Azusa Street is a Valuable Pentecostal and Charismatic Pilgrimage Site
The Church historian, Henry Chadwick once remarked that, “Nothing is sadder than someone who has lost his memory; and the church which has lost its memory is in the same state of senility.” Pentecostals have not always been known for appreciating either history or tradition. Indeed, when the Azusa Street site was available for purchase in the 1930s, it was said to have been offered to the Assemblies of God. The response that was received was that they were “not interested in relics”. Today, after a century of existence, Pentecostals have begun to sense that there is something important about recognizing historical sites and that the act of Pilgrimage to such sites can help to bring about spiritual renewal.
Memory and memorials are inevitably linked together. Memorials are intended to transplant us back into the reality that they memorialize. Think for a moment of the Lord’s command to Joshua that led to the memorial set up in the middle of the Jordan River. It became a teaching aid for future generations of Israel’s people.
“When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.’
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7, NIV)
Think, too, of the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. 23 “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.
The celebration of the Eucharist, Communion, or the Lord’s Supper is rooted deeply in our memory of the past event of Jesus’ death. In the act of participation in the Eucharist, we remember, and thereby also participate in this past event. This is not merely a memory that stays in the past, but one that is made a present reality through its continuing efficacy on our behalf, and it forms the basis of Christ’s promise that He will come again!
It should come as no surprise that nearly 50,000 people from around the world came to Los Angeles and many of them made their way to the house on North Bonnie Brae Street and to the Azusa Street site in 2006, the centenary of the opening of the Azusa Street Mission and the beginning of the revival. More and more people see the importance of keeping the memory of this revival alive, preserving something of the history of this revival for future generations. Azusa Street has become a pilgrimage site for thousands of people around the world. The Azusa Street historian, Dr. Cecil M. Robeck of Fuller Theological Seminary has personally led some 15,000 Pentecostal and Charismatic pilgrims on a day long pilgrimage to the Pentecostal sites in Los Angeles.