Spurling and Tomlinson: Between Azusa Street and Cleveland

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

The Forgotten Azusa Street Mission: The Place where the First Pentecostals Met

April 15, 2016 by  
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By Cecil M. Robeck, Jr.

For years, the building on Azusa Street has also been an enigma. Most people are familiar with the same three or four photographs that have been published and republished through the years. They show a rectangular, boxy, wood frame structure that was 40 feet by 60 feet and desperately in need of repair. Seymour began his meetings in the Mission on April 15, 1906. A work crew set up a pulpit made from a wooden box used for shipping shoes from the manufacturer to stores. The pulpit sat in the center of the room. A piece of cotton cloth covered its top. Osterberg built an altar with donated lumber that ran between two chairs. Space was left open for seekers. Bartleman sketched seating as nothing more than a few long planks set on nail kegs and a ragtag collection of old chairs.

What the new sources have revealed about the Mission, however, is fascinating. The people worshiped on the ground level — a dirt floor, on which straw and sawdust were scattered. The walls were never finished, but the people whitewashed the rough-cut lumber. Near the door hung a mailbox into which tithes and offerings were placed since they did not take offerings at the Mission. A sign greeted visitors with vivid green letters. It read “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” (Daniel 5:25, kjv), with its Ns written backwards and its Ss upside down. Men hung their hats on exposed overhead rafters where a single row of incandescent lights ran the length of the room.

These sources also reveal that the atmosphere within this crude building — without insulation or air conditioning, and teeming with perspiring bodies — was rank at best. As one writer put it, “It was necessary to stick one’s nose under the benches to get a breath of air.”
Several announced that the meetings were plagued by flies. “Swarms of flies,” wrote one reporter, “attracted by the vitiated atmosphere, buzzed throughout the room, and it was a continual fight for protection.”

A series of maps drawn by the Sanborn Insurance Company give a clear picture of the neighborhood. The 1888 map discloses that Azusa Street was originally Old Second Street. The street was never more than one block in length. It ended at a street paving company with piles of coal, along with heavy equipment. A small house, marked on the map by a “D” for domicile, sat on the front of the property with the address of 87. (See highlighted section.) A marble works business specializing in tombstones stood on the southeast corner of Azusa Street and San Pedro. Orange and grapefruit orchards surrounded the property. On the right of the map a Southern Pacific railroad spur is clearly visible. The City Directory indicates that the neighborhood was predominantly Jewish, though other names were mixed among them.

A second map of the property was published in 1894. Old Second Street had become Azusa Street, and the address had been changed to 312. The house had been moved further back on the property where it served as a parsonage. The dominant building at 312 Azusa Street was the Stevens African Methodist Episcopal Church. At the front of the building a series of tiny parallel lines on the map mark a staircase that stood at the north end of the building providing entry to the second floor, the original sanctuary.

The only known photograph of the church from this period shows three interesting features. First, it shows the original staircase. Second, and less obvious, the original roofline had a steep pitch. Third, three gothic style windows with tracery lines adorned the front wall.

By 1894, the citrus groves had largely disappeared. On the southern side they were replaced by lawn. The smell of orange blossoms and the serenity of the orchard were rapidly being replaced by the banging of railroad cars and the smell of new lumber. A growing number of boarding houses and small businesses, including canneries and laundries, were moving into the immediate area by this time. The property marked “YARD” on the map is the beginning of the lumberyard that soon came to dominate the area. The City Directory reveals fewer Jewish names, and more racial and ethnic diversity in the neighborhood, including African Americans, Germans, Scandinavians, and Japanese.

Stevens AME Church occupied the building at 312 Azusa Street until February 1904 when the congregation dedicated a new brick facility at the corner of 8th and Towne and changed their name to First AME Church. Before the congregation could decide what to do with the property on Azusa Street, however, an arsonist set the vacant church building on fire. The structure was greatly weakened, and the roof was completely destroyed. The congregation decided to turn the building into a tenement house. They subdivided the former second-floor sanctuary into several rooms separated by a long hallway that ran the length of the building. The stairs were removed from the front of the building and a rear stairwell was constructed, leaving the original entry hanging in space. The lower level was used to house horses and to store building supplies, including lumber and nails.

In 1906, a new Sanborn Map was published. (See 1906 map.) The building was marked with the words “Lodgings 2nd, Hall 1st, CHEAP.” The transition of the neighborhood had continued. The marble work still occupied the southeast corner of Azusa Street and San Pedro, but a livery and feed supply store now dominated the northeast corner. A growing lumberyard to the south and east of the property now replaced the once sprawling lawn. A Southern Pacific railroad spur curved through the lumberyard to service this business.

The Apostolic Faith, the newspaper of the Azusa Street Mission between September 1906 and June 1908, later referred to the nearby Russian community. Many of these recent immigrants were employed in the lumberyard. They were not Russian Orthodox Christians as one might guess; they were Molokans — “Milk drinkers.” This group had been influenced by some of the 16th-century Reformers. They did not accept the dairy fasts of the Orthodox Church. They were Trinitarians who strongly believed in the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit. Demos Shakarian, grandfather of the founder of Full Gospel Business Men’s International, was among these immigrants who were led to Los Angeles through a prophetic word given in 1855.

