Over a century ago, in Los Angeles, a little-known Black evangelist named William J. Seymour started a revival on Azusa Street. The setting was humble, but he was a spirit-filled preacher and in his sermons, began to speak in unknown tongues. Others joined in and the revival became a sensation that lasted three years. Pentecostalism, internationally, is the fastest growing Christian movement. There are hundreds of Pentecostal churches, but they have one thing in common—all trace their origin to Seymour’s famed revival on Azusa Street.
The origin of the movement’s name comes from the Day of Pentecost, which is this Sunday, May 20. It’s 50 days after the Passover feast, thus the name. Pentecost is associated with outpourings of the Holy Spirit, most famously on the apostle Peter. Peter’s great speech included the gift of tongues; foreigners in Jerusalem for Pentecost understood in their own language. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised a fuller gift of the Holy Spirit as a guide, comforter and teacher and as a purifying or sanctifying force.
Pentecostal services are spirit-filled; they rock. The Old Testament prophet Elijah, in contrast, experienced the Holy Spirit as a “still small voice.” In Laguna’s churches, members may experience it as Elijah did. I have felt it in their services, a warm, peaceful feeling by which the flinty edges of life are softened, our souls ascend, and truths gain new clarity. In these moments life is graced with meaning. But, is the Holy Spirit limited to religions and chapels? Isn’t it available to all who seek?
Creative people refer to the muses of Greek mythology. This resonates for Lagunans with streets named for Thalia, muse of comedy; Calliope, muse for epic poetry; and Cleo (for Clio, muse of history?) originally named Euterpe, the muse of music.
Perhaps the musesare a reflection of the Holy Spirit?
Do you meditate? It’s an ancient practice known to bring emotional peace and deeper meaning. There are many methods, such as repetitive prayer, yoga, mindfulness, or just a walk on the beach. Studies by the thousands document tangible benefits. People resolve diseases of stress, lower blood pressure, and find peace amidst turmoil. Through meditation they receive wisdom beyond their own ability. Might this too be the working of the Spirit?
We’re told of many ways to receive the Spirit; the key is to slow down and clear the mind. It may come through the religious rituals of prayer, fasting, and pondering scripture. It may come through music, the singing of hymns. While writing this I was moved by listening to the 1697 German hymn, “Be Still My Soul.” It may come in the byways of our days, when expressing love to others, or serving those in need. Whatever the path, it’s one more way of finding meaning.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected]
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8 & 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.