Toronto Blessing


1977:  John Wimber established a Calvary Chapel in Yorba Linda, California.

1980:  Lonnie Frisbee shared testimony in a turning point for Wimber’s church.

1981:  John and Carol Arnott entered full-time ministry and established Jubilee Christian Fellowship in Stratford, Ontario.

1982:  Wimber affiliated with Ken Gullikson’s The Vineyard in Southern California ; Gullikson ceded leadership to Wimber.

1984:  Wimber established the Association of Vineyard Churches, a network that grew to include some 500 congregations within the next ten years.

1985:  John Arnott attended a Wimber “Signs and Wonders” Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

1987:  Arnott joined the Association of Vineyard Churches.

1988:  Arnott established a “kinship group” in Toronto that would become the Toronto Airport Vineyard (TAV), growing to 350 people by 1994.

1990:  Jerry Steingard introduced Arnott to the prophet Marc Dupont.

1991:  Marc Dupont urged the Arnotts to leave Stratford and move to Toronto “in order to prepare for what God had in store for them.”

1991 (May):  Marc Dupont moved to Torontox to assume a part-time position at TAV.

1993:  John and Carol Arnott traveled to Argentina in November where a large revival was taking place.

1994 (January 20):  Randy Clark, Vineyard pastor from Missouri , was invited to preach a three-day revival at TAV, launching a global revival known as the “Toronto Blessing.”

1994 (April):  The revival began to attract international news as it manifested in churches in the U.K.

1994 (June):  Wimber visited TAV and related what he observed to the turning point he experienced with the ministry of Lonnie Frisbee in 1990.

1995:  The Toronto Blessing became a global phenomenon, and visitors came to the nightly gatherings from all over the world. By the first anniversary celebration, TAV purchased the former Asian Trade Center to accommodate the crowds.

1995:  Major epicenters of revival with nightly meetings developed in places like Melbourne, Florida and Pasadena, California. Visits by Bill Johnson (Redding, California ) and Brenda Kilpatrick (Pensacola, Florida) served as sparks for other revival ministries, including a revival at Johnson’s Bethel Assembly of God in Redding, California and Brownsville Assembly of God Church pastored by John Kilpatrick in Florida .

1995:  The Toronto Airport School of Ministry (now known as Catch the Fire College) was founded.

1995 (December):  TAV was dismissed from Wimber’s Association of Vineyard Churches; its name was soon changed to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF).

1996:  The Canadian Arctic Outpouring broke out in various communities in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, in the eastern Canadian Arctic.

1996:  John Arnott established Partners in Harvest and Friends in Harvest, inviting revival churches throughout the globe into a “new family network” of churches.

1996:  Rolland and Heidi Baker, missionaries to Mozambique and founders of Iris Ministries, visited TACF.

1999:  Gold fillings and golden flakes were reported at TACF; the phenomenon spread quickly to other revival churches.

2003:  Soaking Prayer Centers developed around the world; launching of the International Leadership Schools.

2006 (January 22):  John and Carol Arnott commissioned Steve and Sandra Long as the new senior pastors of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.

2006:  After twelve years, the protracted nightly (except for Mondays) renewal meetings at TACF end were discontinued.

2008:  Duncan and Kate Smith moved to Raleigh , North Carolina to plant the first Catch the Fire Church .

2010:  Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) became a Catch the Fire (CTF).

2014 (January 24):  The Twentieth Anniversary Celebration was held with Randy Clark and the Arnotts as speakers.

2014 (January 21-24):  The Revival Alliance Conference was held in Toronto with Revival Alliance associates Randy Clark, Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, Che Ahn, and Georgian Banov joining the Arnotts as speakers.


Like the larger Pentecostal network of which it is a part, the Toronto Blessing is first and foremost a religious experience, specifically experiential manifestations held to be the manifest presence and power of God. Not long after its inception in 1994, Philip Richter defined the Blessing as follows: “ The ‘Toronto Blessing’ is a form of religious experience characterized by many unusual physical phenomena – such as bodily weakness and falling to the ground; shaking, trembling and convulsive bodily movements; uncontrollable laughter or wailing and inconsolable weeping; apparent drunkenness; animal sounds; and intense physical activity . . . . as well as being accompanied by such things as a heightened sense of the presence of God; ‘prophetic’ insights into the future; ‘prophetic’ announcements from God; visions; and ‘out of the body’ mystical experiences (Richter 1997:97).

Pentecostalism, both in its historic and more recent neo-pentecostal forms, has long been regarded as comprised of “reticulate and weblike” organizations characterized and energized by ongoing religious experience (c.f. Gerlach and Hine 1970; Poloma 1982). Perhaps nothing reflects its amorphous form better than the countless pentecostal revivals that have sprung up within nations, regions or in local churches over the past century. The Toronto Blessing is arguably the best-known North American revival since the early twentieth century Azusa Street Revival, commonly considered to be the birthplace of American pentecostalism. What happened in a small mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles , California from 1906-1909 has proved to be an important catalyst, if not the most important catalyst, that launched the global Pentecostal Movement (Anderson 2004; Robeck 2006).

“Catch the Fire,” as the network originating in the Toronto Blessing has come to be known, is rooted in a revival that began on January 20, 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard (TAV), a congregation located in a leased unit of an industrial mall on Dixie Road just west of the Pearson International Airport. By late 1994 as thousands of visitors poured into the church from all parts of the globe, TAV relocated to its present nearby location at 272 Attwell Drive, first renting and then purchasing the building that seated three thousand and had once housed the Asian Trade Center. With international access readily available by air, the Internet and the emerging World Wide Web, religious seekers would come from all continents (save for Antarctica )! Its story includes many adoptions and adaptations during its twenty year history as it sparked new and refreshed old revival fires. It continues to play a significant role (directly and indirectly) in reviving and expanding streams of pentecostalism found in the Americas and across the globe.

Pentecostal revivals have been likened to wildfire, and as with many large fires, it is often difficult to identify a single igniting spark. Many commonly claim the Azusa Street Mission as the historic site that torched the ”first wave” of pentecostalism that led to the formation of the historical or classical Pentecostal denominations, including the Church of God in Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. A “second wave”, the Charismatic Movement, was rooted in a healing revival (c.f., Kathryn Kuhlman and Oral Roberts) of the late 1940s and 1950s. The Charismatic Movement introduced common pentecostal experiences (divine healing, tongues, prophecy) to mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox denominations and the founding of charismatic non-denominational churches. Gathering strength and reaching its peak during the decades of the 1960s and 70s, the second wave was fueled by parachurch healing revivalists and parachurch groups (most notably the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International), but denounced by most established Pentecostal sects and denominations. It was said to have crested at the Kansas City Conference of 1977. By the early 1980s it became apparent that the two major waves of North American pentecostalism might be in need of more renewal and refreshing (Poloma 1982).

The beginning of a “third wave” is commonly marked by the spiritual transformation and ministry of John Wimber, an unchurched saxophone player for the 1960s popular rock band, The Righteous Brothers. Wimber would become a Christian believer in the mid-1960s and affiliated with the Yorba Linda Friends Church in southern California. He was “recorded” (“ordained” in the evangelical Quaker tradition), served as a co-pastor, and began small group with a focus on worship and prayer (that grew to 100 people). Tension would develop between Wimber’s “small group” and Yorba Linda Friends Church , and Wimber would leave the Quakers to focus on his new congregation. In 1977, Wimber associated his church with Chuck Smith’s Calvary network. Smith (although raised Pentecostal had moved away from its experiential theology) welcomed hippies into his congregation that became the “mother church” of the Calvary movement (Miller 1997). Acceptance of young converts from the controversial “Jesus People Movement” of the 1970s was atypical for evangelical church leaders of the time, but hippies grooving on Jesus rather than drugs was something with which Wimber easily resonated.

