Program Particulars: Reviving Sister Aimee

Program Particulars

(1:25) First Woman to Receive FCC License

Aimee Semple McPherson was a media pioneer who embraced the new technology of radio during her ministry to expand her influence and build her national reputation. Demonstrating her fundraising skills by appealing to donors to give in order to bring men and women into God's kingdom, she raised $25,000 to build a 500-watt station, KFSG (Kall Four Square Gospel), that went on the air in February 1924.

Aimee Semple McPherson once said the appeal of radio presented "most unheard of opportunity for converting the world, and of reaching the largest possible number of people in the shortest possible time." She also paid tribute to the broad reach of the airwaves in "The Cathedral of the Air":

The Cathedral of the Air am I, The church with no boundary line. And under my broad, canopied expanse I house the sons of men — The black, the white, the yellow; The brown and red man, too. Brothers all sit side by side In the church with no color line. The rich and the poor, the old and the young, The sad and the gay of heart, the strong and the weak,

the sick and the well,

All worship at my shrine.

(2:00) Modern Pentecostalism Movement

Pentecostalism is the largest and most influential religious movement ever to originate in the United States. In less than a century, it has grown to hundreds of millions of adherents. The New York Times reports that 25 percent of Christians worldwide are Pentecostal. The word "Pentecost" is taken from an ancient Jewish observance. The New Testament says that it was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended on the early Christians for the first time. Pentecostalism stresses direct relationship and communication with God, which may be manifest in spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, healing, teaching, prophecy, and preaching.

The first modern Pentecostal was a woman, Agnes Ozman. She spoke in tongues on the first day of the 20th century at the original Pentecostal community in Topeka, Kansas. Then in 1906, an African-American preacher, William Joseph Seymour, led what became known as the Azusa Street Revival in downtown Los Angeles. This unprecedented gathering of people from every class and race lasted for three years. From there, Pentecostalism began to spread across the world.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Pentecostal charismatic movement washed across denominational lines and barriers. Widely reported occasions of speaking in tongues and spiritual healing spread from an Episcopal church in California through Ivy League campuses and into the global Roman Catholic Church, as well as every major Protestant denomination. Today, Pentecostalism is pan-denominational. There are charismatic Catholics and Lutherans. There are unaffiliated Pentecostal communities, and there are established Pentecostal traditions, most prominently the Assemblies of God. Here, read Dr. Vinson Synan's concise overview on the history of Pentecostalism, including its roots in 19th century Methodist and Holiness traditions.

Grant McClung's article in Christianity Today cites a three-volume study — published as the World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trend — by David Barrett and Todd Johnson. They estimate that there are more than 580 million Pentecostals. With that number growing by 19 million per year, adherents will reach the one billion mark by 2025 with expansion most prominent in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pentecostalism has more than 100 denominations and its adherents speak more than 8,000 languages; two-thirds live in the non-Western world.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has been exploring the growth and impact of Pentecostalism in recent studies, including an October 2006 survey titled "Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals". In April 2006, On Being explored the origins and impact of Pentecostal Christianity from Azusa Street in Los Angeles during the centennial celebration of the birth of the modern movement.

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(2:56) Music Element

"I've Got a Home For You" from The Great Gospel Men: 27 Classic Performances by The Greatest Gospel Men, performed by Norsalus Mckissick


(3:25) The Azusa Street Revival

The founding figure of the modern Pentecostal movement was an African-American son of slaves, William J. Seymour. He attended the Reverend Charles Parham's pioneering classes on baptism and the Holy Spirit, though he had to sit in the hallway because he was black. In 1906, William Seymour accepted a call to Los Angeles, and he soon began to draw a vast sweep of humanity to what became known as the Azusa Street Revival. As the Los Angeles Herald described it at the time with some scorn, "All classes of people gathered in the temple last night. There were all ages, sexes, colors, nationalities and previous conditions of servitude." This unprecedented gathering of people from every class and race lasted for three years. From there, Pentecostalism began to spread across the world. To learn more about this pivotal moment in Pentecostal history, listen to the On Being program "A Spiritual Tidal Wave: The Origins and Impact of Pentecostalism."

