29 June 2011

North Dakota Revivalism--Billy Sunday's Coming to Town

North Dakota a hotbed of revivalism?  Not exactly, and I wasn't really even looking to find out anything about revivalism in Grand Forks.  A few days ago, while looking at the website for the Chester Fritz Library, I came across their digital collections.  For those who may be unfamiliar with digital history, it involves the digitizing of historical documents and photographs.  Some digital history sites are free, while others require subscriptions to access the documents.  One of the links on the digital history section of the library takes investigators to several W. P. Davies newspaper articles from 1930-1944 for the Grand Forks Herald.  I thought I'd give it a shot and look up infor on the church that I've been studying in my research.

I clicked the search button, and low and behold, 16 documents appeared.  The first one did not mention my search parameter, but it did lead me to an interesting article published on July 1, 1930, on an upcoming revival to be held by Billy Sunday.  Revivals have long proved controversial in Christian circles, with those experiencing them believing them a spectacular moving of the Holy Spirit and those against them believing revivals nothing but an expression of unbridled "enthusiasm" or "emotionalism."  This dichotomy of opinion was quite evident during the Great Awakening with Jonathan Edwards hailed alternately as either a great leader of a great revival or a great leader of a great enthusiasm. 

To be fair, the author of the article, Mr. Davies did not appear to be against all revivalism.  He conceded that revivals such as those held by Moody and Sankey, "while marked by deep emotionalism, were conducted with earnestness and every evidence of sincerity."  Then came Billy Sunday.  Davies did not much care for the "acrobatics" that Sunday often exhibited during his sermons.  Nor did Davies appreciate Sunday's use of "the methods of big business" in conducting his meetings. 

While this editorial made it evident that Davies was no fan of such revivals, it becomes apparent after reading another editorial a short time later that there was a reason for his opinion of Sunday and his methods.  That story will be left for another installment.

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