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ELT and EP photo in Hot Springs
Holding a historic picture from the 1914 gathering in Hot Springs, current members of the Assemblies of God Executive Leadership Team and some Executive Presbyters pose in the same place as the original photo.

Approximately 300 people gathered in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on April 10-11, 2014, to celebrate the centennial of the Assemblies of God. Echoes of the statements from the founding general council, where another 300 ministers gathered in the same place exactly 100 years earlier, could be heard throughout the two-day event.

The centennial celebration, sponsored by the AGTrust, featured seven speakers and a night of gospel music and worship. The celebration concluded with a pilgrimage to the site of the former Grand Opera House, where the first general council was held, to re-create the iconic photograph of the founders of the Assemblies of God.

One hundred years ago, Hot Springs had a reputation as a wild town, known for its alcohol, prostitution, gangs and drugs. When the founders of the Assemblies of God met at the Hot Springs Grand Opera House for the first general council, they had to pass by the saloon at the front of the building in order to attend the meetings in the auditorium. The centennial celebration was held in a more sanctified setting — the spacious First Assembly of God, Hot Springs, Arkansas, pastored by Larry Burton.

The centennial celebration drew people from across the United States. Jean and Magalie Rebecca, a husband and wife who pastor Haitian Assembly of God, Dorchester, Massachusetts, were excited to be able to participate: "We grew up in the Assemblies of God in Haiti. The Assemblies of God is a worldwide family, and we wanted to represent Haitians in Hot Springs."

Attendees also included descendants of some of the participants in the first general council, held April 2-12, 1914. Bonnie Olsen, the granddaughter of founding Assemblies of God minister Oliver P. Brann, felt right at home. She commented, "I experienced faith-filled services and the power of God this week. I wish I could experience this every day!"

General Superintendent George O. Wood opened the celebration on Thursday by recounting the five reasons for the formation of the Assemblies of God as enumerated in the century-old "Call to Hot Springs." Each speaker continued in this vein, expounding on why the founding principles of the Assemblies of God remain compelling today. Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions, shared about the heritage of missionaries who suffered, sometimes unto death, to bring the gospel around the world. Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison preached on the bedrock importance of the Word of God.

Hot Springs prayer
Many men and women came forward for healing during the centennial service held at First Assembly of God in Hot Springs.

True to Pentecostal form, the afternoon service included an extended time at the altar. Hundreds of voices were raised in fervent prayer, and people flooded the altars and aisles in the church. Following a time of prayer for specific areas of ministry, Garrison asked those present in need of healing to come forward for prayer. Vocal spiritual gifts were manifested, and several people later testified of physical healings.

Wilfredo de Jesús, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, Chicago, Illinois, encouraged those who are carrying on the Pentecostal legacy to fight complacency in their spiritual lives. "It is essential to build a bridge," he asserted, "so that the younger generation can learn about the power of the Holy Spirit from the older generation." He illustrated this principle with the biblical example of Elijah, the older prophet, who discipled Elisha, the younger prophet. De Jesús pointedly observed, "Elijah and Elisha were from different generations, but they walked together."

Thursday evening, gospel musicians Johnny Minick and Russ Taff led participants in three hours of rousing worship. The music included songs from each decade of the last 100 years. About 40 people - including Wood and Garrison — even participated in a Jericho March, which is a spirited procession around the church in a single file during the worship service. The practice originated in Kentucky Presbyterian camp meetings during the Second Great Awakening and had been adopted by some early Pentecostals.

On Friday morning, three younger ministers spoke — Rod Loy (First Assembly, North Little Rock, Arkansas), Rob Ketterling (River Valley Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota) and Aaron Cole (Life Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin). They described how Assemblies of God founding ideals are being carried out today and also envisioned the future of the Fellowship.

Following the Footsteps of the AG Founding Members
Attendees of the centennial event make their way up to where the iconic "photo of 300" of the original founders of the Assemblies of God was taken in 1914. Once there, a new centennial photo was taken in the exact same place, re-creating the century-old photo.