(4:08) The Church of God in Christ

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) was started by an African-American bishop who was expelled from his Baptist church for his views and teachings of salvation, sanctification, and holiness. The church has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1907. According to its official website, it is the fourth largest Protestant tradition in the U.S. with churches in 60 countries worldwide and a membership of nearly 6.5 million members.

(4:50) 1907: "Feeling Cold and Far From God"

In December 1907, Aimee was riding home from school with her father when she saw a sign in a storefront window advertising a Pentecostal revival. She had heard about these meetings where people reportedly fell on the floor in worship and spoke in unfamiliar languages. She convinced her father to take her to a meeting the next night. Epstein writes in Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson:

"She was amused to see the milkman and the dry-cleaner with their hands lifted, singing hymns enthusiastically. She also noticed that none of the wealthy or well-known citizens of Ingersoll appeared in this lively middle-class congregation. They sang and prayed and shouted testimony with a freedom she had only seen, from time to time, in the Salvation Army barracks up the street. On one side of the room was an 'Amen corner' and on the other was a 'Hallelujah echo.' Aimee thought this was a splendid show."

Amused and intrigued, Aimee was about to leave when a tall man took the platform and began reading from Acts 2. "His ringing words shook the very soul" she wrote in In the Service of the King. "He went on to enumerate the very things I had been doing — dancing, theater going, professing Christianity and not living it, trying to explain away the Bible. It was as though he deliberately pictured my own life attitude. In the middle of his sermon this fiery young evangelist suddenly lifted his hands and began speaking as the Spirit gave him utterance. To what can one liken it? It was like a shaft of light shooting through the darkness… from that moment to this I have never doubted there was a God and that He spoke to my heart that day telling me that I was a poor, miserable sinner and if I did not repent I would be lost."

She writes that after three days of contemplating her "real conviction of sin and of my need of God" that "light streamed over my soul" and she made a firm commitment of faith. "I have never done anything half-heartedly. Some people go through life always undecided, always neutral; but from the time I was a tiny child whatever I did, I did with my whole heart."

(5:44) The Charismatic Preacher

Aimee Semple McPherson first heard Robert Semple preach at her first revival meeting. Eight months later they married and she started evangelistic work with him. In 1910, they traveled to Hong Kong determined to serve as missionaries. They preached and converted, but two months after their arrival Robert Semple contracted malaria and died. At that time, Aimee was eight months pregnant, alone, and without any financial resources. She remained in Hong Kong for the birth of her daughter, Roberta, and then returned to the U.S. and began work at The Salvation Army in New York City. Biographers describe McPherson's time in China as "unsettling" as she struggled with life in a foreign culture.

(6:57) Husband #2: Harold McPherson

Aimee Semple married Harold McPherson in 1912. They moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and soon bore a second child, Rolf. She tried to dutifully fulfill the more traditional roles of wife, mother, and homemaker, but struggled to find meaning in domestic life. She became ill and had a series of surgeries. She would recount later how in a hospital bed "the light of her life" was fading when she heard a voice she believed to be the voice of God say "Now will you go?"

She decided then she had to return to ministry. She took her children to Canada, and in a telegram to Herald said, "I have tried to walk your way and have failed. Won't you come now and walk my way? I am sure we will be happy. After initial resistance, Harold did try, and he joined Aimee to travel the country in "The Gospel Car," ministering together at tent revivals that brought the Pentecostal message to thousands and brought growing prominence to its energized preacher. Eventually, though, the difficult evangelistic activity and differing priorities took its toll on their marriage. Harold left in 1918, and they quietly divorced in 1921.

(8:10) The Bridal Call

In 1917, Aimee Semple McPherson started a monthly magazine titled The Bridal Call. She wrote articles about her teachings and to solidify her growing constituency. Blumhofer writes in her biography: "Its title stressed her emphasis on the second coming. Taken from the New Testament parable about ten virgins who awaited the call that would announce the arrival of the bridegroom for a marriage ceremony, the title Bridal Call captured Aimee's early sense of mission: she devoted herself to heralding the imminent arrival of Christ, the bridegroom of the church…. The marriage metaphor played a significant role in shaping Aimee's understanding of Christianity…. Despite the difficulties in her own marriage — Harold's vacillation between ministry and secular employment, her own inability to thrive in the conventional roles of wife and mother — she seemed obsessed with the typological possibilities of marriage even as the fulfillment she described eluded her personally."

