Parham's Texas Ministry and William Seymour
After receiving spiritual advice and training from Charles P. Jones in the winter of 1904, William Seymour traveled from Ohio to Texas to search for family that had been lost to him due to slavery and reconstruction. In Houston he attended a black Holiness church pastored by Lucy Farrow. When Farrow left Texas to take a job as a governess and cook for another Holiness preacher, Seymour took over her ministry. Farrow’s new employer was the Apostolic Faith evangelist Charles Parham.
When Farrow returned in late fall of 1905, she brought news that while in Kansas she had been baptized in the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues. She shared her message with Seymour, who was initially resistant. As was common amongst Holiness people, he believed he received the Holy Spirit when he was sanctified.
After a period of soul searching and prayer, Seymour asked God to “empty him of his false ideas" (Martin 91). Seymour claimed the Lord revealed he was previously mistaken and subsequently accepted Holy Spirit baptism as a third work of grace.
Houston Bible College
Later that year, Parham moved his ministry to Houston. He held services at Bryan Hall and established a Bible college similar to the one in Topeka. Classes were offered in “conviction, repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing, the Holy Spirit in His different operations, prophecies, the book of Revelation, and other practical subjects” (Martin 91). The school was originally housed at Caledonia Hall on Texas Avenue and later moved to a three-story home at 503 Rusk Avenue. Farrow and Seymour both attended Parham’s services, and Seymour enrolled in the daily Bible school classes
Howard Goss, a student at the college, notes that “we were given a thorough workout and rigid training in prayer, fastings, consecration, Bible study, and evangelistic work. The daily schedule consisted of morning Bible study, shop and jail meetings at noon, house to house visitations, 6:00 street meeting, and finally an evangelistic evening service held at 7:30 or 8:00."
Warren Faye Carothers and Parham taught Seymore the doctrines of the movement. However, because of the strict segregation laws of the time, Seymour was forced to sit outside the classroom in the hallway with the door open during lessons. Also because of his race, Seymour was not allowed to congregate at the altar with whites. This precluded him from personally seeking the Holy Spirit baptism. Regardless, he fully accepted the doctrine that speaking in tongues was evidence of a Holy Spirit baptism.
Parham hoped to use Seymour to spread the Apostolic Faith message to African-American communities in Texas. Parham and Seymour held joint meetings in Houston, with Seymour preaching to black audiences and Parham addressing whites. While he supported racial segregation, Parham did believe that the African American community had a role to play in the mission of world evangelism and helping usher in the end times.
Martin, Larry Jay. The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour: And a History of the Azusa Street Revival. Joplin, MO: Christian Life Books, 1999.