In 2006 many celebrated 100 years since the beginning of a spiritual moved that begun because of a black man named William Seymour. Born in 1870, Seymour was converted in 1891 in Indianapolis during a trek across America. Within the churches he associated with were preached holiness, healing and the second coming of Christ – these shaped his mark in history.
Not long later he came down with a severe case of smallpox which scarred his face and left him blind in one eye. This was the moment that he accepted God’s call upon his life. In 1905 he had his first opportunity and temporarily pastored a church in Houston. It was there that he heard news of a group in Topeka, KS led by Charles F Parnham who taught in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Parnham, the founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement, was the instructor of this small school. In was in 1900 that he possed a question to his students, “what is the first evidence that you have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” From their studies they concluded that it was speaking in tongues. The assembled a prayer meeting on December 31, 1900 and just past midnight of January 1, 1901 a young lady began to experience what they called tongues.
Later that year of 1905 Parnham moved to Houston where he opened a short term Bible School much like the one in Topeka. Seymour enrolled in the school which focused on prayer, fasting, Bible study and evangelistic outreach. Although it would be a few years later before his personal experience, he was convinced that tongues was the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He took opportunity as often as possible to preach beside Parnham.
Later that year Seymour felt God’s call upon him to go to California upon an invitation to speak in Los Angeles. He arrived in February of 1906. He began to preach his pentecostal doctrine and was thus locked out of the church. He was then invited to speak to prayer group meeting in a house. They had been praying for revival.
One evening the owner of the house, Edward Lee, began to speak in tongues and many followed. People were falling to the floor, some falling into a trance for more than five hours. One neighbor, Jennie Evens Moore, played the piano, although she had never played in her life. She later became Seymour’s wife. Over the next few days hundreds stood in the streets as Seymour preached from the porch.
Seymour felt God calling him to go to California. Those at the school helped raise the money for his journey and sent him with God’s blessing expecting him to return in about a month.
It was on the third day of these meetings, April 12, that Seymour himself finally received this same experience at 4 in the morning after an all night prayer.
So many were filling the street that they began to search for another meeting place. A building had been secured at 312 Azusa Street. It was very rustic. Two wooden crates were stacked to create a pulpit in the middle of the building and the seats were set in a square around the pulpit. Starting with 100 people, it did not take long for them to have 1200 with not more room to stand. That summer, in just one service, they baptized around 500 new converts of all different nations represented.
There was an upstairs room designated as the prayer foom where many met, seaking to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and for healing.
For the next three years the meetings continued without a break. It was one continuous service, the building never empty.
From Seymours ministry at Azusa the Pentecostal work was established in 50 countries.
Whether you agree with his doctrine or not, he made quite a mark around the world.