(09:04) Actuality of Sermon at Angelus Temple

The audio clip is excerpted from the sermon "God Goes to Washington" delivered by Aimee Semple McPherson at Angelus Temple in December 1939 and broadcast on its radio station, KFSG. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, another Los Angeles radio station recorded Aimee Semple McPherson's sermons through the radio as they were broadcast on KFSG.

"The U.S. with its freedom to preach the gospel, no one to tell us what we can broadcast, or print, or publish. Thank God we have a chance to keep the light burning. Amen"

(10:36) Ku Klux Klan Gives Money

Detailing the sometimes contradictory nature of Aimee Semple McPherson's ministry, biographer Edith Blumhofer details two instances where McPherson accepted money from members of the Ku Klux Klan:

"The same frank trust in human nature that inclined Sister to extend a helping hand to any and all — black or Hispanic, poor or rich, male or female — and that made it difficult for her to anticipate gossip makes her occasional contacts with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s intriguing. The evidence suggests that, while she was in general agreement with some of the Klan's program — especially their commitment to social purity – she did not share their racist assumptions…. When she stood among hundreds of eerily silent robed and hooded men on their turf, though she knew she was safe as a woman, she avoided confrontation and preached generally about honesty and faithfulness. When they came to her turf, however, she took a different approach."

Blumhofer describes an incident at Angelus Temple when Klansmen marched in at the beginning of a service. As people intuitively gave up their seats, Aimee announced a change in that evening's sermon. She told a story about an old farmer who was excluded from a church because he was African American. The distraught man sat outside the church and was approached by a stranger. He heard comforting words from the stranger, and looked up to see "the face of Jesus Christ, the Master Himself." McPherson continued, "You men who pride yourselves on patriotism, you men who have pledged yourselves to make America free for white Christianity, listen to me! Ask yourselves how is it possible to pretend to worship one of the greatest Jews who ever lived, Jesus Christ, and then to despise all living Jews? I say unto you as our Master has said, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.'"

(11:04) Angelus Temple

After 14 years of traveling throughout the U.S. and around the world for her evangelistic ministry, Aimee Semple McPherson desired a permanent place to preach. On New Year's Day, 1923, she opened the Angelus Temple near Echo Park in Los Angeles. Considered to be one of the first megachurches in the U.S., the vaulted-dome temple seated 5,300 people, and would be filled to capacity multiple times per week as McPherson delivered sermons, healing services, and altar calls.

Relatively unknown in Los Angeles, McPherson's anonymity quickly ended as the temple opened during a religious boom in a city fast becoming an American symbol of success, fame, and fortune. In Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson, biographer Daniel Mark Epstein writes: "This was the environment Aimee made her home in 1923. She would live and die across from Hollywood, in the twilight between fantasy and reality…" Eighty-four years later, now with its own television show and podcast, Angelus Temple is a National Historic Landmark that still pays tribute to its founder.

(11:44) Sermon at Angelus Temple

Aimee Semple McPherson delivered the sermon "God Goes to Washington" at Angelus Temple in December 1939. It was simultaneously broadcast on its radio station, KFSG. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, another Los Angeles radio station recorded Aimee Semple McPherson's sermons through the radio as they were broadcast on KFSG.

"This evening our sermon is to be rebroadcast at 12:15, I understand, on the radio. They're making a large record in Hollywood at the company which'll be replayed, and I presume kept as the long as the world stands. So I would like to be sure before they start the needle working there that you people understand how to say Amen. Let me hear you say it. [Crowd: Amen]. That's a Methodist Amen. I was brought up in the Methodist Church. Let's hear a real Holy Ghost on fire Pentecostal Amen. [Crowd: Amen!] That's better. Let's hear a Hallelujah. [Crowd: Hallelujah.] And now you listen to yourself at 12:15, and see if you can pick out your Amen, your Hallelujah. Let the world know that we still believe in the old time gospel."

