A Call to Preach
In February of 1906 Seymour was invited to preach at a church in Los Angeles. Parham is originally reluctant to let him go because he feels they are doing God's work in Texas. Yet after praying on the matter, Parham gives Seymour his blessing and pays for his trip. Seymour's early efforts to preach the Pentecostal message were met with resistance, and in a manner reminiscent of Parham being locked out of Bethel Healing Home, Seymour was locked out of the church at which he had been called to preach. The leaders of the church were suspicious of Seymour's doctrine, but were especially troubled by the fact he was preaching an experience that he had not personally received.
Left with no job and no housing, and lacking the funds to return to Texas, Seymour moved into the home of Edward Lee who supported Seymour's theology. With the assistance of Lee, Seymour established his ministry by becoming the leader of a prayer group that had been meeting regularly at the home of Richard and Ruth Asbery, at 214 North Bonnie Brae. Most of the worshippers were African-American, but the group represented individuals with diverse racial backgrounds.
On April 9, Lee was baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. This initiated a powerful outpouring in Los Angeles. Over the next few days, hundreds of people gathered in front of the house, filling the street as Seymour preached from the Asbery's porch. On April 12, three days after the initial outpouring, Seymour received his baptism and began speaking in tounges.
Azusa Street Mission
Quickly outgrowing the Asbery home, Seymour and his followers searched for a location for a church. They found their building at 312 Azusa Street. The mission had been built as an African Methodist Episcopal Church. The unfinished downstairs with a low ceiling and dirt floor had been used as a storage building and stable. This downstairs became the home of the Apostolic Faith Mission, and many followers saw allusions to the birth of Jesus in a humble stable. Mismatched chairs and wooden planks were collected for seats, and a prayer altar and two wooden crates covered by a cheap cloth became the pulpit.
Seymour preached racial reconciliation and the restoration of biblical spiritual gifts. Many members of his congregation claimed to experience baptism of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. The Azusa Street Revival, as it became known, soon became a local sensation.
On the morning of April 17, 1906, most of California was shaken by a deadly earthquake with a 7.8 magnitude. At least 700 people were killed and San Fransisco was almost completely destroyed. Shortly before noon the following day two earthquakes struck Los Angeles. This created an impending sense of doom coupled with increased religious fervor. Many viewed the earthquake as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Combined with accounts of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Great Earthquake helped propel interest in the fledgling Azusa Street mission.
The Birth of a Movement
Azusa attracted thousands of curiosity seekers and pilgrims from around the world. The spiritual intensity of the revival was red hot for over three years, making Azusa Street one of the most significant Pentecostal centers in the early 20th century. It is often credited as the place where Pentecostalism as a movement was started. While Parham founded the theological roots of Pentecostalism, it was the Azusa Street Revival that launched it into international notice and notoriety.
The Apostolic Faith
Azusa began to publish their own newspaper, also called The Apostolic Faith, which featured letters and articles from around the world and shared the excitement and passion of early Pentecostals. Seymour's sermons were printed along with news of the meetings and updates on missionaries. The papers spread the Pentecostal message across the globe. At its height, circulation for the little paper exceeded 50,000.
The newspaper also became a matter of great controversy. Clara Lum was a stenographer and recorded many of the events at the meetings and contributed to the paper. She was also a member of the original credentialing committee at Azusa Street. Clara Lum and Florence Crawford left the mission to start a new church in Portland, Oregon. They began publishing The Apostolic Faith from their new home. It is believed by many that, without permission, they took the mailing lists for the publication from Azusa Street. This essentially crippled the Azusa Street's mission in its contact with the world and ability to raise funds, which contributed to the end of the revival.