Some California evangelicals are breaching barriers to hippies and other urban “unreachables.” Most of the dropouts have church backgrounds, many of them evangelical. An increasing number are ministers’ sons.
Curiously, opposition from the rear threatens to isolate the evangelical pioneers in an ecclesiastical no-man’s-land.
Ask Southern Baptist evangelist Arthur Blessit, 27, who runs “His Place,” a coffeehouse on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Or converted hippie Ted Wise, 30, who heads “The Living Room,” an evangelical beachhead in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.
Sunset Strip clubs and sidewalks are clogged nightly with thousands of teens, including each night some 500 who jam into “His Place” for free coffee and sandwiches, gospel “rock, folk, and soul” tunes, and midnight sermons. Result: “Five or six receive Christ every night,” reports Blessit.
Blessit, who believes in “taking the gospel where the action is,” has also scored conversions among the “booze, dope, and sex” clientele at the famed Hollywood-A-Go-Go club during by-popular-demand Tuesday-night shows. His program: “groovy music, testimonies of ‘name’ Christians and former drug-users, and my messages—with no pulled punches.” His associate, Leo Humphrey, 33, recently led club coowner Rose Gazzarri to Christ, but a few weeks ago her partner and brother banned Blessit except for a few “seasonal” appearances. It seems other club operators fear a bad-for-business gospel aftermath.
The same group tried unsuccessfully to ban Blessit from witnessing on their sidewalks by having him arrested for blocking pedestrian traffic. The judge threw out the case during a colorful jury trial April 30. Blessit was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. The young Jewish defense ...1
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