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(12:34) Music Element

"Tell Your Ma Tell Your Pa" from Ghost Town, performed by Bill Frisell


(12:53) Parodied by Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Parker

In 1927, American novelist and social critic Sinclair Lewis published Elmer Gantry, a novel that traces the career of an aspiring preacher who encounters a traveling revivalist named Sister Sharon Falconer, a character reportedly patterned after Aimee Semple McPherson. Through Falconer, Lewis expressed his distaste for McPherson's actions. Sutton wrote in his biography of Sister Aimee: "He believed that she had an overactive sex drive, a distorted view of faith, and a fraudulent organization. Yet unlike the bumbling Gantry, Falconer is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and she controls every man she encounters… [He] sees McPherson as a promiscuous hypocrite, whose sexual cravings belie her spiritual authenticity. [He] also mounts a persistent critique of mass culture that challenges the marriage of religion and the media in the 1920s."

Fifteen years after Aimee Semple McPherson's death, Elmer Gantry was made into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Burt Lancaster. In November 2007, an opera by Robert Aldridge premiered in the James K. Polk Theater in Nashville.

Known for her wit, the American writer and poet Dorothy Parker wrote "Our Lady of the Loudspeaker" for The New Yorker in February 1928, saying "Well, Aimee Semple McPherson has written a book. And were you to call it a little peach, you would not be so much as scratching its surface. It is the story of her life, and it is called In the Service of the King, which title is perhaps a bit dangerously suggestive of a romantic novel. It may be that this autobiography is set down in sincerity, frankness and simple effort. It may be, too, that the Statue of Liberty is situated in Lake Ontario."

(13:01) Popular Illustrated Sermons

Aimee Semple McPherson brought the gospel to life for her Angelus Temple audience, mixing scripture and spectacle into dramatic performances complete with elaborate sets, live animals, and Aimee in starring roles as milkmaid, pilot, motorcycle cop and more. These sermons became the hot ticket in Los Angeles, drawing thousands to Angelus Temple and capturing the attention of the press.

Harper's Monthly writer Sarah Comstock wrote "Aimee Semple McPherson is staging month after month and even year after year the most perennially successful show in the United States…. Heaven and Hell, sinner and saint, Satan, the fleshpots of Egypt, angels of Paradise and temptations of a bejazzed World are made visual by actors, costumes, and theatrical tricks of any on every sort that may occur to her ingenious mind.

As part of our ongoing SoundSeen series, we've produced an audio slideshow containing images of Aimee Semple McPherson, accompanied by audio of her illustrated sermon called "Life Begins at Foursquare" — a dramatic portrayal of the principles of the Foursquare gospel. View "The Illustrated Sermon."

(13:18) Rejection of Darwinism

Aimee Semple McPherson first learned about Darwin's theory of evolution as a young girl in high school, causing her great puzzlement over the relationship between religion and science. After consulting local pastors about that intersection, she wrote a letter to a Canadian national newspaper asking why taxpayers supported schools that undermined Christianity. Her letter provoked responses from all over North America. Throughout her life, she believed evolution was one of the biggest threats to American Christianity. She crusaded against it in the 1920s and organized a series of debates on the topic in the 1930s, both times calling on taxpayers to boycott schools that used their money to teach evolution.

(15:11) Feeding the Poor During the Great Depression

While Angelus Temple was the spiritual home for thousands of Aimee Semple McPherson's followers, it quickly evolved into a church organization that provided community services to many in need. The Angelus Temple Commissary, led by a band of women known as the Foursquare City Sisters, met the physical needs of over 1.5 million people during the Great Depression. Even Aimee Semple McPherson's strongest critics admired the tremendous relief efforts offered to desperate citizens, regardless of their race or religion.

(17:39) International Church of the Foursquare Gospel

The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel was born on the day Angelus Temple opened to the public. According to the ICFG, the church has now grown to include more than 50,000 churches worldwide and has more than five million members in 147 countries around the globe.