The significant turning point in Wimber’s ministry that would lead him away from the Calvary movement occurred on Mother’s Day in 1980. “The stuff,” (as Wimber would call unusual spiritual experiences described by Richter in the opening paragraph) erupted unexpectedly in his church. Wimber had invited Lonnie Frisbee, a young hippie who had been a key figure in the Jesus People Movement, to give his testimony (Frisbee with Sachs 2012). An unexpected outbreak of strange physical manifestations, including the speaking in tongues, occurred in the Mother’s Day service, leaving Wimber nonplused and seeking divine guidance. In response to a prayer asking God if the seeming pandemonium that swept through the congregation was of divine origin, a minister friend from Colorado (unaware of what had transpired at Wimber’s church that morning) phoned saying that he had been divinely instructed to call and to tell Wimber “It was Me.” Wimber would soon abandon Smith’s cessationist theology that discounted the paranormal “gifts of the Spirit” (e.g. speaking in tongues, healing, prophecies and miracles) as practiced in Pentecostalism (Jackson 1999). Once again Wimber would find himself in tension with a religious mentor.

In 1982, Wimber withdrew his alliance with Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel network and with Smith’s encouragement affiliated with Ken Gulliksen, a minister who held beliefs similar to Wimber’s on the experience of the gifts of the Spirit and who had recently established a church under the Vineyard name (Jackson 1999; DiSabatino 2006). Within a year Gulliksen would give the leadership of the Vineyard Church to Wimber, and 1984, Wimber established the Association of Vineyard Churches (AVC), a network of churches. The AVC grew to include some 500 congregations spread throughout North America and in the United Kingdom within the next ten years. Wimber promoted the gifts of the spirit as “power evangelism,” where “the stuff” of supernatural happenings (especially divine healing) was affirmed as a propelling force for modern evangelism (Wimber and Springer 1986). The AVC became a primary marker for what Fuller Theological Seminary professor C. Peter Wagner called the “third wave” of the growing Pentecostal Movement in America . Many of these same spiritual phenomena experienced in Vineyard churches under Wimber’s ministry would later happen nightly at TAV/TACF.

In 1981, about the time that Wimber was transitioning from Calvary Chapel to the Vineyard, John Arnott put aside his successful travel business to establish his first church, Jubilee Christian Fellowship, an independent congregation in Stratford, Ontario. Four years later Arnott met Wimber at “Signs and Wonders” Conference held in Vancouver, B.C. at which Wimber was a main speaker. In 1987, with the encouragement of Gary Best and his team from the Langley Vineyard in British Columbia, John and Carol Arnott together with their church joined the AVC. While living in Stratford in 1988, John and Carol had been making regular trips to Toronto where they began a “cell church” that met in the home of John’s mother. That ministry would become the Toronto Airport Vineyard (TAV). When the revival began in January, 1994, TAV was a congregation of a reported 350 people, including children (Steingard with Arnott 2014).

In November of 1993, John and Carol Arnott made a pilgrimage to a pastors and leaders conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina . Claudio Freidzon, a local Assemblies of God evangelist and leader of a revival in process in Argentina asked John “Do you want the anointing?” When John responded affirmatively, Claudio said “Then take it.” John would later report “something clicking in my heart” during which he received “the anointing and power by faith.” On the return trip to Toronto , the Arnotts made a stop at a Vineyard church in southern California where they first learned about Randy Clark’s dramatic experiences with the supernatural. Within two months the seemingly same power that Arnott saw and prayed for in Argentina would come to TAV through Clark ‘s ministry (Arnott 1995).

Impacted by the famous healing ministry of evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, as well as a friendship with evangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn since the 1970s, Carol and John Arnott were hardly strangers to the “second wave” of pentecostalism. But it was John Wimber and the AVC who would have the greatest impact on the Arnotts’ ministry. The AVC network provided a steady stream of “third wave” leaders who helped to lay the foundation for the Toronto Blessing. In 1990, Jerry Steingard, who became pastor of the church in Stratford when the Arnotts moved to Toronto, introduced Arnott to Marc Dupont, one of the emerging third wave prophets. In 1991, Dupont would prophetically urge the Arnotts to leave Stratford and move to Toronto “in order to prepare for what God had in store for them” (Steingard with Arnott 2014). Later that year Dupont and his family moved to Toronto from San Diego , where he took a part-time position at TAV. (Dupont became a prophetic voice for revival with his predictions that spiritual renewal and refreshing was soon to come to Toronto .) The AVC also would provide the network through which Arnott would hear about the revival experience of Randy Clark, a Vineyard pastor from Missouri who reportedly had developed a gift for imparting revival experiences to congregations and whose ministry at TAV sparked the Toronto Blessing.

Clark first witnessed Wimber’s ministry when he attended conference in Dallas in January 1984. Clark reports, “I saw firsthand the power of God affecting people physically and causing them to tremble and/or fall down.” During that conference Wimber prophesied blessings over Clark’s life that included a word that he is “a Prince in the Kingdom of God ” (Johnson and Clark 2011:25). Clark would later learn that “John [Wimber] had heard God tell him audibly that I would one day go around the world laying hands on pastors and leaders to impart and stir up the spiritual gifts in them” (Johnson and Clark 2011:25). But in August, 1993 this former Baptist now pastor of an AVC church in St. Louis, Missouri claimed to be “burned-out” and close to a nervous breakdown after years of tough but seemingly unfruitful ministry. Nearly at wits end, Clark reluctantly and skeptically went to Tulsa, Oklahoma where Rodney Howard-Browne, an immigrant evangelist from South Africa who was at the center of the so-called “laughing revival,” was speaking. Clark found both his heaviness and skepticism lift during this revival meeting when he wound up on the floor laughing for no apparent reason. He soon attended another Howard-Browne meeting in Lakeland , Florida when Clark felt a tremendous power come into his hands as Howard-Browne” said to him: “This is the fire of God in your hands—go home and pray for everybody in your church.” Clark did as instructed and reportedly 95 percent of the congregation fell on the floor “under the power” (Poloma 2003:156).

Randy Clark accepted John Arnott’s invitation to minister a four-day conference at the TAV on January 20, 1994. On the first day, the unexpected happened to the approximately 120 persons gathered. As Arnott (1998:5) reports: “It hadn’t occurred to us that God would throw a massive party where people would laugh, roll, cry, and become so empowered that emotional hurts from childhood would just lift off. Some people were so overcome physically by God’s power that they had to be carried out.” Amazed that the revival phenomena continued daily, Clark gradually extended his stay at TAV for nearly two months, spending forty-two of the next sixty days in Toronto (Steingard with Arnott 2014). The nightly protracted meetings would continue with or without Clark or Arnott present over the weeks, months and years that followed, as thousands of pilgrims came from around the world seeking what Arnott prefers to call the “Father’s Blessing.”

By April, 1994, the revival had spread to churches in the United Kingdom. It would to go viral in May when Eleanor Mumford, wife of an AVC pastor in Southwest London , gave a testimony of her TAV experiences at an affluent Anglican church, Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). The revival that followed at HTB attracted the attention of the British press that was quick to break the story of what they dubbed the “Toronto Blessing” (Roberts 1994; Hilborn 2001).

