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Religion and Spirituality

The Edwardian era was an exciting time for Christianity in America. During the 1890s, a number of "Spirit-filled" revivals had already taken place across the country. In 1905, an African American minister named William Seymour began holding meetings where both black and white Christians worshipped together. Seymour's gatherings, which often culminated in widespread repentance, confession, praise, and an "outpouring of the Holy Spirit" (frequently accompanied by attendees breaking out in spiritual tongues), became so large that they soon moved to an abandoned warehouse building on Asuza Street in Los Angeles. Stirred by a passionate desire for interracial harmony, Seymour wrote, "No instrument that God can use is rejected on account of color or dress of lack of education. This is why God has built up the work [at Azusa]." At the Asuza Street Mission, Christians from many races, nationalities, and classes gathered in a time of tumultuous racial prejudice. Women were also given full equality in worship, releasing their talents and leadership. By May of 1906, the energetic revival meetings at the Apostolic Faith Mission at Asuza Street had attracted the attention of ministers from across the United States, as well as the secular news media. By January 1908, numerous missionaries from Asuza Street were commissioned and sent to Liberia, China, and Japan, while people came from all over the world came to attend services held three times each day. Despite the widespread attention, Seymour himself is remembered as a humble, soft-spoken and unassuming man whose heart always remained steadfastly on the Lord.

The movement also sparked intense scrutiny and criticism. Charles F. Parham, a pastor and leader of the Apostolic Faith movement in Texas, whose classes Seymour had attended and from whom Seymour had first learned about the working of the Holy Spirit, came to Asuza in 1906 seeking to claim his "rightful" leadership in the burgeoning movement. Repulsed by the display of interracial fellowship, Parham began preaching that God was "sick at his stomach." Parham's racially hostile efforts weakened the Asuza Street revival, which ended in 1909. After the movement ended, Seymour continued to pastor at the Azusa Street Mission, which remained interracial until the end. He died of a heart attack on September 28, 1922, although his congregation maintained that he died of a broken heart. Seymour is remembered for his dream that people of all colors would worship together, under the power of the Holy Spirit, during an era when racial hatred and strife persisted.