During a 1922 revival meeting in Oakland, California, Aimee Semple McPherson first spoke publicly about her "four square" theological creed and its basis in the four faces described by the prophet Ezekiel as he contemplated God — man, lion, ox, and eagle. Though she said it came to her through divine inspiration, biographers have traced its historical roots and describe it in relation to her desire to evolve her vision of Pentecostalism beyond its classic tenets and distinguish herself from other denominations, such as the Assemblies of God. In her 1927 autobiography In the Service of the King, McPherson details the Foursquare doctrine:

"Our Gospel in the Foursquare Gospel, and the very warp and woof of it is evangelism. The four cornerstones, the major tenets of our belief are:

  1. Jesus Christ the only Saviour, wherein we preach the necessity of the born-again experience, bringing with it a real change of heart. Good works and good morals of themselves are not sufficient. Jesus said 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven.'
  2. Jesus Christ the Mighty Baptizer with the Holy Spirit; is the coming of the Spirit into the cleansed and purified heart, imbuing with power for service.
  3. Jesus Christ the Great Physician; we believe that the works He did and the miracles He performed when His sandaled feet trod the shores of Galilee are still wrought by faith and prayer. In short, we believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.
  4. Jesus Christ the Coming King — the fundamental doctrine accepted by myriads whose hearts swell with faith that He who ascended into Heaven will some day come again in the clouds of glory to catch away His own.

That, in brief, is the doctrine of the Foursquare Gospel."

Aimee Semple McPherson adhered to this doctrine of Jesus Christ as savior, baptizer, healer, and coming king throughout her entire ministry, and it still serves as the basic doctrine of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

(19:54) Broadway Video Clip

In 1933, McPherson accepted an invitation to appear at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway. Although her appearance was celebrated in the press, attendance plummeted within a few days. In this archival newsreel clip from the UCLA Film & Television Archive, McPherson exclaims: "I have come to Broadway, the mecca of sin, the citadel of worldliness. Oh, I feel in answering this invitation as though I should like to stand in the midst of the broadways of America, and lift up my hands and cry stop! You're drifting away from the faith of your fathers, you're drifting away from prayer, drifting away from the Bible reading, drifting away from the family altar, and only ruin and heartbreak and homebreak lay in the direction of backsliding. I'm coming out to help bring you back, if I can, to the fold. {Sings} Give me a burden for souls Lord. Give me a love for the lost. Let my heart bleed as my thy own, Lord. Give me a burden for souls."

(22:53) Anthony Quinn's Encounter with Sister Aimee

Anthony Quinn was an acclaimed Mexican-American stage, television, and film actor who won two Academy Awards. In 1930, at the age of 14, he met Aimee Semple McPherson. In his autobiography, The Original Sin, he wrote: "I was fourteen when I met the most magnetic personality I was ever to encounter. Years later, when I saw the great actresses at work I would compare them to her. As magnificent as I could find Anna Magnani, Ingrid Bergman, Laurette Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Ethel Barrymore, they all fell short of that first electric shock Aimee Semple McPherson produced in me."

McPherson biographer Edith Blumhofer writes in Aimee Semple McPherson:

"Everybody's Sister that Anthony Quinn's spiritual journey was probably representative of many who found their way to Angelus Temple. A devout Catholic whose father died when he was young, he spent a lot of time with his priest until one day he arrived home to find his ill grandmother being tended to by people from Angelus Temple. He resisted their intrusion, but his grandmother and priest encouraged him to be open to 'the many ways to God.' When his grandmother's health improved and she wanted to go to Angelus Temple, he accompanied her. Quinn's later description of his first Protestant service was replete with theatrical sensitivity. The experience was 'tremendously moving,' the upbeat atmosphere 'like a picnic,' and the mood 'accepting.' Sister was not there, but Quinn felt drawn by the warmth, noise, informality, and joy that enveloped him; it contrasted dramatically with the somber silence of his Catholic church. Before long he left the Catholic Church and threw heart and soul into Angelus Temple, where he played his saxophone in the band. He joined a small group that took their instruments to street corners, played hymns until a crowd gathered, then preached, usually in Spanish."

(23:40) Disappearance of Aimee Semple McPherson

Biographers offer detailed accounts of the twists and turns that comprised the still-mysterious disappearance of Aimee Semple McPherson from Venice Beach in 1926. Mel Robeck, a historian of the Pentecostal tradition, offers a concise account in his brief entry on her for The New International Dictionary of Pentecostalism:

In May 1926, she had become a highly publicized international figure when she suddenly disappeared, apparently drowned off Venice Beach while swimming. A month later she was found in Mexico, with a story of her kidnapping by some people who feigned to need her help. Rumors spread, and she was embroiled in controversy about an alleged affair in Carmel, CA, with a former employee, Kenneth Ormiston. A grand jury investigated her, but while it was not in session, the district attorney charged her with obstruction of justice and suborning perjury. Ordered to stand trial, she was ridiculed daily from pulpit to press. Ultimately, the charges were dropped for lack of evidence, and the district attorney became personally embroiled in his own legal dilemma. McPherson authored her account of things in In the Service of the King (1927); shortly thereafter an unauthorized biography, Sister Aimee (1931), was written by N.B. Mavity. In some minds the issue was never settled, and books and TV reconstructions have not left much to the imagination. But Aimee was much more resilient that is often acknowledged, and Angelus Temple and Foursquare people proved to be loyal to her during this time.