John Wimber did not visit TAV until June, 1994, and he reportedly distanced himself from the party-like atmosphere of the revival. The revival continued to attract crowds coming from around the world with many pilgrims standing in line for hours trying to gain entrance to the main room of the industrial building that held 300 people (with another 300 watching on screen in the overflow). By its first anniversary celebration in January, 1995, TAV had relocated to nearby Attwell Drive to accommodate the thousands of visitors now coming to the nightly services and special conferences from around the world. But all was not well with the relationship between John Wimber and John Arnott. In December of 1995, Wimber would visit TAV, saying he had not come to discuss but to announce that the TAV would no longer be a part of the AVC. By the second anniversary celebration in January, 1996, the Toronto Airport Vineyard would be known as the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF).

During its heyday in the 1990s, the revival at TACF drew thousands of pilgrims nightly from twenty or more different countries (not uncommonly arriving in large chartered planes), many of whom would carry the Blessing back to their home churches where local revivals broke out. There were countless revival hotspots of various intensities and durations that erupted in congregations throughout North America . Some of them would host revival meetings for months or years, including well-known ones that persist with periodic revival conferences in Pasadena , California (HRock, formerly “ Harvest Rock Church ) and in Redding , California (Bethel Redding, formerly Bethel Assemblies of God, Redding ). Both HRock and Bethel together with Catch the Fire (as TACF is now known) are active in the “Revival Alliance” formed by John Arnott, Randy Clark, and other revival leaders. In 2006, after hosting revival meetings for twelve years, TACF would discontinue its nightly gatherings that once drew thousands from around the globe.

In 2010, TACF would become known as Catch the Fire (CTF), distinguishing emergent and emerging churches in other locations from the mother church on Attwell Drive in Toronto . On January 24, 2014, CTF hosted a simple Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Night with John Arnott and Randy Clark as speakers: “20 Years Ago on January 20 th 1994, God blessed our small church at the end of the runway in Toronto with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Since then God has transformed so many people’s lives all over the world!” (“Twentieth Anniversary Celebration” 2014). A related conference followed during the next three days and nights under the auspices of the Revival Alliance.


“Toronto Blessing” beliefs are rooted in worldview that can best be described as postmodern, providing a lens for viewing everyday reality that includes metaphysical experiences and events. This alternative worldview can be likened to living in a world of possibilities, where the “as is” of commonly shared empirical reality and the “as if” of metaphysical experiences (not unlike those reported throughout the Bible) dance together. In this the Toronto Blessing shares the miracles, mysteries, and magic found in the first wave of historic Pentecostalism that includes experiences to the non-modern world of spirits, especially the Holy Spirit. But third-wavers differ from their Pentecostal spiritual fathers and mothers who rejected modern culture, including higher education, science, sports, cosmetics and jewelry — even public beaches and pools where men and women would swim together. Third-wavers are more likely to adopt and adapt contemporary culture for their own ends, as John Wimber did when he embraced hippie converts to the movement. Like the Pentecostals of old, however, third-wavers commonly report encounters with the divine as well as with angels and demons, insisting that seemingly supernatural events are in fact normal Christian living. They tend to see the world and to interpret its events through different lenses than their fundamentalist and many of their evangelical cousins with whom they are often confused.

In his study of “reinventing American Protestantism,” Miller (1997:121-22) has noted that “new paradigm churches [like the Association of Vineyard Churches] . . . do not fit the traditional categories.” Their perspective differs from both Christian conservatives and liberals. Miller calls them as “doctrinal minimalists” and “cultural innovators,” and provides the following succinct description in support of his thesis:

New paradigm Christians are pioneering a new epistemology, one that seeks to move beyond the limitations of the Enlightenment-based understanding of religion that informs most modern critics of religion (e.g., Hume, Freud, Marx) and makes room for realities that do not nicely fit within the parameters of a materialistic worldview. Detached reason, they contend, is not the only guide to things ultimate. They believe religious knowledge is to be found in worship and in the spiritual disciplines associated with prayer and meditation—that the acts of singing, praying, and studying scripture offer insight. They follow the long history within the Christian tradition of referring to these moments as the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Toronto Blessing provides a good illustration of how American Protestantism is being “reinvented” through contemporary religious experiences. The Blessing’s history, as for most of Protestantism, rests in the Reformation and its emphasis on the Bible as a foundation for all Christian truth. Most followers would accept the tenets of Christianity as found in the Nicene Creed. But the Blessing also finds validity in the historical religious experiences closer to home, comparing Toronto ‘s to those of the First Great Awakening. Guy Chevreau, a Baptist minister who had studied revivals while pursuing his Th.D. at Wycliffe College (Toronto School of Theology), was among the earliest visitors to the TAV revival. He linked what he observed there with his historical knowledge of Jonathan Edwards and the manifestations that occurred during the Great Awakening. Chevreau (1994) quickly became the in-house theologian during the early years of Toronto who could respond to queries about the controversial physical manifestations through his preaching and teaching classes at TAV/TACF and around the globe.

The populist theology that has come to mark the movement is not grounded in systematic theologies or in the curriculum of its accredited schools. It is developed by emerging leaders from varying Protestant sectors, many of who were not schooled in seminaries. Its theology is derived from empirical observations and religious testimonies sorted through innovative biblical interpretations. The simple motto once found on the wall of the TAV/TACF worship center became a basic tenet: “To know God’s love and to give it away” [now expanded to read “Walking in the Father’s love and giving it away to Toronto and to the world” (Steingard with Arnott 2014: 180)]. The experiential knowledge of divine love is assumed to be the propelling force (grace) that enables loving others. A kind of reiteration of the Great Commandment, the motto has found some support in empirical research conducted on the Blessing (c.f., Poloma 1996, 1998; Poloma and Hoelter 1998) as well as through research on mainstream America (Lee, Poloma and Post 2013).

This theology of love that marks the Blessing centers on experiencing the triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) of Christianity and teachings on the experiential “gifts of the Spirit,” namely, prophecy and divine healing. (It is significant that although most people who experience the Blessing do “pray in tongues” and that glossolalia had been the spiritual signature for most involved in the first two waves of pentecostalism, leaders of the Blessing have placed little doctrinal emphasis on tongues.) At times the life of Jesus and many of his teachings seem to fade into the background with Blessing teachings highlighting the power of the Holy Spirit and the Father’s love. As a warning against a literal interpretation of the scriptures without guidance from the Spirit, speakers would also remind listeners, “The trinity is not the Father, Son and the Bible, but the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,”

John Arnott, as previously noted, prefers the term “Father’s Blessing” to “Toronto Blessing” for designating the worldwide movement that developed out of the revival. In writing on its history, Jerry Steingard with John Arnott (2014) made the following statement to open their discussion of theology:

To more fully understand or appreciate all that God has been accomplishing in this outpouring since 1994, we believe it is helpful and accurate to view it as a Father movement. The Father has been throwing a party, celebrating us coming home and back into his loving embrace. Through this extravagant outpouring of God’s love and grace, untold thousands, if not millions of us, have found deeper levels of healing and restoration in our hearts and relationships, and have come into greater intimacy and communication with our God. Out of the Father’s affirmation and blessing, we have been freshly awakened to who we are in Christ Jesus, to our true identity as royal sons and daughters and to our true calling and destiny.

Healing (spiritual, mental, physical, and relational) has been a central tenet for the Blessing that can be traced to a prophetic dream Arnott had in 1987 in which he reporting seeing “three bottles of cream”(Steingard with Arnott 2014:272-76). He says that in it he heard the Lord tell him to go to Buffalo, New York, to a dairy to get the three bottles (which he interpreted as being called drink from three distinct teachings). Arnott made a trip to Buffalo to meet with Tommy Reid, an Assemblies of God pastor known for the fresh move of the Holy Spirit that his congregation was enjoying in the 1980s. Reid in turn introduced Arnott to Mark Virkler whose teachings on experiencing God would provide the spiritual contents for one bottle, namely, how to commune with God through whom all healing comes. Experiencing the divine presence arguably is core to the Toronto movement. Carol and John Arnott had already been exposed to what they believed to be the contents of the two other bottles of cream: the first containing experiences of the Father heart of God that they had come to know through the ministry of Jack Winter and the other being the inner healing ministry of John and Paul Sanford. The Arnotts believe that “drinking” of these three teachings (communing with God, Father-heart of God, and divine inner healing) had prepared them and their congregation for the outpouring of God’s Spirit that became known to the world as the Toronto Blessing.