Henry McGowan, later an Assemblies of God pastor in Pasadena, was a member of the Holiness Church at the time. He was employed as a teamster. He timed his arrival at the nearby lumberyard so he could visit the Mission during its afternoon services.

This map suggests why some viewed the Mission as being in a slum. A better description would be an area of developing light industry.

In April 1906, when the people who had been meeting at the house at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street were forced to move, they found the building at 312 Azusa Street was for sale. The photograph below taken about the time that the congregation chose to move into the building shows the “For Sale” sign posted high on the east wall of the building, as well as the rear of the tombstone shop. Seymour, pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, and a few trusted friends met with the pastor of First AME Church and negotiated a lease for $8 a month.

An early photograph reveals what the 1906 version of the map indicates. The pitched roof had not been replaced. The building had a flat roof. The staircase that had stood at the front of the building had been removed.

In a sense, this building suited the Azusa Street faithful. They were not accustomed to luxury. They were willing to meet in the stable portion of the building. The upstairs could be used for prayer rooms, church offices, and a home for Pastor Seymour.

Articles of incorporation were filed with the state of California on March 9, 1907, and amended May 19, 1914. The church negotiated the purchase of the property for $15,000 with $4,000 down. It was given the necessary cash to retire the mortgage in 1908. The sale was recorded by the County of Los Angeles on April 12, 1908.

1888_MapA 1894 map 1906 map

110 Years ago, the Azusa Street Revival Began with a Fast

April 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

On April 6, 1906 William J. Seymour and the faithful few gathered with him at the Asberry house, decided to engage in a ten-day fast while waiting on the baptism in the Spirit. The first baptism with the Holy Spirit would occur just three days later. Seymour himself would be baptized on the sixth day of the fast and on the seventh, which was Good Friday, Seymour and his followers leased an abandoned church property at 312 Azusa Street and begin cleaning it up. Easter was on April 15, 1906 when they held their very first Pentecostal service at Azusa Street. The rest is history…

Azusa Street Chronology 110 Years Ago…

March 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research


FEBRUARY 1, 1906 During early February 1906, William J. Seymour receives an invitation from Mrs. Julia W. Hutchins to serve as pastor of the Holiness Church congregation she has founded in Los Angeles, California.


FEBRUARY 22, 1906 William J. Seymour arrives in Los Angeles, California

FEBRUARY 24, 1906 Seymour preaches his first sermon as pastor of the Holiness Church at 9th Street and Santa Fe Avenue. He continues preaching on Sunday, February 25; Tuesday, February 27; and Friday, March 2, while holding meetings at 3 p.m. each afternoon.

MARCH 4, 1906 Seymour is LOCKED OUT of the church



APRIL 6, 1906 The group at the Asburry house decides to engage in a 10-day fast while they pray for the baptism in the Spirit.


APRIL 12, 1906 William J. Seymour receives his baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaks in tongues.

APRIL 13, 1906 On Good Friday, Seymour and his friends lease the property at 312 Azusa Street and begin cleaning it up.



APRIL 18, 1906 At 5:48 a.m., San Francisco, California is rocked by an earthquake. During the next 4 days, the city burns. The first report on the Azusa Street Mission appears under the title, “Weird Babel of Tongues,” in the Los Angeles Daily Times. The Mission begins to grow.

APRIL 19, 1906 Los Angeles feels two earthquakes.


Speaking in Tongues in America Prior to the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 (Diamonds in the Rough-N-Ready Series)

March 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

The Azusa street revival swept the globe starting with California

January 1, 1901– The initial phenomenon of speaking in tongues occurred at Parham’s school in Topeka, Kansas

January 6, 1900 – Frank Sanford’s Shiloh school reported that “The gift of tongues has descended”

1896 – Over 100 people baptized in the Shaerer schoolhouse revival conducted by the Christian Union in the North Carolina mountains

1887 – People falling in trances and speaking in tongues were reported at Maria Etter’s revival meetings in Indiana

1874 – Speaking in tongues occurred during healing meetings reported in New York

1873 – William H. Doughty and the Gift People of Rhode Island spoke in tongues

1854 – V. P. Simmons and Robert Boyd reported tongue speaking during Moody’s meetings


September 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Research

Writing during the glow of the Azusa Street revival, V.P. Simmons claimed to have 42 years of personal exposure to those who spoke in tongues. Published in 1907 by Bridegroom’s Messenger and circulated as a tract, Simmons chronicled the history of Spirit baptism from Irenaeus (2nd century) up to and including a group from New England whom he personally observed manifesting tongues-speech as they continually partook of a spiritual baptism.1 Identified as Gift People or Gift Adventists, they were widely known for their involvement with spectacular charisms.Early Pentecostal periodicals reported that tongues-speech was known among these groups since the latter part of the 19th century. Some groups were said to number in the thousands.

