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“The color line was washed away in the Blood.” – Frank Bartleman
Without a doubt, the United States has been the birthplace of the modern Pentecostal movement. As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to note that our history, the history of the Church, has been shaped by the contributions of countless Black believers. Here are a few remarkable men and women of color who helped forge the foundation of the modern pentecostal church.
Amanda Berry Smith
Born a slave in Maryland in 1837, Amanda Berry was the daughter of a slave who was able to buy his freedom and that of his wife and five children. The Berry family moved to Pennsylvania where their home became a station on the Underground Railroad. After her first husband was killed while serving in the African Regiments in the Civil War, Amanda remarried and moved to Philadelphia. There, she was born again, joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and received her call to preach. In 1869, she began preaching in churches and at Holiness camp meetings in New York and New Jersey, becoming a popular speaker to both black and white audiences. By the end of the decade, she was known as far north as Maine and as far south as Tennessee. Although she was not ordained or financially supported by the AME Church or any other organization, she became the first black woman to work as an international evangelist in 1878. She served for twelve years in England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and various African countries. She emerged as one of the A.M.E. Church’s most effective missionaries and one of the most remarkable preachers of the age. In the process, she opened the way for more black women to preach in the A.M.E. church.
Lucy F. Farrow
Lucy Farrow, niece of renowned black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, was serving as pastor of a holiness church in Houston in 1905 when Charles Parham engaged her to work as a governess in his home. She received the baptism of the Holy Spirit while working for his family. Farrow carried the Pentecostal embers back to Texas, on to Virginia, and later to Liberia. No evidence survives to tell us that she was a good preacher or a sound biblical expositor or even a caring pastor. But her aptitude for igniting the supernatural gifts among others was evident at a 1906 camp meeting near Houston when some 25 seekers stood lined up in a row in front of her. When Farrow “laid hands upon them…many began to speak in tongues at once.”
William Seymour
William Seymour’s connection to our Pentecostal roots began when he became the interim pastor at Lucy Farrow’s Houston church when she went to work for the Parham family. When she returned to Houston, she shared her testimony of speaking in tongues with Seymour who promptly left Texas to sit outside Parham’s all White Bible school classes in order to learn what the Word had to say about the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Seymour’s hunger grew, as did his zeal to see the Body of Christ united across racial barriers. Having received an invitation by a Black woman pastor to preach in Los Angeles, Seymour traveled west to preach his conviction that the Holy Spirit manifestation of tongues was a gift for all believers. Although not received well by his host, many embraced Seymour’s message and joined him in a warehouse on Azusa Street to pray for an outpouring of the Spirit. When members of the Azusa street church began speaking in tongues in April 1906, word of a one-eyed Black preacher and his message of love, unity in the faith, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit spread throughout the world. At Azusa, Blacks, Latinos, Whites, and others prayed and sang together, creating a dimension of spiritual unity and equality almost unprecedented for the time. It allowed men, women, and children to celebrate their unity in Christ and participate as led by the Spirit. Surely, William Seymour was not only a father of modern Pentecostalism, but also a pioneer who blazed the trail for racial unity in the modern day Body of Christ.
CH Mason
Charles Harrison Mason organized the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the United States, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), now based in Memphis, Tennessee. Born to former slaves, Mason grew up intending to be a minister. In 1897, when Mississippi Baptists ordered him to vacate his pulpit for the offense of preaching holiness doctrines (sanctification), Mason received permission to use an abandoned gin house for a revival. Like other early Pentecostals, he sought and later found a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit at the Azusa street revival. During a night of prayer at Azusa, Mason saw a vision. “When I opened my mouth to say glory, a flame touched my tongue which ran down in me. My language changed and no word could I speak in my own tongue.” Early Pentecostals recognized Mason’s special powers of discernment and saw him as supernaturally gifted. Mason said of his experience that the Holy Spirit through him “saved, sanctified and baptized thousands of souls of all colors and races.” Mason led the COGIC until his death in 1961.
As Pentecostalism spread, division arose along racial lines. The enemy forged his way into the church to bring separation. As the separation deepened through the segregated early 20th century, contributions of faith from Black American Christians became more and more obscured. It is our obligation to honor and celebrate these fathers and mothers in the faith. We give praise to our God for their lives, their sacrifice, and their great hope that the Church would one day “come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:13, NLT)
~ Linda Frederick

Comments on: "The Color Line Has Been Washed Away in the Blood" (5)

  1. […] The Color Line has been Washed Away in the Blood (1,297 views) […]

  2. The Celebration said:

    Reblogged this on The Celebration.

  3. Sadly, the Pentecostal movement’s early Spirit-led shattering of racial barriers lasted only as long as the earliest attempts to humanly organize what God was doing. My prayer is that some day we truly believe that we are one.

    • The Celebration said:

      @canadianclipper AMEN!!! That is our prayer here at The Celebration as well! We are blessed to be part of a local church whose mission is to see the elimination of racial barriers and all other forms of division in our area. It is always refreshing to know we are not alone!! Blessings to you!

  4. […] February is Black History Month, or so it seems. The only person that I’ve seen give any real call to it – biblioblogosphere or not (no, NBC’s lunch menu doesn’t count) is Dr. Gayle. As I was perusing the other blogosphere, I can across this post. […]

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