Two supporting and recurrent teachings for the “three bottle” theology can be found in the teachings on topics like prophecy, forgiveness, and holistic healing. Prophecy or hearing the (usually inaudible) voice of God is regarded as a normal phenomenon for revivalists who commune with the divine. Sometimes what is heard is the foretelling of future events but prophecy as forth-telling through which God provides comfort, guidance and support is more commonly practiced (Poloma and Lee 2013a, 2013b). Although end-time prophecies were introduced to both earlier waves of pentecostalism, the Toronto prophets are soft on the pre-millennial eschatology characteristic of fundamentalist Christianity. Instead the focus is on a Kingdom of God that is partially here with the potential of it being more fully becoming a reality through the power of the Holy Spirit. It may include foretelling , as when Marc Dupont and others foretold a promised revival in Toronto before it actually occurred and when Dupont prophetically instructed the Arnotts to relocate in Toronto (Steingard with Arnott 2014). John Wimber was involved with prophetic foretelling in the mid-1980s through a group known as the Kansas City Prophets (e.g., Bob Jones, Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, and John Paul Jackson). When a major prophecy of a KCP failed to actualize, Wimber continued to acknowledge prophecy as a gift of the Spirit, but he pulled away from his earlier support of the KCP who promoted the “office of prophet” and prophetic foretelling. Wimber stated his position as one in which “the prophets would not be loose cannons on the Vineyard ship; they would be bolted down to the deck, or they would be told to exercise their gifts elsewhere” (Beverley 1995:126; see also Jackson 1999).

The KCP and growing number of other prophets found a welcoming platform in Toronto , where they prophesied and modeled prophecy. While not everyone is called to the office of a prophet, all believers are said to be able to prophesy, thus not limiting its use to those who are acclaimed as prophets. Prophets were unofficially charged with modeling prophecy and instructing followers to how to prophesy (primarily in forth-telling), using this gift to encourage and to build the faith of others. John Arnott’s approach to prophecy (as seen in his use of prophecy to interpret some of the strange manifestations seen during the Toronto revival as “prophetic symbols”) is one of the reasons Wimber gave for dismissing the TAV from the AVC in 1995. Arnott (2008:52) would later write a booklet (elaborating the chapter on “prophetic mime” found in his 1995 book) that incorporated a discussion of the unusual manifestations found in the Bible and examples of manifestations seen in Toronto over the years. Arnott wrote:

We must learn to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing and exercise discernment when people are acting under His power. They could be demonstrating a powerful word the God wants us to hear. We need to be led by the Spirit and remember to be childlike, but not childish, in approaching the things of the Spirit. Let God be God. ‘Prove all things and hold fast to what is good.’

Promoting the loving “heart of the Father” (often delivered as personal prophetic forth-telling to individuals) replaced a rigid image of the Father as a stern judge and avenger, an image that is basic to Arnott’s theology of love and grace. This increasingly popular image of God has been described as “percolating beneath the surface for a very long time, a significant shift, a new pulse of the Spirit that may never have an identifying name.” E. Loren Stanford (2013) suggests a link between this shift in the image of God the Father and divine inner-healing when he writes:

Jesus, however, came to reveal the nature and character of His Father. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). We experienced wonderful years of revelation from great men like Jack Winter and Jack Frost who convinced us on no uncertain terms that the Father loves us. They brought healing to a generation wounded by the fatherlessness that grew from our culture of self.

Another important key (arguably the most important key) to Blessing theology is forgiveness. Arnott (1997P5) contends: “Forgiveness is the key to blessing. Forgiveness and repentance open up our hearts and allow the river of God to flow freely in us.” Failure to forgive wrongs committed against us, wielding the hammer of justice rather than the flag of mercy, and the failure to forgive oneself all can block communing with God, divine healing and supernatural empowerment. Forgiveness thus is said to be the key to loving others as we have been divinely loved. In sum, Arnott has identified three things that he regards as “vital to seeing the powerful release of the Spirit of God”:

First, we need a revelation of how big God is. We must know that absolutely nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). Second, we need a revelation of how loving He is, how much he cares for us and how He is absolutely committed to loving us to life (Jeremiah 31:3). I delight to tell people that God loves them just the way they are, yet loves them too much to leave them the way they are. Finally, we need a revelation of how we can walk in that love and give it away. A heart that is free has time and resources for others.


The late Clark H. Pinnock, noted theologian of Pentecostalism and professor at McMaster Divinity College in Ontario, who came to TAV as a scholar-observer turned pilgrim, provides some insightful text about the interrelationship of religious experience, rituals, and theology based on his visits to TAV/TACF. Pinnock (2000:4-6) writes:

The essential contribution of the Toronto Blessing lies in its spirituality of playful celebration. The Day of Pentecost (let us not forget) was a festival in the Jewish calendar and its festive character is evident in the Toronto meetings—in the joy and laughter of God’s children playing in the presence of God. When the music sounds, the people burst into joyful praise and abandon themselves to the love of God being poured out. . . .

The worship in Toronto is the ancient liturgy of the Church realized, with its many parts present but unnamed: the call, the Gloria, the kyrie, the confession, the Word, and the benediction. The old structures are there and are now carried along by an oral tradition that allows for both form and freedom. As is characteristic of jazz music, themes are pronounced by leaders but are also enriched by improvisation coming from the people and fueled by testimonies of what the Lord has done. The Scriptures are expounded, not literalistically, but charismatically, such that the Word of the Lord sounds fresh from the ancient texts. In a playful interaction between what the Bible presents and the present situation, the story life of Scripture gets interwoven with the life of the community so that we recognize ourselves in the text and are challenged by the living Word.

Pinnock’s assessment provides a thoughtful description of the playfulness found in the ritual of the renewal services and conferences, particularly during the earliest years of the revival. But even then the regular Sunday morning services at TAV/TACF customarily had a less playful timbre, and eventually even special conferences assumed a more predictable format. Ritual for a typical Sunday service (even during the heyday of revival) looked much like the rituals as practiced by countless non-liturgical evangelical and pentecostal churches throughout North America . Playful laughter, dancing, running falling, and a myriad of other strange antics, if they occurred at all in the regularly scheduled church services, were likely to be subdued and short lived.

The revival services at Toronto and the scores of places across the globe to which the Blessing spread had a simple format but one in which the Spirit and pilgrims were given the space and encouragement to play. A typical revival service at TAV/TACF lasted at least two and a half hours, plus an undefined number of hours following for individual ministry. The format included the following components: worship in song and dance; testimonies about the experience and effects of the blessing; announcements, offering and song; preaching/teaching; altar call for salvation and recommitment; and service dismissal with the informal general ministry time to follow. But no one was rigidly following format or a calling time on a particular component. As Steingard with Arnott (2014:261) commented about the basic format, “[It] does not reflect the holy chaos that was often the norm.” They went on to say: “And the Holy Spirit often came and vetoed or hijacked the meeting, particularly during the testimony times. Occasionally the scheduled speaker was unable to give his message, and ministry time often went on until one or two in the morning, with some people needing to be carried out to their cars in order to close the church doors for the night!”