William H. Doughty, who, by 1855, had spoken in tongues while in Maine, was counted among that number. Elder Doughty moved to Providence, Rhode Island, in 1873 and assumed leadership among those exercising the gifts of the Spirit.3 Doughty’s mantle was passed on to Elder R.B. Swan who, reacting to the Azusa Street revival, wrote a letter explaining that the Gift People in Rhode Island had experienced speaking in tongues as early as 1874–75. (See “The Work of the Spirit in Rhode Island.”) B.F. Lawrence followed Swan’s letter describing an independent account of a woman who spoke in tongues in New York, perhaps prior to 1874, a result of her contact with the Gift People.4 (See “A Wonderful Healing Among The Gift People.”)

Stanley H. Frodsham quotes Pastor Swan’s claim to having spoken in tongues in 1875. Swan speaks of great crowds drawn from five states and specifically mentions his wife — along with Amanda Doughty and an invalid hunchback who was instantly healed — among those who spoke in tongues during this time.

Simmons said that Swan’s group adopted the name “The Latter Rain” after the advent of the Pentecostal movement. Their activities extended throughout New England states, especially Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut, with the 1910 Latter Rain Convention held October 14–16 in Quakertown, Connecticut. Frank Bartleman frequently referred to joint speaking engagements with Swan, specifically recounting a 1907 tour that included a convention in Providence, Rhode Island, where he spoke 18 times.

Previously overlooked in related investigations is whether the Doughty family counted among the Gift People overlap with the Doughty who traveled with Frank Sandford. Lawrence attests that Swan’s circle included William H. Doughty’s daughter-in-law, Amanda Doughty, and her unnamed husband, an elder in the Providence congregation.8 Simmons says that William H. Doughty had two sons, the oldest, Frank, who was ordained. Could the unnamed brother of Frank be Edward Doughty, who at the end of the 19th century was part of Sandford’s entourage? So it seems.

Most of the groups named here have similar stories. For example, among the Fire-Baptized Holiness ranks was Daniel Awrey who had spoken in tongues in 1890 in Ohio. His residence was in Beniah, Tennessee, where an outbreak of speaking in tongues was reported in 1899. F.M. Britton wrote about people speaking in tongues in his Fire-Baptized revivals that predated the Azusa Street revival. Also, a revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina, in 1896, that gave the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) many of its early leaders reported an outburst of speaking in tongues among several of the adherents. Given the above accounts, there is some debate as to whether Parham first heard speaking in tongues while at Sandford’s Shiloh in Maine or while he was among Fire-Baptized enthusiasts.

• ST. HILDEGARD (1098-1179)
• ANTHONY OF PADUA (1195-1231)
• VINCENT FERRER (1350-1419)
• ST. COLETTE (1447)
• LOUIS BERTRAND (1526-1581)
• FRANCIS XAVIER (1506-1552)


  • 1855 V.P. SIMMONS
  • 1875 R.B. SWAN



Azusa Street Sermons: The Precious Atonement

September 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

azusa street pentecostal sermons 1 azusa street pentecostal sermons 2

Diamonds in the “Rough and Ready” (upcoming series)

July 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Featured, News

      1. Alive, alive! (A personal testimony)
      2. Church of God Primitivism
      3. Bulgarian Church of God
      4. J.W. Buckalew
      5. WAR ON THE SAINTS: Revival Dawn and the Baptism of the Spirit
      6. How Jezebel Killed One of the Greatest Revivals Ever
      7. Pentecostal Primitivism Preserved
      8. Why revival came? by Dr. Charles Conn
      9. Azusa Street Sermons, etc.


KMJ at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street in Memphis

June 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Our friends and long time ministry partners from the KMJ Praise Band have been invited to hold:


Join us in prayer to support them and make plans to be there if you are in the area, as they are preparing for this milestone in their ministry. Feel free to share the following poster information:



Doors at 11:30am
Show at 12:00pm
Free to the public, all ages are welcome

“Church on Beale” is a faith based concept for groups that may play music in their local churches but would like to reach out with their music to others. Seven groups are signed up to perform. Christian music has evolved over the years and the Hard Rock Cafe is giving some great musicians the opportunity to perform at their location in Memphis. From Southern Gospel to Rock Gospel this event will have quite a variety of, again, “faith based” music! This will be an uplifting event and, we involved in it, want to thank the Hard Rock Cafe for allowing us a venue for the many talented musicians to perform.


November 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, News

azusastreet2001An Eyewitness to Azusa Street

INTRODUCTION by Vinson Synan

Few events have affected modern church history as greatly as the famous Azusa Street revival of 1900-1909, which ushered into being the worldwide twentieth-century Pentecostal renewal. From this single revival has issued a movement which by 1980 numbers over 50,000,000 classical Pentecostals in uncounted churches and missions in practically every nation of the world. In addition to these Pentecostals, there are untold numbers of charismatics in every denomination who can trace at least part of their spiritual heritage to the Azusa Street meeting.


