PENTECOSTALISM COMES TO OKLAHOMA CITY

The roots of Pentecostalism in Oklahoma are tightly interwoven with the history of Holiness in the region. The Holiness movement sought and encouraged a spiritual reawakening and new dynamic progress.  The search for a spiritual experience both intimate and powerful enough to impact and change lives was seen as the experience of  Sanctification.  This act of God which served to draw the Christian closer to God and empower them for outreach to others was variously interpreted and defined in the groups. Debates can still rage over just how it is defined; is it progressive or instantaneous? Despite these theological nuances, the movement answered needs felt by people for 'something more' than  ritual without meaning or for the absence of anything spiritual in their lives at all.

As early as 1902, there are claims of people who experienced Pentecost in Oklahoma. According to writings by Goff, Campbell, Muse, and others, the time from 1902-1907 was an especially active time for these sporadic Pentecostal episodes.   Joseph Campbell refers to these as raindrops before the "latter rain."  They were in the area of Lamont, Oklahoma in 1905, where the Fire Baptized Holiness Association, later Church, had mission outreach, in Beulah, Oklahoma where a Bible School operated, and other locales. 

Sometime in the years 1905-1906 a group of women in Oklahoma began to intentionally pray for a Pentecostal mission to be opened in the community and united weekly to prayer for that event.

In Beulah, an independent holiness group called the Indian Creek Band and led by the Rev. Frank T. Alexander, purchased land and opened the Beulah Holiness Bible School.

Rev. Richard B. Beall arrived in the City on January 18, 1906 and within four months had organized a Sunday School on South Robinson Street. The initial success began plans of a downtown mission.  As if in answer to those devout prayers, another minister from Colgate, Indian Territory, O.C. Wilkins, arrived in the City. Another minister who had already founded several churches also arrived, Harry P. Lott. 

In May of 1907, Fire Baptized Holiness leader J.H. King had arrived in Lamont, Oklahoma to conduct a revival where "scores of people" (Campbell, 210) received the experience and then returned to other locales with the message of Pentecost.  This renewed the flagging Fire Baptized Holiness work in the state (active since before 1900) and initiated many developments around the region. 

That summer of 1907, members of that Indian Creek Band at Beulah came to the Lamont revival and carried the experience back to the school and that region. A minister named Robinson was invited to come preach and the first in Beulah to receive the experience was an elderly woman named McClung.

In the City, all of these "young men" who had felt drawn to come to Oklahoma City had been reading of the Asuza Street Revival in the "Way of Faith" periodical by J.M. Pike. They were motivated to begin a revival and a woman named Mrs. Mary A. Sperry opened her home for "tarrying services" to pray for the revival. In the newly rented former Blue Front Saloon, 7 Grand Street, the revival services began and by August of 1907, all three men had received the Pentecostal experience.

In 1909 at Lamont, Harry P. Lott was named ruling elder of the newly reorganized Fire Baptised Holiness Association work in the state. In October of that year, Lott brought the Oklahoma City Mission into the Fire Baptized Association. It was organized, despite some who did not believe in such organization, with 39 chapter members. Some of these included: Mary Edy, G.W. Thompson, Grace Woffard,  Mother Lay, Mrs. Mary A. Sperry., Terrie J. Walker, Mrs. J.T. Ellis, Mrs. Shomp,  Mrs. Harry P. Lott (Lizzie Shomp), Grace Bergle Keller, Effie Allen,  Mrs. Roe, Newton Taylor Morgan, Oscar C. Wilkins, J.F. Hughes, and Brother Miller. There were no doubt others unknown. Campbell notes many had issues with fears of organization in general as being a deterrent to spiritual vigor and a social trait of those in the west toward more independent thinking and action as contributing to the lack of some of the early churches and groups to survive. With no organized structure, and accompanying doctrinal and operational foundations, they were often subject to error, heresy and power struggles between conflicting views.

In 1911 the Fire Baptized Holiness Church with churches in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere would unite with the southeastern based, Pentecostal Holiness Church to form the new Pentecostal Holiness Church.  In Oklahoma, this meant some shuffling as people left to form independent groups, joined other assemblies, or new churches merged under the newly minted denomination.  The old Blue Front Saloon Mission, the Pentecostal Mission, was now on its way to being the First Pentecostal Holiness Church of Oklahoma City.



Sources: Campbell, Joseph E.. The Pentecostal Holiness Church, 1898-1948. Pentecostal Holiness Publishing House, 1951 contains many details, I have attempted to place them in some chronological order as they influenced the Oklahoma City Mission which would become the First Pentecostal Holiness Church..  Anyone with photos of these old Pentecostal churches in Oklahoma City is invited to send copies to infobrarian@yahoo.com, along with biographical information or stories of those 1905 - 1950 years.

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