The celebration culminated in a pilgrimage to the site where the Hot Springs Grand Opera House once stood. The 300 attendees viewed the new historic marker in honor of the Assemblies of God centennial, which was placed in the sidewalk near Mountain Valley Spring Company, located at 150 Central Avenue. They proceeded to climb the winding trail behind the site of the former Grand Opera House until they reached a small clearing where the iconic photograph from the first general council had been taken.

J. Don George, an Assemblies of God senior statesman and founding pastor of Calvary Church, Irving, Texas, called the centennial event in Hot Springs "a historic occasion that will be long remembered." He noted that the event was relatively small in comparison to the larger centennial celebration slated to be held in Springfield, Missouri, on August 5-10, 2014, in conjunction with the World Assemblies of God Congress. "As a movement we are called to generational, gender, cultural and racial diversity," George stated. When thousands of visitors from across the United States and the world descend on Springfield in August, this diversity will be on full display.

Commemorative Plaque
A historic marker, indicating the historic location of the site of the founding convention of the Assemblies of God, was placed in the sidewalk on Central Avenue in Hot Springs.

The men and women who met in Hot Springs 100 years ago laid a foundation for a cooperative Fellowship that would help Pentecostals to more effectively evangelize the world. One hundred years later, the Assemblies of God has more than 3.1 million adherents in the United States and more than 66 million worldwide.

The centennial gathering offered both a celebration of the past century and a vision for the future. According to George O. Wood, the Assemblies of God, throughout its history, "has been marked by purpose and passion." He explained, "Our purpose is embedded in our doctrine, mission, values and strategies. Our passion comes from the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to empower us to do the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen." Wood predicted, "The future for the Assemblies of God is truly as bright as the promises of God."

 

 


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AG churches spared as tornadoes tear through Midwest, South

Mon, 05 Mar 2012 - 4:23 PM CST

In a week filled with severe weather, multiple communities in the Midwest and South were devastated by powerful tornadoes that left death and destruction in their wake.

According to reports, more than three dozen people have died and hundreds have been injured due to the tornado outbreaks, which began last week in Kansas and Missouri and then continued into Illinois, with a another tornado-generating weather system striking farther east later in the week, from Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky to Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

Yet despite several communities being "wiped out," AG districts are so far reporting that no AG churches have reported any significant damage. In some cases, district leaders are sharing remarkable stories.

Kentucky District Superintendent Joe Girdler reports that they have communities that are "hardly there" anymore. Yet, he's been told of two instances where a tornado either went around or over the top of churches, sparing them any damage, while buildings around them were destroyed.

"We have churches already bringing in food and water into hard-hit areas, with many others standing by with work teams ready to roll," Girdler says. "At this point, we know of no AG churches or pastors' homes that have been damaged, but there are some communities that we have not heard from [as phone service is down]."

The Ohio District reports a similar experience as in Kentucky. The River of Life (AG) in Moscow, Ohio, was at the center of the storm, but wasn't damaged while everything around it was. The church now serves as command central for volunteers and supplies.

First Assembly of God in Dallas, Georgia, was able to respond to the needs in its tornado-torn community as well. The previous night, the church had prepared soup and sandwiches to do ministry in Atlanta, but when the tornado hit, plans were changed and they were able to provide food and water to workers and families in the area.

According to the Illinois District Office, churches are responding to the tornado that nearly wiped out the community of Harrisburg. Abundant Life Assembly in nearby Marion has been providing food and water, and has offered their facility to use as a storehouse for supplies. Other churches are also offering work crews when officials permit them in.

In addition to church response, the Convoy of Hope is also present in multiple locations. "As the most recent tornadoes were touching down, we had trucks - full of food, water and emergency supplies - on the road headed to areas that forecasters projected to be hit," Karen Benson, director of Global disaster Response for Convoy of Hope, says.  "As soon as we get the green light from local officials, we will begin setting up mobile distribution sites and dispatching debris removal teams."

As Kentucky's Joe Girdler said, "there are many churches, too many to name them all, that have opened their doors and are responding to the need." The same could be said in most if not all the districts where tornadoes struck. Although there have been no reports of AG churches hit by the tornadoes, AG members and their extended families and communities have suffered deep losses - and churches are doing their best to provide compassionate care for victims and workers.

 

Keywords: AG churches
Authors: Dan Van Veen

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