Last year Peggy and I interviewed fifty pastors about how the pandemic challenged them and changed their churches. Some of the answers to our questions came as a surprise. One of those answers came from Jim Keck, Senior Pastor at First Plymouth UCC in Lincoln NB. He said that he thinks this pandemic will usher in the Fourth Great Awakening.
I confess that after our interview, I checked the history of the first three Great Awakenings to be sure I knew what he meant. Here’s what I learned:
Ø The First Great Awakening (1730’s – 1740’s) swept Britain and the American colonies. There was a revival in church of all the denominations – Congregational, Baptist, to Anglican– as people experienced a wave of new faith and devotion.
Ø The Second Great Awakening (early 1800’s) was propelled by Methodist circuit riding pastors on the frontier towns. Crowds turned out for tent meetings with emotional preaching.
Ø The Third Great Awakening (1850’s- early 1900’s) People of faith embraced the social gospel. Churches supported abolition. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christian Scientists got their start.
In every Great Awakening church people gained new energy, and excitement. Across denominations, they gathered to hear inspiring speakers, to take up new causes and to put their faith to work in the world.
So, with that in mind I started to wonder what a Fourth Awakening would look like today.
Ø Would it be a movement to stop hunger in our nation?
Ø Would churches decide to end homelessness?
Ø Would folks demand a new justice system that did not rely on the prison-industrial complex?
Ø Would people of faith lead a movement to reverse climate degradation?
Ø Would religious people confess our complicity in slavery and the genocide of native populations?
If the COVID 19 pandemic has set the stage for this Fourth Great Awakening, and that’s a big “if” how would we experience a religious revival? What would it look like for us here, in Appleton? So far, every revival emerged after people invited God’s Holy Spirit to lead them in new ways. If we want to see our faith infused with such new energy, we only have to invite God awaken us to the Holy Spirit, again.