It was in Houston that a Southern black holiness preacher by the name of William J. Seymour joined Parham’s Bible school. Despite the Jim Crow segregation laws of the South, Seymour joined in the classes taught by Parham. Originally a Baptist, Seymour had entered the ranks of the holiness movement before 1905 and freely accepted Parham’s cardinal teachings which now included five points: justification, sanctification, baptism in the Holy Spirit with the “initial evidence” of speaking in other tongues, divine healing and the premillennial second coming of Christ.

Although Seymour accepted Parham’s teaching on tongue: (glossolalia), he did not receive the experience in Houston. The mantle of leadership in the fledgling pentecostal movement was soon to be transferred from Parham to Seymour, and the “place of blessing” from Houston to Los Angeles.

In 1906 Seymour received an invitation to preach in a black Nazarene church in Los Angeles pastored by a woman preacher, Reverend Mrs. Huchinson. When he arrived in Los Angeles in the spring of 1906, Seymour found a city of some 228,000 which was growing at a rate of 15 percent a year. Many strange religions and a multiplicity of denominations occupied the religious attentions of the city. Los Angeles was a melting-pot metropolis! with large numbers of Mexicans, Chinese, Russians, Greeks Japanese, Koreans, and Anglo-American inhabitants.

The religious life of the city was dominated by Joseph Smale, whose large First Baptist Church had been transformed into the, “New Testament Church” due to the effects of the Welsh revival which were being felt in Los Angeles at the time. Another important religious influence in the city was Phineas Bresee, who had founded the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in 1895 in an attempt to preserve the teaching of holiness which he felt was dying out in the Methodist Church, a denomination in which h had served as a leading minister for some thirty years.

Starting his work at the Peniel Mission in the very poorest section of the city, Bresee was repeating Wesley’s work of a earlier century in England by ministering to the disinherited of Los Angeles society. His Nazarene followers were rapidly becoming the largest holiness church in America.

In the black community, a rich social and religious life had developed during the last years of the century with numbers of Methodist, Baptist, and holiness churches located in the black community that centered around Bonnie Brae Street.

Without question, William J. Seymour was the central figure of the Azusa street revival and will always be remembered as the vessel chosen of the Lord to spark the worldwide Pentecost revival. Yet, little that he wrote has been preserved for posterity.

This fact is not to be despised, however, when one reflects that neither Socrates nor Jesus left a body of written works for future generations to read. Socrates had his Plato to record his dialogue while Jesus had the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, to leave a written record of His teachings. Seymour had his Frank Bartleman.


It was Bartleman’s diary and reports in the holiness press that constituted the most complete and reliable record of what occurred at Azusa Street. In later years, Bartleman gathered together his diary entries and articles written to various periodicals and published them in book form.

In this book, entitled “How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles,” one feels the excitement of the events at the old Azusa mission. From the beginning, Bartleman seemed to sense the historic significance of the Los Angeles Pentecost. From the first meeting he attended in April 1906, he felt that a “world wide revival” would be the result.

In many ways, Bartleman’s entire life had been spent in preparation for reporting the Azusa Street meeting. It is probable that without his reporting, the Pentecostal movement would not have spread so quickly and so far as it did. His journalism not only informed the world about the Pentecostal movement, but in a large measure also helped to form it.

Born in Rucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1871 to a German-born Roman Catholic father and an English-born Quaker mother, Bartleman grew up on a farm where his first job was that of following a plow. While he feared his stern father, he enjoyed a tender relationship with his mother. From his earliest days, he suffered from frail health. In his own words he was a “life-long semi-invalid” who “always lived with death looking over my shoulder.”

His conversion took place in October 1893 in the Baptist Temple in Philadelphia, pastored by the famous preacher Russell Conwell, author of the gospel of wealth classic, “Acres of Diamonds. After Conwell baptized the twenty-two-year-old Bartleman, he offered to pay the young man’s way through college. Bartleman refused, explaining that “I made my choice between a popular, paying pulpit and a humble walk of poverty and suffering. . . I choose the streets and slums for my pulpit.”

At the time he licensed to preach, by the Temple Baptist Church, he decided to “trust God” for his body. A lifelong devotion to the doctrine of divine healing followed. The desire to preach was overwhelming. “The Gospel was a fire in my bones that roared all the day,” wrote the young minister.

In 1897 Bartleman left the Baptist ministry and cast his lot with the holiness movement. Joining the Salvation Army, he spent a short time in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as a captain before disillusionment led him to leave the army. He later traveled to Chicago to attend the Moody Bible Institute.

Bartleman did not study long in Chicago, however. He had wandering feet. Soon he was on a “gospel wagon” making his first tour of the South. Here he befriended the blacks to the consternation of white Southerners. The wandering life occasionally depressed him. On a second tour of the South in 1899 he became so despondent that he once actually contemplated suicide. Later, though, he felt well enough to contemplate matrimony.

In 1900 he married a Miss Ladd, matron of a school for fallen girls in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also experienced his first spiritual manifestation of “shouting and jumping,” although before this he had led a life of a “rather monkish tendency.”

