November 10, 2014
Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,
In my address to the 86th Convention of the Diocese of Eau Claire on Saturday, I mentioned the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening was a pouring out of the Holy Spirit that took place primarily in the 1730’s and 40’s. It began in Northampton, Massachusetts, spread through the American Colonies and then to England. Princeton University formed as a result of the Awakening so did the Methodist Church.
In the early 1730’s Northampton, Massachusetts was a frustrated place. Native Americans to the immediate west were too strong to permit expansion of Massachusetts settlers. Young people who wanted to leave their parents and begin families of their own were forced by the Indian strength to remain at home. A young congregational preacher, Jonathan Edwards, delivered sermons addressed to the youth in terms of looking after their souls. He chastised their drunken and sometimes promiscuous behavior. The young people changed their ways. They focused upon building up their community. Rowdy and sinful behavior ended. Then the Spirit did something strange. For about six months no one in the congregation was sick.
Word of Northampton spread into New Jersey. Gilbert Tennent picked up the same preaching style of Edwards. Instead of sermons being theological treatises, these “New Lights,” as they were called, reached to the heart. George Whitfield received the call of the Spirit. He spread the Awakening from New Hampshire to Georgia. For the first time the British colonists regarded themselves as one people. Whitfield brought the Awakening to England. John and Charles Wesley went through a conversion. The Wesleys and Whitfield soon were preaching to thousands of people gathered in fields.
The Great Awakening had a direct impact upon the American Revolution. The Awakening changed how the colonists looked at religion. They decided they were free to worship as they chose. This was a matter between them and God.The Awakening was the birth of religious freedom. It was not long before the colonists determined they also had the right to choose their own government.
For me the most important aspect of the Great Awakening was that after a time of severe repentance, God’s grace filled these people to the point that they were bursting with love. They knew they had done nothing to earn this grace. It was a pure gift from God. This must have been something to experience. Our world and our nation are much better places because of the Great Awakening. I hope and pray the Holy Spirit will do something similar to our beloved Diocese of Eau Claire. With my love and best wishes, I am,
Your brother in Christ,