Nightly revival meetings at TACF and other Blessing locations were more concerned about “allowing the Spirit to move” than protecting a schedule or developing a structured ritual. Revival services provide a good example of what anthropologist Victor Turner has called “antistructure” in his discussion of ritual and its relationship to “liminality” (Turner 1969). For Turner, “liminality” is a qualitative dimension of the ritual process that often appears in efficacious ritual, operating “betwixt and between” or “on the edge of” the normal limits of society. Liminal conditions, which can range from dancing to the strong beat of Christian rock music (as found in contemporary revivals) to sitting in stillness and silence (as found in Silent Quaker meetings), are reflections of “antistructures” that make space “for something else to occur.” Toronto ‘s nightly revival meetings and conferences were open to the unexpected, intentionally sorting out only behaviors which were deemed to be potentially harmful. The Arnotts believed an earlier heavy-handed response to unfamiliar manifestations stifled a revival that had developed some years earlier in their church in Stratford , Ontario — and they were determined not to make the same mistake with the Toronto Blessing. When new developments would emerge John Arnott or one of the leaders might ask the person involved what he or she was experiencing.

An illustration of the interpretation of a controversial manifestation and its perceived effects can be seen the first time roaring occurred during a meeting in the spring of 1994. John Arnott was in St. Louis visiting Randy Clark when an Asian pastor from Vancouver, British Columbia roared like a lion. When Arnott returned to Toronto, Gideon Chu was still there; Arnott invited him to the platform to explain why he had roared. “Gideon testified that he thought the roaring represented God’s heart over the heritage and domination of the dragon over the Chinese people. He felt that Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah , was going to free the Chinese people from centuries of bondage” (Steingard with Arnott 2014:157). Nearly twenty years later at the Revival Alliance 2014 Conference held in Toronto, Carol Arnott (2014) updated the audience about the prophetic symbolism of Chu ‘s roaring. After not hearing from him for years, Chu reconnected with the Arnotts in the fall of 2013 and was invited to a Partners in Harvest gathering to share his story. Carol retold Chu’s story, noting that Chu thanked them for not shutting him down when he roared like a lion in 1994. She then showed a film clip of Chu’s involvement with top Christian leaders in China who have been instrumental in bringing an estimated fifty to sixty million Chinese people to Christianity (Carol Arnott, 2014). The emphasis then and now has been on judging the testimonies and potential effects of manifestations rather than outlawing them simply because they seemed “weird.” The case of Pastor Chu roaring like a lion demonstrates how the loose structure and flexible norms at TAV/TACF creates space for “liminality” to flourish.

The “general ministry time” that followed the revival service (dubbed “carpet time” by many) consciously allowed a place and time to enjoy unbridled play and prayer. After the regular service ended, many lined up for prayer seeking the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, while others lay on the floor or sat in their seats often in seemingly altered states. The hours that followed allowed ample opportunity for worshipers to experience the mystical, including visions, dreams, healing, prophecy, as well as the often-noted physical manifestations, including holy laughter and being “drunk in the spirit” (Poloma 2003). Hundreds of people would line up nightly for prayer ministry by teams of pray-ers in a loose ritual accompanied first by the worship band and then transitioning to CDs as the night progressed. For many this post-service ministry would be the highpoint of the evening.

Those seeking prayer during the general ministry time were instructed to line up on the neatly marked floor, as prayer teams with the assistance of a “catcher” who stood behind the pray-ee (to assure no one was injured in the fall) would offer informal prayer. On any given night rows upon rows of bodies could be found sprawled out over the floor. “Carpet time” with pray-ees dropping faint to the floor (also known as “going under the power,” “being slain in the spirit” or “resting in the spirit” in earlier waves of pentecostalism) was widespread at TAV/TACF. Scores of trained prayer team members would minister nightly to the hundreds of individuals who lined up for prayer at the end of each service. “Carpet time” differed from the earlier practice of “resting in the spirit” that was widespread during the second wave of pentecostalism in its duration and democratization. No longer was the pastor or conference leader the person responsible for praying for the masses; prayer teams, made up of scores of volunteers, became an important medium for the Blessing. While falling to the ground in a seeming trance was a common experience in the second pentecostal wave, pray-ees would normally quickly get up and return to their seats. Toronto pilgrims, however, were instructed not to be in a hurry to rise from the floor. Waves of the Spirit’s manifest presence could keep coming, so it was important to wait and to “soak” in the divine presence allowing God time to fully impart His blessing. Falling to the ground and other physical manifestations were not limited to the church auditorium, they could be seen in hotel lobbies, restaurants and even parking lots, particularly during the earliest years of the revival. (Drivers would jovially be warned that bodies seen in the parking lot were not put there as speed bumps.)

Leslie Scrivener, a reporter for The Toronto Star (October 8, 1995), began her news article on a TAV conference with the following playful description that characterized the revival:

The mighty winds of Hurricane Opal that swept through Toronto last week were mere tropical gusts compared with the power of God thousands believe struck them senseless at a conference at the controversial Airport Vineyard church. At least with Opal, they could stay on their feet. Not so with many of the 5,300 souls meeting at the Regal Constellation Hotel. The ballroom carpets were littered with fallen bodies, bodies of seemingly straightlaced men and women who felt themselves moved by the phenomenon they say is the Holy Spirit. So moved, they howled with joy or the release of some buried pain. They collapsed, some rigid as corpses, some convulsed in hysterical laughter. From room to room come barnyard cries, calls heard only in the wild, grunts so deep women recalled the sounds of childbirth, while some men and women adopted the very position of childbirth. Men did chicken walks. Women jabbed their fingers as if afflicted with nervous disorders. And around these scenes of bedlam were loving arms to catch the falling, smiling faces, whispered prayers of encouragement, instructions to release, to let go ” [italics added for emphasis].

As a participant observer of TAV/TACF, particularly during the first six years of the revival during which I often served on prayer teams, I can personally attest to a sense of peace that mysteriously permeated the audible and visible bedlam of revival. My first impression during my initial visit to TAV (November 1994) meshed well with Scrivener’s concluding sentence. I recall standing in line for a couple of hours talking with other pilgrims outside the industrial strip mall on Dixie Road, for what would be one of the last services held at this location where pilgrims outnumbered the seats in the small church. We arrived early, standing outside in the cold Canadian weather with hopes of being among those who would be admitted to the main room, or at least into the overflow section. Although I was a seasoned pentecostal observer, I had never before experienced the unusually spirited service of worship in song, testimonies, and sermon that was permeated by various physical manifestations, especially “holy laughter.” After the general service ended and the chairs were gathered up to make room for individual ministry, I found a small spot on the floor next to a pillar where I enjoyed a ring-side seat during “carpet time.” I listened to the prayer teams as they playfully ministered to visitors (most of whom seemed to quickly sink to the floor) with simple phrases, the most common of which seemed to be “more, Lord – give (him or her) more.” There was little exchange about personal needs or problems nor the saying of well-articulated flowing prayers that I was used to from serving on prayer teams in charismatic churches. “More, Lord” seemed to suffice.

Over the years “carpet time” would morph into what became known as “soaking prayer,” a ritual practice and (for a few years) a potential religious movement in its own right. Soaking prayer has been defined (von Buseck, n.d .) as “simply positioning yourself to express your love to God. It is not intercession. It is not coming to God with a list of needs. It is the act of entering into the presence of God to experience His love — and then allowing the love of God through the Holy Spirit to revolutionize your love for Him.”

Instead of seeking prayer from a prayer team that preceded the prayee’s falling to the floor, some men and women would simply lie down (often equipped with a “soaking prayer kit” of blanket and pillow) or to sit comfortably as they listened to the music and surrendered to whatever might follow. With appropriate “soaking music” playing in the background, pray-ers and pray-ees worked together to create space for entering the divine presence sought by mystics over the centuries (Wilkinson and Althouse 2014).