Soon after marriage, Bartleman was ordained in Philadelphia “in pentecostal connection,” a term which he fails to further explain. This group was probably one of the small holiness groups of the day, who found it popular to use the word “pentecostal” in their name in reference to the second blessing of sanctification through the baptism in the Holy Ghost (without any reference to glossolalia).

Near the time of his marriage he joined the Wesleyan Methodist Church and was assigned a pastorate in Corry, Pennsylvania. This pastorate was an unhappy experience for Bartleman, since he found the church to be “not even spiritual” and, in his judgment, a “backslidden holiness charge.”

In this period, Bartleman was subject to several more mystic experiences in addition to his shouting and jumping of a few months earlier. In a camp meeting he felt “electric shocks” to the point that he fell unconscious. Later after his horse was healed in answer to prayer, Satan attacked him in his room at night “to destroy me.” The name of Jesus put Satan to flight. Also, after miraculous healing, he was “slain in the Spirit” for one-half hour before a congregation where he had been preaching.

When his father-in-law invited him to join the Methodist Episcopal Conference in New York Bartleman refused. While the Methodist Church was moving away from emotional and expressive holiness religion in this period, Bartleman was moving in the opposite direction. He branded the Methodist Church as being “dead and compromised.”

After leaving the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Pennsylvania, Bartleman set his sights on the West. Working at odd jobs, he led his wife and newly born daughter, Esther, on a trip to Colorado, with California as his eventual goal.

In Denver, he went to work with Alma White, head of the Pillar of Fire church, a small holiness group that specialized in the “holy dance.” It was here that Bartleman was “cured of ever worshipping a religious zeal or creed.”

While in Colorado, Bartleman continued the ministry that became his lifetime mission–work in slum areas among alcoholic and fallen girls. Most of this work was done in the holiness rescue missions that were located in the central areas of the nation’s larger cities.

He also felt compelled to print and distribute tracts as part of his ministry. In addition to tracts, Bartleman often painted Scriptures on bridges, rocks beside the highways, or other public places. Because of these activities he occasionally ran afoul of the law. In 1902 he was arrested in Boulder, Colorado, for painting Scriptures on canyon walls near the city. Beyond these activities the indefatigable evangelist felt led to preach in every saloon and house of prostitution in every city he visited. In Denver that included over a hundred saloons.

It was in 1904 that Bartleman finally reached his goal, California, where he exclaimed, “Here we reached paradise.” His first stop was in Sacramento, where he was immediately placed in charge of the Peniel Mission, a holiness rescue mission in the heart of the city. His work at Peniel failed “because of incompetent workers” and the aggressive proselyting of the rival Burning Bush and Pillar of Fire missions.

After leaving the Peniel Mission, Bartleman frantically tried to reenter the pastoral ministry. An attempt to gain an appointment in the Wesleyan Methodist Church failed, as did an application to Phineas Bresee for a Nazarene pastorate. “None available” was the word from Bresee.

The desperate Bartleman turned to whatever odd jobs he could obtain-painting, picking apples, cutting wood, etc. Things got so bad that their second baby was born in a rescue home. The leaders of the home refused to let the hapless evangelist stay with his wife and baby. Later his wife was reduced to scrounging for food in garbage cans. They could not afford proper clothing, their feet wearing through the soles of their shoes.
By December 1904, Bartleman left Sacramento for Los Angeles, where he was destined to record some of the most stirring events in the history of the church. “The Spirit had led us to Los Angeles for the ‘Latter Rain’ outpouring,” he later wrote in the end of his autobiographical book, “From Plough to Pulpit–From Maine to California.

In Los Angeles, Bartleman went immediately to the Peniel Mission on South Main Street, which was founded and operated by Mrs. Manie Ferguson, author of the hymn “Blessed Quietness.” (P.F. Bresee worked on the Peniel staff before founding the Church of the Nazarene in 1895).

For Bartleman, hardship and tragedy awaited him in Los Angeles. Poverty, sickness, and the death of his oldest child, “Queen Esther,” in January, 1905, left the hapless preacher and his wife grief-stricken but more determined than ever to fulfill their ministry in the “city of the angels.”

Throughout 1905 Bartleman worked with the various holiness churches and missions in the Los Angeles area. But many of the holiness churches had become rigid and negative to any new winds of revival that might begin to blow. In a warning to them, Bartleman confided in his diary “some holiness churches [foremost at that time are going to be surprised to find God passing them by. He will work in channels where they will yield to Him. They must humble themselves for Him to come.”

Indeed the greatest signs of revival in Los Angeles in 1905 were in Methodist and Baptist churches, in particular the Lake Avenue Methodist Church in Pasadena and Los Angeles’s First Baptist Church, pastored by Frank Smale.

The revival in Smale’s church was sparked by news of the great Welsh revival of 1904-05 led by Evan Roberts. A trip to Wales by Smale and an exchange of letters between Bartleman and Evan Roberts demonstrate a direct spiritual link between the move of God in Wales and the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles in 1906.

