As New England nears the 250th anniversary of the climax of the first Great Awakening, some New Englanders say another awakening may be in the offing. So far no one is claiming anything comparable to the waves of revival that swept such towns as Boston and Northampton, Massachusetts, in the mid-1700s But many church leaders note an increasingly visible surge of evangelical piety in a region known for its reserve.
“We’re on the brink of something,” claims Stephen Macchia, president of the Evangelistic Association of New England (EANE). “There’s a movement afoot, and everyone I talk to in the evangelical community says the same thing.”
The signs of resurgence take several forms, say evangelical church leaders. Perhaps the most noticeable have to do with the growing number of churches. Assemblies of God congregations, for example, have almost doubled in the last 20 years or so, with church membership climbing from less than 8,000 in 1968 to approximately 25,000 in 1988, according to Sherri Doty Coussens, statistician at the denomination’s international headquarters.
While the Southern Baptist Convention claimed only 31 congregations in New England two decades ago, the figure now stands at 175. Some of them are small and without their own church buildings, but Larry Martin of the Greater Boston Baptist Association says many are thriving. “God seems to be opening doors faster than we can keep up with,” he states.
Southern Baptists and other church groups report an especially fertile mission field among the region’s urban ethnic populations. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, has strengthened a number of ethnic congregations through its Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME) in inner-city ...1
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