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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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Church repents for attitudes toward former pastors

Wed, 20 Feb 2013 - 3:21 PM CST

Foot washing
Madison AG Pastor Peter Joudry washes the feet of Stephen Perry, who pastored the church from 1985-90 as well as 1995-2007.

When he applied for the job as lead pastor, Peter A. Joudry knew Madison (Indiana) Assembly of God (MAG) had a reputation for mistreating clergy during the past three decades. Nevertheless, Joudry soldiered on through a seven-month vetting process that included a dozen interviews before the congregation elected him in April 2011.

However, by the seventh month of his tenure, old, entrenched patterns began to resurface. By the ninth month, 40 percent of the 260-member congregation had left.

Soon afterward, Joudry invited the four men who had preceded him as pastor during the previous 30 years to a reconciliation weekend at the church.

Even though many of the members who had wounded the pastors no longer attend MAG, Joudry determined to apologize for the offenses committed against the leaders. As an act of contrition, Joudry and his wife, Ruth, washed the feet of pastors and their wives dating back to 1983: Don and Barb Fisher; Stephen and Patty Perry; Ron and Dorene Bontrager; and Chuck and Susie Lynch. Members of the congregation gathered around the guests amid tears and hugs.

Before the foot-washing ceremony, as the four former pastors and their spouses sat on the platform, Joudry led the congregation in prayers of confession and repentance.

"We needed this weekend because of the misdeeds and un-Christlike attitudes that were displayed by our congregation toward these men of God and their families," Joudry says. "They suffered greatly under a yoke of rebellion and control while being here. They left this body wounded and deeply distressed."

At the service, the sins the congregation repented of included gossip, assuming the worst about their pastors, sending the ministers anonymous letters containing un-Christlike comments, publicly maligning their pastors, and causing a strain on their health.

Even though he has been gone since becoming pastor of Lakeview Church in Indianapolis 18 years ago, Bontrager says he still knows three-fourths of the attendees at MAG. He said during his time in Madison he felt like a young, insecure hireling who had to toe the line.

"But all who remain there want to support the pastor; the spirit of control has been broken," Bontrager says. "The service was authentic, encouraging and extremely meaningful."

Joudry credits M. Wayne Benson, founder of Paraclete Ministries, with laying the groundwork for the reconciliation. Benson, who also took part in the ceremonies, served as MAG interim pastor before Joudry's arrival. Benson commended Joudry for his courage and conviction in organizing the event and urged the congregation to pledge their loyalty to Joudry.

The ceremony included a responsive reading by the congregation to resolve future problems in a biblical and Christ-like manner.

"What we do with rumors and accusations will help change the culture of the church," Joudry says.

Author: John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel

Keywords: AG churches

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