At this time also, Bartleman began to write articles for the holiness press. His reports from Los Angeles were printed primarily in the “Way of Faith” in Columbia, South Carolina, and “God’s Revivalist” published in Cincinnati, Ohio. From these influential periodicals Bartleman’s stories were republished for other holiness papers around the nation. By 1906 Bartleman had built a reputation in holiness circles as a reliable reporter whose articles emphasized the need of spiritual renewal among all Christians, but among holiness partisans in particular. He was thus in a strategic position to describe the spiritual climate of Los Angeles before the Azusa Street revival and to report the historic events after the Azusa Street meeting began in 1906.

The reports of the Azusa Street revival are contained in a book Bartleman published in 1925 entitled “How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles–As It Was in the Beginning.” This book was written several years after the events of 1906-1909 and was pieced together from the author’s diary and clippings from articles he had written for the holiness press.

In this book, Bartleman injects himself into the story as one of the prime movers of the Azusa Street events. While it is true that Bartleman helped establish the spiritual climate in which the pentecostal movement could flourish in Los Angeles, the crucial role was played by William J. Seymour, pastor of the Azusa Street Mission.

In 1906 Seymour had been invited to preach in a black Nazarene church in Los Angeles pastored by a “Mrs. Hutchinson.” When Seymour preached his first sermon, proclaiming the “initial evidence” theory of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he was locked out of the Nazarene church. The stranded preacher was then invited to stay in the home of Richard Asbury on Bonnie Brae Street until he could arrange his return to Houston. But Seymour was destined to spend the rest of his life in Los Angeles due to the tremendous revival that began shortly thereafter.

The theory that forced Seymour out of the Nazarene church was new to holiness circles in Los Angeles in 1906. Simply stated, it is that one cannot say that he has been “baptized in the Holy Spirit” without the “initial evidence” of speaking in tongues (as the church had done on the Day of Pentecost). This was an offensive and revolutionary teaching, since practically all Christians claimed to be baptized in the Spirit–evangelicals at the time of conversion and holiness people at the time of their “second blessing” or “entire sanctification.” The teaching of a glossolalia-attested Spirit baptism became the centerpiece of Pentecostal teaching, with Seymour as the apostle of the movement.

Although he had not yet spoken in tongues at the time he was locked out of the Nazarene church, Seymour did soon thereafter in the Asbury home. Home prayer meetings soon gave way to front-porch street meetings which drew hundreds of eager listeners to hear Seymour and his tongue-speaking followers. Soon the crowds became so large that larger quarters were needed for the fast-growing group.

A search of the downtown Los Angeles area turned up an abandoned old building on Azusa Street that had been used variously as a Methodist church, a stable, and a warehouse. In 1906 it was a shambles, but adequate for the band of Pentecostals who began holding services there in April of 1906.

Bartleman first attended services while the group was on Bonnie Brae Street and then followed Seymour to the premises on Azusa Street. The “Los Angeles Times” first reported the Azusa story in April of 1906. Calling tongues a “weird babel” and Seymour’s followers a “sect of fanatics,” the front-page Time’s article created curiosity and bigger crowds for the meeting. The “press wrote us up shamefully” declared Bartleman, “but that only drew more crowds. “The following is part of the Times report of April 18, 1906 (see Appendix A for the complete article).

Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand, the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles. Meetings are held in a tumble-down shack on Azusa Street, near San Pedro Street, and devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal.

Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve-racking [sic] attitude of prayer and supplication. They claim to have the “gift of tongues,” and to be able to comprehend the babel.

As the revival continued for three and one-half years at Azusa, services were held three times a day-morning, afternoon, and night. Tongues-speaking was the central attraction, but healing of the sick was not far behind. The walls were soon covered with the crutches and canes or those who were miraculously healed. The gift of tongues was soon followed by the gift of interpretation. As time passed Seymour and his followers claimed that all the gifts of the Spirit had been restored to the church.

It soon became apparent that Seymour was the leading personality in the Los Angeles Pentecost. He became pastor of the church and remained so until his death in 1923. Despite the fact that Seymour was black, many of his followers were white. Although at the beginning of the revival blacks predominated, at the height of the meetings whites constituted a majority. The mission later became predominantly black after the whites began organizing their own assemblies in the Los Angeles area after 1906. In regard to the racial situation, Bartleman exulted, “the color line has been washed away in the Blood.”

As the revival continued, it became apparent that Bartleman’s role would be that of reporter to the religious world about the Los Angeles Pentecost. His articles gained a wide audience across America and in other lands. Stories about Azusa Street in “Way of Faith, God’s Revivalist, and Christian Harvester” were passed from hand to hand.

In addition to Bartleman’s reports and the negative comments of the Los Angeles press, Seymour and his Azusa Street leaders began publication of their own paper, entitled “The Apostolic Faith.” It was sent free across the United States to any who desired it. The editor was a white woman who worked in the mission, Florence Crawford. The name was taken from Charles Parham’s Apostolic Faith movement.

The connection between Seymour and Parham was broken, however, in October 1906. Seymour had invited Parham, his “father in the gospel,” to preach in Azusa Street, but Parham’s negative messages and attempts to correct what he saw as abuses led to his expulsion from the church. From that time onward there was a complete rupture between Seymour and Parham that never was healed.