By 2004, a plan was afloat to spread the Blessing by establishing soaking prayer centers throughout the world under the CTF rubric. John and Carol Arnott produced a Soaking Kit of six DVDs, soaking prayer leaders gave talks, videos promoting soaking prayer appeared on YouTube, and a network was established to encourage the practice that claimed “77 countries and growing.” CTF’s plans to keep renewal fires burning through soaking prayer centers seem to have been short lived, with only a small description on the present website that includes the warning: “P lease note: Some of the administrational information in this video is slightly out of date, however the key principles remain true”(“Soaking” n.d.).

Over the years that followed the birth of the Toronto Blessing, particularly within the first decade after the famed service of January, 1994, events would erupt at both Toronto and elsewhere to fan revival fires. They included new revival sites (with strong or weak ties to Toronto) at Pensacola, Florida (Brownsville Assembly of God), Smithton, Missouri (Smithton Community Church), Pasadena, California (Harvest Rock Church), Baltimore, Maryland (Rock City Church); Redding, California (Bethel Church Assembly of God), and the Canadian Arctic Outpouring (various communities in the Canadian territory of Nunavut). In 1999, reports of golden flakes and gold fillings (noted during the 1980s at the Argentinean revival) made their way to Toronto – an outbreak that John Arnott explained by saying “I just believe God loves people and wants to bless them” (Steingard with Arnott 2014:201; see also Poloma 2003). Whatever the medium, visiting pastors and lay pilgrims would not uncommonly “catch the fire” and carry seemingly strange outcomes (from “holy laughter” to “gold fillings”) back to their home churches.

Most of the playful rituals and experiences of Toronto were defined in terms of God’s manifest presence and power, and especially as a sign of God’s deep and personal love. Although there were some early attempts to lead revivalists into the city of Toronto to feed the poor and the homeless, most visitors did not make the trek to TAV/TACF to do social outreach. A survey of Toronto pilgrims did indicate, however, that the majority were involved serving those in need in some way (and those who scored higher on reported experiences of divine love) were the most likely to be involved in outreach to the poor and needy (see Poloma 1998). The nightly revival meetings, however, seemed focused on receiving personal spiritual blessings. Heidi and Rolland Baker, American missionaries to Mozambique, embraced the personal blessing but coupled it with exemplifying its power to serve the poor. First Rolland and then Heidi came to Toronto in 1996, as burned-out pilgrims who needed spiritual refreshing to maintain their newest ministry in a country that was just emerging from a long civil war. They would become living examples of how personal spiritual blessings can empower extraordinary love and service. Heidi (sometimes lovingly referred to as a pentecostal Mother Teresa) has especially captured the hearts of those involved in the Blessing with her testimonies (many are found on YouTube) of how visits to Toronto have changed her life and empowered their ministry (Stafford 2012). Her accounts have provided the revival movement with stories of miracles far surpassing those customarily heard in North America, accounts coupled with her compelling call to love God and to love the poor (Baker and Baker 2002; Baker 2008; see also Lee, Poloma and Post 2013 for further discussion). The Bakers not only breathed new life into the Toronto Blessing but they continue to serve as an important link among those involved in the web-like Partners in Harvest and Revival Alliance, two organizations in which different ministries work together toward the common goal of promoting revival.


Catch the Fire had its roots in an independent non-denominational church, Jubilee Christian Fellowship in Stratford, Ontario, established by John Arnott in 1981. Arnott met John Wimber, founder of the newly formed Association of Vineyard Churches, in 1986; a year later he and his church would join the AVC. The Toronto Airport Vineyard (TAV) began as an AVC “kinship group” planted by John and Carol Arnott in 1988 (then known as Vineyard Christian Fellowship Toronto but renamed when another Vineyard church opened in Toronto ). In 1991, the Arnotts moved to Toronto and began to assemble a staff for their new church. The “Toronto Blessing” revival erupted in January, 1994 and tension would soon develop between the TAV and the AVC. TAV would be formally dismissed from the AVC by Wimber in late 1995, largely over disagreements about particular ritualistic practices (including “carpet time” and “prophetic mime”). A new church organization focusing on revival would be born.

By January, 1996, the second anniversary of the revival, the now independent church was renamed the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) and relocated in a large newly renovated building near the airport on Attwell Drive that had been acquired a year earlier. In 2010, the church that hosted the Toronto revival would be renamed once more, this time, as Catch the Fire Toronto (CTF). Steve and Sandra Long had been associate pastors at TACF/CTF since 1994, when after visiting TAV they resigned from the Baptist tradition to align with TAV (Steingard with Arnott 2014). In January, 2006, Steve and Sandra (married couples are generally regarded as a ministerial team) were made senior pastors (senior leaders) of the Toronto CTF church and John and Carol assumed the title of “founding pastors.” The Arnotts also serve as President of Catch the Fire (World), with Steve and Sandra Long and Duncan and Kate Smith (of CTF Raleigh, North Carolina) serving as vice-presidents.

It is safe to say that the shifting organizations, leaders and nomenclature coming out of the Toronto Blessing have always been more web-like than organizational, based on loose relationships rather than on well-defined membership criteria. What exists today as CTF and the umbrella networks Partners in Harvest and Revival Alliance may be shifting even as this section is being written. Partners in Harvest was originally established by John Arnott in response to the request of pastors immediately following the dismissal of TACF from the AVC in late 1995 as these leaders sought a “covering” for their ministries. In 1996, Partners in Harvest was birthed, to serve as a network of fellowship for leaders of churches and ministries who had embraced the revival. Those who did not wish to commit (or felt they could not commit because of particular denominational affiliations) could become Friends in Harvest. Partners in Harvest has most recently been described as a “family of churches . . . [consisting] of about six hundred churches and ministries worldwide with one hundred and fifty of those considered as ‘Friends in Harvest’” (Steingard with Arnott 2014:224). The PIH website (“Revival Alliance Conference” 2014) described Partners in Harvest as serving “PIH family members’ primary relational affiliation and covering” and as a “primary source of accountability.” The purpose of PIH is “to provide encouragement, blessing and a relational network for the building up of its members.”

There is also another relational umbrella of “friendship and interdenominational unity” known as Revival Alliance in which CTF is one of six members. Revival Alliance is a network made up of revival leaders, each of whom heads an independent ministry with its own structure and goals. Although claiming to be “interdenominational,” all have been influenced by the Toronto Blessing and all have played some role in promoting and shaping its history. None belong to recognized established denominations. They include John and Carol Arnott (Catch the Fire); Randy and DeAnne Clark (Global Ministries); Bill and Beni Johnson ( Bethel Church , Redding ), Rolland and Heidi Baker ( Iris Ministries ), Che and Sue Ahn (Harvest International Ministry), and Georgian and Winnie Banov (Global Celebration) (Steingard with Arnott 2014:225). Together they recently hosted a large conference in Toronto to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Toronto Blessing (“Revival Alliance Conference” 2014).