(24:00) Controversy that Marred Her Fame and Accomplishment

Aimee Semple McPherson's ministry grew under a watchful public eye that followed her tumultuous personal life. She married three times. Widowed by her first husband, Robert Semple, while on mission in China, she then divorced twice. In 1931, her third marriage (a hasty elopement) to David Hutton, a baritone who performed in one of her sacred operas, frustrated some of her followers who felt she was repudiating her own teachings that divorcees should not re-marry while his or her estranged spouse was still living. Her public image took a hit after she was allegedly kidnapped in 1926. Four years later she suffered a nervous breakdown. And, a year later, many members of her church were confused and upset about her marriage to Hutton. Many continued to tolerate her vagaries, however, since her motives and message continued to seem pure and relatable. Like many popular leaders — religious and otherwise — McPherson wrestled with ego and personal demons that were, like her personality, larger than life.

(25:38) Death in 1944

After speaking about "The Foursquare Gospel" to a capacity crowd of ten thousand at Oakland Auditorium, Aimee told her son Rolf that she looked forward to increasing her travels and evangelistic preaching. The next morning, Rolf found her unconscious on the floor near her bed and several pills on her pillow. She had been taking sedatives to aid her sleep. Her death was described as respiratory failure following an apparent accidental overdose of a medical prescription. Her body lay in state at Angelus Temple where fifty-thousand mourners paraded past; a motorcade of six hundred cars made its way to her funeral service at Forest Lawn Cemetery – one of the largest funerals ever held in Los Angeles.

Edith Blumhofer notes that it seemed strangely appropriate that her last sermon was "The Foursquare Gospel" that summarized her religious message, preached in the same city she first publicly proclaimed it. She had announced that she would be performing her popular "The Story of My Life" sermon the following evening. "That story would have featured her narrative powers and offered a glimpse into both the worldview that resonated with the deepest intuitions of millions and the populism that gave validity to her claim to be 'everybody's sister'."

(27:23) The Frailties of the Jimmy Swaggarts and the Jim Bakkers

Jimmy Swaggart was a leading televangelist who resigned from his ministry in 1988 after it was revealed he had been with a prostitute. He gave a tearful televised confession and apology.

Just months prior to his scandal becoming public, Swaggart had criticized his rival televangelist Jim Bakker whose own sex scandal led to the loss of his popular Praise the Lord television ministry. He and his wife, Tammy Faye Bakker, divorced. Bakker also served prison time for subsequent revelations of accounting fraud. In 2003, a remarried Bakker launched a new television ministry, The Jim Bakker Show, from Branson, Missouri.

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(28:15) Music Element

"Dear Lord, Forgive" from Gospels, Spirituals, & Hymns, performed by Mahalia Jackson


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(30:11) Music Element

"Shall We Gather At the River" from Great Gospel Choirs, performed by Bishop Billy Robinson & The Garden of Prayer Church of God in Christ Choir


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(32:16) Music Element

"Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" from Can You Feel It?, performed by The Campbell Brothers


(33:22) Pasadena Foursquare Church

Arlene Sánchez-Walsh is a member of the Pasadena Foursquare Church in California. On Being visited the church in April 2006 during the centennial celebration of the Azusa Street Revival for its program, "A Spiritual Tidal Wave: The Origins and Impact of Pentecostalism". View an audio slideshow capturing the images and voices of the members of its congregants.

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(33:28) Music Element

"La Partida" from Ecos Del Alma, performed by Nicolas Carter Galland & Son Sel Sur


(33:41) Pope Benedict XVI's Trip to Brazil

Brazil's Roman Catholic population has been shrinking dramatically since 1980, when nearly 90 percent identified themselves as Catholic. In 2000, only three-quarters affiliated themselves with the Catholic Church. Conversely, Protestantism is on the rise. Moreover, one in seven Brazilian respondents aligned with a Pentecostal denomination.

