorial contributions.

Posted by Glenn Gohr

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Review: Maine Pentecostal history

Prevailing Westerlies

Prevailing Westerlies (The Pentecostal Heritage of Maine): The Story of How the Pentecostal Fire Spread from Topeka, Kansas to Houston — to Los Angeles — to Bangor, Maine, written by James E. Peters, researched by Patricia Pickard. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1988.

Prevailing Westerlies documents the early history of the Pentecostal movement in Maine. This 604-page book features hundreds of photographs, as well as accounts of Holy Ghost meetings and supernatural movings of God in tents, downtown missions, Bible schools, and street meetings in New England.

Read about firebrands preaching until the rafters rang. During one tent meeting, rain came down in buckets and water poured into the tent. One sister hollered, “Look out for my piano!” Pa Sweeney kept right on preaching and said, “It ain’t pianos we want to save—it is souls!” It will light a fire in your bones for the renewed move of God in your own life.

Prevailing Westerlies, importantly, recounts the breadth of the early Pentecostal revivals, which crossed the various divides. Stories about early believers — Trinitarian and Oneness, Assemblies of God and independent, male and female — are all included. Years of research yielded previously unpublished information about significant early Pentecostal leaders such as Mattie Crawford, Aimee Semple McPherson, the Crabtree family, and a host of others. This volume includes 34 interviews with people who recounted the early Pentecostal fire which entered Maine in 1907 and spread throughout the area. Includes comprehensive index.

The author, James Peters, served as pastor of Glad Tidings Church (Bangor, Maine), which was founded by Rev. Clifford A. Crabtree and the Davis Sisters. Patricia Pickard, who did the research for this volume, is former archivist for Zion Bible College (Haverhill, Massachusetts) and has authored numerous historical books and articles about New England and the Pentecostal movement.

Softcover, 604 pages, illustrated. $15 postpaid to U.S. addresses. Order from: Patricia Pickard, 144 Poplar Street, Bangor, ME 04401 (email: primrose301@msn.com)

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Review: Sister Aimee biography

Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America

Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, by Matthew Avery Sutton. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

One cannot help but wish to have been there, centrally seated in the first row of Angelus Temple’s lower balcony, to view the spectacle up close. Imagine the intensity of the moment, the palpable pangs of spiritual bliss, anguish, and surrender all around as Sister Aimee draws your seatmates into her fanciful world of biblical prophets and priests, heroes and villains. And what must it have been like to stand with thirty thousand others gathered at Los Angeles’ train station on that June day in 1926, cheering rapturously at the first sight of Sister Aimee after her return from a mysterious disappearance; or to sit nervously in the court room later that same year as she attempted to answer the mystery and defend herself against charges of conspiracy?

That such sentiments stir frequently when reading Matthew Sutton’s biography of Aimee Semple McPherson is tribute to his rare story-telling abilities. By pricking the emotions as much as intellectual curiosity, Sutton provides us with an opportunity to appreciate McPherson sympathetically as someone trying her best to negotiate the cultural opportunities, pitfalls, and blessings of her day. At the same time, he offers room to feel what it would have been like to be part of McPherson’s multitude of followers or cadre of critics. McPherson was, to say the least, a polarizing figure. All who encountered her during her lifetime thus seemed compelled to declare publicly their feelings of loyalty or loathing for the female evangelist.

Sutton asks us to suspend such judgment and instead carefully measure the intensity of these responses against the realities of the day–against the constantly expanding range of possibilities that seemed only to encourage Sister Aimee’s exploits, well meaning and successful, poorly conceived, or otherwise. Continue reading

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Review: My Journey


My Journey

My Journey: An Autobiography of Dr. Lula Baird, by Lula Baird. Turlock, CA: The Author, 2004.

Lula Baird is part of, to use Tom Brokaw’s words, “The Greatest Generation.” Lula — along with thousands of other mostly unheralded men and women who were born in the first two decades of the twentieth century — built the Assemblies of God. Born in 1908 in Utah to a family of Mormon lineage, few could have imagined that Lula Ashmore Baird would serve as a leader in the emerging Pentecostal movement. But she did — serving as an Assemblies of God missionary and pastor to the Chinese people in Asia, Cuba, and the United States. Continue reading

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“Sister Aimee” documentary airs on PBS

[splashcast JWJV4127TN AMYE1023CD]

SplashCast with Flickr photos
Produced by iFPHC

After months of diligent research, organizing the story line, and working with a film crew, Public Television’s national broadcast of “Sister Aimee” is less than two weeks away. This film, written, produced and directed by Linda Garmon, is part of the American Experience series. It will air on PBS stations nationwide on Monday, April 2 at 9 p.m. in most markets.

A PBS website for the film includes a synopsis of the film, a gallery of photos, interview excerpts, and other features.

About a year and a half ago the FPHC learned of this upcoming documentary on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson. It is based on the book Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America by Matthew Avery Sutton (Harvard University Press, 2007). A review of Matthew Sutton’s book on Aimee can be found at the Harvard University Press website.

Linda Garmon, a producer with WGBH TV (Boston), first contacted us and came to Springfield, Missouri to do research at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in December 2005. For two days she pored over a large number of newspaper clippings, books by and about “Sister Aimee,” issues of the Bridal Call and the Foursquare Crusader, as well as a number of tracts, photographs, and miscellaneous items relating to the popular yet controversial, charismatic Pentecostal evangelist.

During the course of this project, Garmon and her staff interviewed Aimee’s biographers and noted religious scholars to better present the complex and revealing portrait of one of the most significant religious figures of the early twentieth century. These interviews and insights are part of the film. Garmon’s staff also visited Angelus Temple and the archives of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Los Angeles as well as other repositories.

While at the FPHC, Garmon was especially intrigued by any possible documentation or theories surrounding the disappearance of Aimee in 1926. And to flesh out a broader picture of Pentecostalism, she also studied primary source materials relating to the Azusa Street revival and other early Pentecostal events. According to Garmon, “Aimee was equal parts evangelist, movie star and social activist. She offered a brand of old time religion that people could connect with at a time when Americans were craving something to hold onto.”

A favorable review of the film and comments by Foursquare President Jack Hayford are included in Foursquare News Service #279.

Be sure to watch this first-class documentary!

To view the photoset of Aimee Semple McPherson at Flickr click on the link below:
Flickr Photoset

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Posted by Glenn Gohr

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Review: The Old Path to Peace


The Old Path to Peace
The Old Path to Peace: A Cruger Family Journey, by Carolyn Cruger Williams. Enumclaw, WA: Pleasant Word, 2003.

This well-documented family history contains a treasure trove of information about early Pentecostals in Spokane, Washington, including stories of John G. Lake, Aimee Semple McPherson, the Philadelphian Church, and Bernard Hebden.

Paperback, 438 pages, illustrated. $22.99 retail. Order from: Amazon.com

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