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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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Churches look to long-term response for traumatized Newtown

Mon, 07 Jan 2013 - 4:34 PM CST

Friday, December 14, is a date the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, will never forget. It is the date that the nearly 700 hundred children attending Sandy Hook Elementary School, their parents, siblings and extended family members and many in the community had their lives changed forever as 20 children and six adults lost their lives by the hand of a gunman who sought out the defenseless.

Philp and Alli Morgan
Pastor Philip Morgan and his wife, Alli.

According to Philip Morgan, pastor of First Assembly of God in nearby Brookfield, Connecticut, the impact of the shooting reached far beyond immediate families. "Indeed, there's no one in our city who doesn't have a connection in some way to the tragedy," Morgan says. "None of the shooting victims were from our immediate congregation, but almost immediately, connections began to appear."

As Morgan lists off some of the church members' connections, the impact area of the horrific act quickly broadens.

"Sandy cared for a young special needs girl, who she took to school late on Friday morning, just 10 minutes before the shooting - the little girl was killed," Morgan begins. "Bob was the dispatcher who took the first frantic 911 calls from the school; Meagan, a freshman college student, taught ballet to two of the girls who were killed; Pete manages a nearby Starbucks, one of his barista staff was a substitute teacher on Friday and was killed; we have several teachers in our congregation who have worked over the years with the Sandy Hook principal, who was killed; Paul, another teacher, works with a parent whose son was killed . . . ."

Morgan says that First Assembly, along with many other churches in the community, offered a prayer service that fateful Friday evening, with the church filling with the shocked, numbed and grieving, along with special services on Sunday. And Christmas, which typically arrives with an unlimited sense of happiness, joy and celebration - especially for children and families - came about with an overhanging sense of heaviness, and for some, fear and uncertainty.

"Sandy Hook is such a quiet little community," Morgan says. "Here the cliché, 'Never thought it would happen here,' really rings true. Of all the places, this really is the last place on earth to expect something like this. People have been processing disbelief for a long time. They're asking, 'Where was God?' and 'Why did He allow this to happen?'"

The Sunday following the tragedy, Morgan's sermon was entitled, "What in the world is God doing?" He explained to the hurting and still shocked audience that the Cross is the answer and sin is the problem. "Everyone was kind of numb," Morgan recalls. "People tried to make it as normal of a Christmas as possible, while victims' families were tucked away just trying to get through it as best they could."

Morgan says that the church had already planned 21 days of prayer and fasting to start the New Year, but now one of the focuses of prayer is the church's response to this crisis and those suffering due to the tragedy.

However, the evangelical community in the area is far from simply self-focused. With dozens of churches already part of an active and coordinated evangelical church fellowship, when tragedy struck, Morgan says they were able to come together quickly and begin a coordinated response.

"One of our members contacted churches who were involved in response in the Columbine and Virginia Tech tragedies to attain what to expect," Morgan says. "It was the same story - short term, the media was all over it and people were giving, but once the media spotlight went elsewhere . . . the real need is longer term."

With that in mind, the churches worked to develop a three- to five-year response effort, with the mission statement of: To create a long-term, proactive, integrated and planned response to the needs in the community following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, so that there is healing and Kingdom advancement.

One of the fist things the group did was set up the Sandy Hook Response Fund at a local bank.

"We want to be able to provide long-term counseling needs for victims," Morgan says. "We have two excellent, Christian counseling services in our area, and in addition to continued pastoral counseling for families, we want to offer professional counseling services as well."

Morgan is also quick to note that even if someone had no connection to this particular tragedy, there are plenty of individuals who can be impacted due to Post Traumatic Stress disorders.

"This is a trigger event," Morgan explains. "What happened here can bring up traumatic events that happened to people in their past - and their need for help can be just as great."

Morgan says that many in the community are still struggling to find answers. "Our message is that God didn't cause this," Morgan says. "This is the result of sin in the world and God is more grieved than anyone about it."

For churches and individuals outside of the area wanting to know how to help, Morgan says people can contact the church for additional information about contributing to the recovery fund.

However, Morgan's greatest request is simple. "Don't forget Newtown."

He urges churches and individuals to continue to prayer for families and long-term recovery.

"I ask people to specifically pray for the healing and recovery of the victims' families; the wider school community, students and staff; and the responders - the police and people who had to be there," Morgan says. "Also pray for the community itself. Just like somebody who had someone break into their home, that sense of violation, the city has that feeling of violation as well.

"In some ways, we almost want to get the door closed a little bit, so people can get on with their lives and their normal routine," Morgan continues. "But as I was talking with the wife of Bob, the dispatcher, she told me how you'll think you're doing okay, but then all of a sudden something will remind you of what happened, and all the emotions come flooding back . . . . "

Yet for Morgan and the churches he's working with, the answer to the problem is clear.

"The real answer - not just for Newtown or the city of Danbury, but for the nation - is revival," Morgan states. "We are desperate for an awakening and a spiritual move by God. These things are only symptomatic of the real problem - so we are praying for a real move of God across the land, and for it to start in New England as He has done it before."

For more information about Brookfield First Assembly or for contact information, see its website.

 

Keywords: AG churches
Authors: Dan Van Veen

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