Catch the Fire can be described as but one, albeit arguably the most significant, of an independent network of churches and ministries that aligns with the Revival Alliance and Partners in Harvest. On another level, CTF can be described as an international denomination in the making. As we have noted in giving an account of the birth of TAV/TACF/CTF, the Toronto church began as a “cell group”; “cells” are still regarded as important seeds for future CTF churches. CTF presently has ten church campuses, including two in the United States (Houston, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina) and four in Canada (Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Calgary, Alberta) (Steingard and Arnott 2014:226). All are members of Partners in Harvest and all are encouraged to develop cell groups through their congregations. Catch the Fire has a reported 200 cells in the Greater Toronto Area and eight campuses (churches at different GTA locations) in addition to the original Airport campus, describing itself as a “multicultural and multi-campus cell church” (Catch the Fire Campuses n.d.). In addition to the growing network of churches in the Toronto area, CTF Toronto conducts a school of ministry known as Catch The Fire College, with similar Catch the Fire Colleges in Montreal, South Africa, the UK, Norway, the USA and Brazil (Steingard and Arnott 2014:273). Although it no longer holds nightly revival meetings, CTF regularly hosts conferences and an on line video site (Catch the Fire TV hosted by YouTube). A team of itinerant CTF, Partners in Harvest, and Revival Alliance ministers continue to spread the word about revival in churches around the globe.


Issues and challenges that face the Toronto Blessing Movement/Catch the Fire can be approached through the lenses of theology and sociology, both of which have been implicit in recounting the history and organization of this revival movement. The Toronto Blessing is rooted in populist theologies linked to mysticism , a theological construct that focuses more on affective experiences than intellectual dictums . Mysticism has been defined as “a religious practice based on the belief that knowledge of spiritual truth can be gained by praying or thinking deeply” and the “belief that direct knowledge of God, a spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience” (Meriam Webster Dictionary 2014). While those involved in the CTF movement would be unlikely to use the term, Poloma (2003) has demonstrated how scholarly literature on mysticism contributes to understanding the altered consciousness and alternate world view in which pentecostal experiences (including the strange physical manifestations) are often perceived to be encounters with the divine. Sociology , on the other hand, is the social scientific study of human social behavior, including empirical description and critical analysis of the interaction between human behavior and social organization. It can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of mystical experiences. Sociological theories and methods, however, can be applied to the empirical study of the role that religious experience plays in the origin, development and revitalization of organized religion, including the web-like organizations of much of contemporary pentecostalism (c.f. Poloma 1982; 1989; Poloma and Green, 2010).

Karl Rahner, a renowned Catholic theologian said (in an often cited quotation): “In the coming age we must all become mystics—or be nothing at all” (c.f. Tuoti 1996). Rahner’s observation casts light on understanding the exponential growth of global pentecostalism over the past one hundred years. Recent neo-pentecostal revivals, including the Toronto Blessing, with its emphasis on prophecy, visions, dreams, and other paranormal experiences have been largely ignored by academic systematic theology and severely critiqued by populist cessationists who deny the relevance of biblical paranormal experiences (tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc.) for contemporary Christianity. The Blessing movement has its populist supporters and its critics. The most vocal and influential of the conservative populist critics is Hank Hanegraaff (1997), an ordained minister in Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel network, President of the Christian Research Institute, and host of The Bible Answer Man radio-talk show. Hanegraaff has pejoratively described the revival movement as “spiritual cyanide” that is “aping the practices of pagan spirituality” with leaders who “work their devotees into an altered state of consciousness” (cited in Steingard with Arnott 2014:148).

While Hanegraaff has extensively critiqued revival experiences as an outsider to the pentecostal movement, Andrew Strom, a self-described charismatic who had once been actively involved with the Kansas City Prophets and accepts a theology of the gifts of the Spirit, proffers an “insider’s warning.” Not unlike Hanegraaf, Strom has launched a harsh and relentless critique that labels contemporary revivals to be “false” and “demonic” (Strom 2012). He regards the physical manifestations as “false spirits” of Eastern mysticism, specifically linking them to the “Hindu ‘Kundalini’ spirit” and New Age teachings (Strom, 2010). More moderate critics like James Beverly (1995), while still reluctant to interpret the more extreme physical manifestations as direct manifestations of the Holy Spirit, have softened their assessment of the revival over the years. Beverly is reported as saying, “Whatever the weaknesses are, they are more than compensated for by thousands and thousands of people having had tremendous encounters with God, receiving inner healings, and being renewed” (Dueck 2014).

The Revival Alliance’s support of Todd Bentley’s failed Lakeland ( Florida ) Revival that lasted for only four months in 2008 gave new fuel to revival critics. Strom (2012, 29) writes:

The Lakeland revival was almost certainly the most hyped event in Charismatic history. And yet it all ended in ignominy in August, 2008 . . .It went from the most hyped ‘great revival’ to one of the most regretted fiascos in Charismatic history within a matter of weeks. And at the very center of it was Todd Bentley’s affinity for strange ‘manifestations’ straight out of Toronto and the Prophetic movement.

Bentley’s use of “guided visualization;” his personal demeanor and extensive tattoos; repeated visions of Emma, a young beautiful female angel; his provocative ministry style (including crying out “Bam” while praying for people and even kicking persons being prayed for); and other flamboyancies fed many reservations about his popular revival. Yet during its four-month run it would draw thousands to Lakeland , Florida each night while multiple thousands more watched from around the world on God TV and the Internet. Three of the leaders of the Revival Alliance (John Arnott, Bill Johnson, and Che Ahn) would lay hands on Bentley on June 23, 2008 and anoint him, thus offering their public support for Bentley’s apostolic revival. The bombshell would come in early August when Bentley announced he was separating from his wife and “another woman” was involved. He would soon divorce his wife and remarry, turning the revival into a tailspin in August, 2008. With leading revival “apostles” and “prophets” having uncritically offered Bentley support despite his strange beliefs and practices (even by revival standards) followed by their attempt to quickly restore his ministry after the untimely divorce and remarriage, theological critics had new fuel to add to their critique of the Toronto Blessing and its followers.

A sociological perspective takes a different tack in assessing the Blessing by focusing on social processes involved in the early stages of revival, its revitalizing powers, and routinizing forces. Thus sociology provides an instrument to assess three ongoing and interrelated processes found in the two decades of Toronto Blessing history: revival, revitalization, and routinization. During the first couple of years (mid-1990s) the Toronto Blessing was in its charismatic moment, with ongoing fresh and dynamic experiences perceived to be the presence and power of God, unstructured rituals that made space and time for the experience of the numinous, and the countless testimonies of changed lives. [Evidence for the impact of the Blessing on individuals can be found in the surveys Poloma conducted in 1995 and 1997 (Poloma 1998a; 2003).] But charisma as the free and unpredictable move of the Spirit is a fragile gift that can be both illusive and mysterious (see Poloma 1989; Poloma and Green 2010). As the master sociological theorist Max Weber noted long ago, charisma typically is difficult to maintain in modern rationalist societies. Despite claims by leaders that the Toronto Blessing is alive and well as it enters its twenty-first year, its impact is likely to be assessed in terms of routinizing forces rather than spiritual revitalization. Catch the Fire is now a denomination in the making and other emergent revival organizations, including those in the Revival Alliance, are emergent institutions with the goal of keeping revival fires burning. The free flowing charisma reflected in dynamic revival meetings of the earliest years with ongoing nightly revival meetings has been routinized into social structures that promise and prophesy revival. In other words, revivalist organizations headed by revival leaders, with their media presentations, books and conferences have developed to remember the past and to proclaim new revivals. Using mixed metaphors, these emergent groups call for revival winds to blow, for revival rain to fall, and for blazing revival fire to sweep across the world. This search for “fresh charisma” to revive the revival is supported by some who experienced revival in the old millennium as well as young converts from the new. (The ongoing quest for revival is undoubtedly a factor that fueled the short-lived Lakeland Revival in 2008 with renowned leaders giving their uncritical blessing.)

