William Joseph Seymour was an African-American man born in Louisiana in 1870. His childhood was not an easy one. His parents, Simon and Phyllis were former slaves. William was the oldest in a large family that lived in abject poverty. He grew up in a dangerous time for African-Americans in the south. The KKK actively terrorized the blacks of southern Louisiana, and violence against them was extremely common.
Church. Why church? What is it’s value? What is it good for? What’s the point?
These are questions that people of faith living in 2015, especially in extremely secular, liberal, academic, urban settings like Berkeley and the greater Bay Area have to wrestle with. They are questions ultimately at the heart of what we are doing here today.
I believe I was a sophomore in college when it happened. I had only been really following Jesus less than a year at the point when I was invited to attend my first church conference. The college group I became a part of was loosely affiliated with a Vineyard church, and that church was having a weekend conference. Attending the church on Sundays, let alone for a whole weekend, made me nervous. It was so different from the experience I’d had of church growing up that I didn’t know what to do with it. But I trusted the group’s leader, and he told me that this conference was going to be really powerful in terms of people encountering God, so I went.