Nothing was able to stop the inexorable momentum of the renewal that issued forth from Azusa Street, however. “Pilgrims to Azusa” came from all parts of the United States, Canada and Europe. They in turn spread the fire in other places. From North Carolina came Gaston Sarnabus Cashwell of the Pentecostal Holiness Church. After a “crucifixion” over his racial attitudes, he asked the Azusa Street blacks to pray for him. According to his testimony, Cashwell received his baptism and “was soon speaking in the German tongue.” A few months afterward in a meeting in Dunn, North Carolina, and a preaching tour of the South, Cashwell led several southern holiness denominations into the Pentecostal fold (the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, The Church of God, the United Holy Church of America, and The Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church).

C.H. Mason, head of The Church of God in Christ of Memphis, Tennessee, came to Azusa in November 1906 and received the Pentecostal experience. After returning to his church, the majority of the Church of God in Christ was Pentecostalized. In Birmingham, Alabama, M.M. Pinson and H.G. Rodgers, future pillars in the Assemblies of God (organized in 1914), were baptized in the Holy Spirit under Cashwell’s ministry. When Florence Crawford moved to Portland, Oregon, she took the Azusa paper, “Apostolic Faith,” and made that the name for her new Pentecostal denomination.

From Azusa Street, the Pentecostal flame spread to Canada under R.E. McAlistier and A.H. Argue. The “Apostle of Pentecost” to Europe, T.B. Barratt, cancelled a planned trip to Azusa Street after receiving his Pentecost in New York City. Returning to Oslo, Norway, in 1906 he opened the first Pentecostal work in Europe. From his ministry the torch was passed to Sweden, Denmark, England, Germany, and France. Less directly the fire spread to Chile under the ministry of the American Methodist missionary Dr. W.C. Hooevr; to Brazil under the ministries of Daniel Berg and Gunnar Vingren; and to Russia and other Slavic nations under lvan Voronaeff, a Russian Baptist from New York City.

Thus within a short time the Azusa Street Pentecost became a worldwide move of the Holy Spirit. The five major teachings of Azusa Street served as a standard for this first wave of Pentecostals. They were: (1) justification by faith; (2) sanctification as a definite work of grace; (3) the baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in other tongues; (4) divine healing “as in the atonement”; and (5) the personal premillennial rapture of the saints at the second coming of Christ. Though many “winds of doctrine” blew at Azusa Street, Seymour and his followers continued to stress the above teachings throughout the years of the mission’s ministry.

In time, opinion in the religious world became bitterly divided over the Azusa Street revival. Although a significant proportion of the holiness movement accepted the Azusa revival as signaling the long-prayed-for Pentecost, the majority rejected Pentecostalism. The Fundamentalists rejected Pentecostalism and by 1928 had disfellowshiped all Pentecostals from their ranks. The vast majority of mainline Christians either knew little or nothing of the movement, or dismissed it as another heresy among the “holy rollers.”

After seventy-five years it is now possible to gain a better historical perspective concerning the Azusa Street revival. In the years from 1906 to 1909, during the height of the excitement, it was impossible for anyone to be objective about the events and the teachings at the mission. For those who were baptized in the Spirit and spoke in tongues, the meeting was a foretaste of a worldwide revival. For others who rejected Seymour’s teaching, the “winds of perdition” were blowing at the Azusa Street “slum” mission.

The storm of charges and countercharges that swirled around the controversial revival mission made little impression on Seymour and Bartleman. Though they recognized excesses and the occasional intrusion of spiritualists and mediums into the midst, they continued to see the revival as the beginning of a historic awakening. A prime feature of the services was the reading of reports from other cities, states, and nations where the revival was spreading. It was Bartleman’s opinion that the revival unleashed at Azusa Street would be “a world-wide one without doubt.”

While Bartleman extolled the historic dimensions of the new movement, there were others in Los Angeles who were not so sure. By December 1906, Dr. Phineas Bresee, founder of the Church of the Nazarene (known at that time as the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene) felt compelled to write an editorial in the Nazarene Messenger about the Azusa services. While Bresee lived in Los Angeles near the mission, there is no evidence that he ever attended services on Azusa Street.

In the article, entitled “The Gift of Tongues” (see Appendix C), he referred obliquely to the articles that Bartleman had already sent to the editors of eastern holiness periodicals:

But some parties who had the confidence of editors in the East sufficiently to secure the publication of what they have written, have given such marvelous statements of things as occurring in connection with this thing, that. . . we deem it wise to say a simple word.

Playing down the importance of the Azusa Street phenomenon in Los Angeles, Bresee stated:

Locally it is of small account, being insignificant both in numbers and influence. Instead of being the greatest movement of the times, as represented–in Los Angeles, at least–it is of small moment. It has had, and has now upon the religious life of the city, about as much influence as a pebble thrown into the sea. . .

In the end, Bresee felt that the Azusa Street Pentecostal bordered on fanaticism and heresy by teaching that

Christians are sanctified before they receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost, this baptism being a gift of power upon the sanctified life, and that the essential and necessary evidence of the baptism is the gift of speaking with new tongues, [which he called] a jargon, a senseless mumble. . . a poor mess.