The growing number of Pentecostals and charismatic Christians in the world's most Catholic country has become a cause for concern for the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Brazil for a five-day visit in May 2007, addressing a range of issues of abortion, shrinking ranks of clergy, poverty and social injustice, and the falling away of traditional Catholics to Pentecostalism.

(34:10) "It's Not Just Here You Do Your Church"

The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel has churches in nearly 140 countries and a strong missionary objective.

(35:16) Appeal of Pentecostalism

Arlene Sánchez-Walsh gives three reasons for the increasing appeal of Pentecostalism in Latin America: the immediate, experiential nature in contrast to traditional, hierarchical traditions; the small size and intimacy of Pentecostal churches; and the sense of empowerment in spirituality it instills in Latinos.

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(39:14) Music Element

"Oaxaca" from Belladonna, performed by Daniel Lanois


(40:51) Reference to Passages from Joel and the Book of Acts

The book of Joel, especially chapter, verses 28 and 29, serves as a powerful anchor text referenced by Aimee Semple McPherson in her preaching:

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Acts 2 describes the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Pentecost comes from the Greek word "fiftieth" — meaning the 50 days after Easter. For Jews, the feast, which comes between Passover and Tabernacles, celebrates the giving of the Torah on Sinai. For Christians, Luke writes in the second chapter of Acts about the significance of the first Pentecost after Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven. In the Lukan account, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles and is marked by tongues of fire when people present began to speak in other languages. For Luke, Pentecost is a promise of things to come.

(42:30) The Notion of Healing

Arlene Sánchez-Walsh cites a 2005 Pew survey, which found that 49 percent of Renewalists — people practicing a pentecostal or charismatic form of worship — report never speaking in tongues, but 60 percent of respondents said the most important part of Pentecostalism is healing.

McPherson's Foursquare Gospel exemplified the widespread Pentecostal view that the gospel includes physical healing. In her sermons and writings, she often cited Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever." Healing services were a significant part of Aimee Semple McPherson's ministry from her early days of tent revivals to the dramatic services of Angelus Temple. For decades, people flocked to her services to have her lay hands on them. McPherson's healing services also attracted the attention of the media as well as many skeptics. Biographer Daniel Mark Epstein notes that the American Medical Association of San Francisco once approved her healing services, describing them as "genuine, beneficial and wonderful." Nevertheless, he quotes a reporter who stated: "So great has become the controversy over the divine healing meetings … that as the believers descend the steps from the altar, they are seized by critics under the guise of scientific investigations and cross-examined as to the genuineness of the cure."

(44:00) Victory Outreach

In 1967 Cruz "Sonny" Arguinzoni, a former drug addict turned Pentecostal minister, purchased a house in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles in hopes of creating a religious space for addicts, gang members, ex-convicts, the homeless, and others. In her book Latino Pentecostal Identity, Arlene Sánchez-Walsh writes, "Victory Outreach opened the Pentecostal world to those outside the confines of mainstream society while focusing on youth as a viable market for Pentecostalism's continued growth among Latinos."

(46:50) Audio Clip of Sister Aimee Preaching

The audio clip from Aimee Semple McPherson's sermon "Many Members, One Body" was delivered at Angelus Temple in December 1939 and broadcast on its radio station, KFSG. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, another Los Angeles radio station recorded Aimee Semple McPherson's sermons through the radio as they were broadcast on KFSG.

"Today I believe there are millions of people baptized with the Holy Ghost on this earth. You'll find them in India, China, the Philippines, Africa, at home and abroad. The rich, the poor, the high, and the low, yet we are all baptized by one spirit in the one body. Amen."

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(49:06) Music Element

"Saint Behind The Glass" from El Cancionero-Mas Y Mas, performed by Los Lobos


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(50:18) Music Element

"Walk in the Sky (Instrumental)" from Days To Come, performed by Bonobo


Voices on the Radio

is an associate professor of Religious Studies and graduate chair of Religion at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

is an associate professor of Latino Church Studies at Azusa Pacific University.

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