As to the Azusa Street worshipers, the Nazarene leader stated:

There are more or less people whose experience is unsatisfactory, who have never been sanctified wholly, or have lost the precious work out of their hearts, who will run after the hope of exceptional or marvelous things, to their own further undoing.

It is obvious that the “marvelous statements” to which Bresee referred were those that Bartleman was circulating in the holiness press. His view that the movement had as much influence in Los Angeles as “a pebble thrown into the sea” was contradicted by the burgeoning growth of Pentecostal assemblies in the Los Angeles area and the explosive growth of Pentecostalism across the United States. In the end, Bartleman turned out to be a better prophet than Bresee.

Perhaps Bartleman’s prescience came as a result of his life and career prior to 1906. An acute observer, he wrote vividly about everything he saw, and was not averse at judging everything and everyone he saw. His life spanned many important events and turning points of American religious history.

When he joined the “new order of priests” as a Pentecostal, he had no theological problem in accepting the tongues-attested baptism in the Holy Spirit. When the “finished work” view of sanctification was preached by William Durham of Chicago, Bartleman stood at his side and gladly accepted his teachings. A few years later when the “oneness” movement appeared, Bartleman joined with Glenn Cook and Frank Ewart and was rebaptized “in Jesus’ name.”

After joining what the Trinitarian Pentecostals dubbed the “Jesus only” Pentecostal movement, Bartleman lost many friends and former contacts. No longer able to write for holiness or Pentecost periodicals, he lost influence in the movement and became largely isolated except for his “oneness” colleagues.

After the Azusa Street years, Bartleman continued his travels and wrote other books, notably “Two Years Mission Work in Europe. . .1912-1914. This book described his experiences during a round-the-world trip that was interrupted by World War I. His descriptions of Europe at the outbreak of the war and attempts to get home “through the war zone” make exciting reading indeed. But nothing he did during the rest of his life could rival the importance of his report on “how it was in the beginning” at Azusa Street.

In poor health to the end, the erstwhile evangelist spent his years in Los Angeles engaged in his first love-mission work. At the last, Bartleman refused to join any of the established Pentecostal denominations. He died as he had lived–an independent. Death came in September 1935 in his beloved Los Angeles.

In the years after 1906-1909, Seymour remained as pastor at Azusa Street. After his death, Seymour’s wife carried on services for a few more years until the mission was torn down in 1929. The hallowed old building was offered to the Assemblies of God in case they wished to maintain it as a Pentecostal shrine. The leaders of the church refused because they “were not interested in relics.”

As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Azusa Street revival is commemorated in 1981, it is possible to reflect on the importance of this watershed event in Christian history. By this year, there are estimates of the number of Pentecostals and Charismatics in the world that approach the 75,000,000 mark. That would mean that roughly 1,000,000 persons per year have accepted the premises of the Los Angeles Pentecost in the years since 1906.

Indeed, in 1981 Pentecost has come to Rome itself as millions of Catholic Pentecostals rejoiced in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In 1975 over 10,000 Catholics gathered in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome to celebrate the Pentecost season. In a memorable service, these charismatics rejoiced as Pope Paul VI gave his endorsement to the movement. At the climax of that service thousands spoke and sang in other tongues.

In 1978 a similar Pentecostal service was conducted in Canterbury Cathedral in England. About 2,000 Spirit-filled Anglicans and Episcopalians rejoiced in the Spirit as tongues and prophecies came forth in the venerable seat of the World Anglican Communion. Archbishop Coggin addressed the Conference and spoke in glowing terms of the renewal in England.

It is a long way from Azusa Street to St. Peters and Canterbury, but in 1981 it is apparent that Pentecost has come not only to Los Angeles, but to all the cities and nations of the world.

The last chapter of this book, entitled “A Plea For Unity,” sounds strangely relevant to those who are active in the present Pentecostal/Charismatic renewal movements. After experiencing a lifetime of sectarian strife and division, the more mature Bartleman concluded his book on Azusa Street with an ecumenical call for the unity of believers today,

for the “one body” that the prayer of Jesus may be answered, “that they all may be one, that the world may believe” . . . we belong to the whole body of Christ, both in heaven and in earth.

“We belong to the whole body of Christ” is a phrase that might well be applied to the band of worshipers who gathered together in the Azusa Street Mission in April of 1906. They never belonged to an organized denominational group. None of the larger Pentecostal denominations of today, such as the Assemblies of God or The Church of God in Christ, can lay an exclusive claim to the mission. It belongs to the whole body of Christ. Seymour cannot be claimed only by the blacks, or the Pentecostals; he belongs to the whole body of Christ–of all nations, races, and peoples. And the baptism in the Holy Spirit, with the accompanying gifts and graces does not belong only to the Pentecostals, but to the whole body of Christ–indeed unto “as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).

This introduction is reprinted from the book AZUSA STREET by Frank Bartleman, first published in 1925 (reprinted 1980). This book is still in print ISBN 0882704397.