Charisma is known to revitalize existing institutions and to launch new ones; but, if history provides any clues, charismatic effervescence has proved impossible to maintain over time. While it persists, however, it can at least temporarily revitalize established pentecostal organizations and can propel new ones to promote revival goals. As of this writing revival conferences continue, its schools attract students, leaders preach and write new books about revival; individual testimonies are still reported. It still remains possible for pilgrims to experience the intensity of the earliest years of the Toronto Blessing at special periodic conferences (see Dueck 2014). In general, however, the Toronto Blessing is largely history, although its leaders still have a limited power to maintain its presence as a religious social movement. Although it appears that the charismatic moment as witnessed during the first years of the Toronto Blessing is long past, there remains an ongoing dance between the fruits of earlier revitalization (through conferences, itinerant speakers, books, social media etc.) and the on-going routinization process reflected in the reticulate and web-like revival organizations that have been spawned. Whether these organizations prove to be a medium for yet another wave of pentecostal revival remains to be seen.


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Robeck, Cecil M. 2006. The Azusa Street Mission & Revival. The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville , TN: Thomas Nelson.

Roberts, Dave. 1994. The “ Toronto ” Blessing. Eastbourne, U.K. : Kingsway Publications.

“Soaking.” n.d. Accessed from on 16 April 2014.

Sandford, R. Loren. 2013. “An Emerging New Movement.” Prophetic Moments (Issue #63). Accessed from on 5 February 2014.

Stafford, Tim. 2012. ”Miracles in Mozambique.” Christianity Today 56:18-26.

Steingard, Jerry with John Arnott. 2014. From Here to the Nations: The Story of the Toronto Blessing. Toronto : Catch the Fire.

Strom, Andrew. 2012. True and False Revival. An Insider’s Warning. Revival School.

Tuoti, Frank X. 1996. Why Not Be a Mystic? New York : Crossroad.

Turner, Victor. 1960. The Ritual Process: Structure and anti-Structure. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

“Twentieth Anniversary Celebration.” Catch the Fire. Accessed from on 2 February 2014.

von Buseck, Craig. n.d. “Soaking Prayer FAQs.” Accessed from on 6 February 2014. Wilkinson, Michael and Peter Althouse. 2014. Catch the Fire: Soaking Prayer and Charismatic Reneewal. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.

Wimber, John and Kevin Springer. 1986. Power Evangelism. Ventura, CA: Gospel Light.

Yadao, Paul and Leif Hetland. 2011. Soaking in God’s Presence. Peachtree, GA: Global Mission.

Margaret M. Poloma

Post Date:
April 3, 2014




United Church of Canada


1859 An Anglican priest made the first public call for uniting Protestant churches in Canada.

1874, 1881, 1886 Calls for unity were repeated and strengthened.

1888 The Lambeth Conference (of Anglican bishops) approved four theological points acceptable for use as basis of a merger.

1889 A conference on church union was convened in Toronto. Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians attended. Congregationalists and Baptists supported the initiative.

1906 Anglicans withdrew from church union discussions.

1908 The remaining denominations agreed on a “Basis of Union” document.

1910 Congregationalists approved the union.

1912 Methodists approved the union.

1916 Presbyterians officially approved the union, but the decision split the church.

1924 Parliament approved the United Church of Canada Act, clearing away legal obstacles.

1925 (June 10) The United Church of Canada was inaugurated. Local Union Churches joined the merger while the Presbyterians remained divided.

1930s The UCoC provided major depression food relief; approved use of contraceptives; ordained a female pastor; opposed hardline government economic policy; approved an international Peace and Disarmament declaration; and opposed anti-Semitism.

1939 Sixty-eight pacifist members publicly denounced the church for its support of the war effort.

1942 The General Council of the church declined to support the draft.

World War II The CCoC supported government intervention on behalf of striking miners.

1945-1965 The CCoC exerienced its “Golden Era” of growth, prosperity, and influence.

1962 A new and highly controversial Sunday School Curriculum was introduced.

1968 UCoC approved a New Creed that modernized ancient statements of Christian belief.

1970s The decade was one of intense support for inclusivity and social activism generally, both domestically and internationally.

1984 UCoC withdrew its official opposition to abortion.

1988 UCoC withdrew its opposition to homosexual clergy.

Late 1980s UCoC publicly recognized its own complicity in various social injustices and began a series of official apologies to those injured.

1992 UCoC approved of a report on Authority and Interpretation of Scripture that precipitated significant protest within the church.

2012 The General Council approved a selective boycott of Israeli products.


The United Church of Canada (UCoC) is unusual. It is a church founded on a vision and an ambition, both widely held at the time, rather than on the theological vision of a single founder or movement.

The merger of Methodists, Congregationalists, Union Churches, and most Presbyterians reflected the ecumenical impulse of the time, logistical concerns on the mission field, and a desire for a single, evangelical, national, Protestant voice sufficient to influence both the government and culture of the new country. This was considered urgent, especially in the face of immigration and expansion. These hopes were specifically expressed in the founding documents (Schweitzer et al. 2012:15-16, 20-21).

Ecumenism was a popular impulse in much of the 19th century, though usually within theological traditions. Indeed, each of the denominations that merged, with the exception of the Union Churches, was itself the product of several mergers within its own denominational tradition. (Schweitzer et al. 2012:20-21)

Canada gained independence in 1867 and was not fully settled. Much territory, especially in the North and West, remained a mission field. Duplication of effort and drains on resources led to calls for coordination or cooperation. The first publicly expressed interest in church union across denominational lines came from the Anglicans (Church of England) as early as 1859. This call was repeated more strongly in 1874 and 1881, and yet again in 1886, when the Anglicans called for formal discussions and appointed a committee to meet with other churches. In 1888, the Lambeth Conference (of the bishops of the Anglican Communion) produced the Lambeth Quadrilateral, a document offering four theological points that could be used as a basis of union across denominational lines.

This led to a conference on union in Toronto the following year that included Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Congregationalists offered support; Baptists expressed interest. But by 1906, the Anglicans had developed cold feet and withdrew (Baptists backed off as well). This deprived the movement of the claim to inclusivity it had sought. But negotiations continued, and by 1908, a “Basis of Union,” outlining the theology and polity of a new church, was agreed to and forwarded for study (Schweitzer et al. 2012:16, 21; United Church of Canada 2013).

After two years of study and discussion, the Congregationalists approved the document in 1910 and the Methodists approved in 1912. The Presbyterians formally approved the document in 1916. Roughly a third of the Presbyterians refused to agree, and a sectarian schism occurred at the merger in 1925 (Schweitzer et al. 2012:17).

The document was widely distributed and had an unintended consequence, the creation of a fourth uniting denomination. Many small towns in the West struggled to support three (or more) mission churches. Often the congregations met jointly in whichever church had a pastor. The Basis of Union document soon became the basis for so-called local union congregations, not affiliated with any predecessor denomination. Eventually a denominational structure formed, including, by the time of union, about a hundred churches. All entered The United Church at formation (Schweitzer et al. 2012:7, 18-19; United Church of Canada 1925).

The Parliament of Canada adopted The United Church of Canada Act in 1924, clearing all legal obstacles to church union. On the morning of Wednesday, June 10, 1925, a rousing service in downtown Toronto formally inaugurated The United Church of Canada. Eight thousand persons celebrated in a wrestling palace and ice hockey venue. Thousands more attended parallel services across the country or listened to the live broadcast of the celebration. The union produced a church twice as large as the Anglican Church, the next largest Protestant denomination. Only the Roman Catholic Church was larger (Schweitzer et al. 2012:4-6, 9).

By the early 1930s, the church had largely consolidated its policy and finances and had begun to develop a unique character. Actions of the General Council during this period suggest this character. In 1931, a national emergency committee filled hundreds of rail cars with food for depression-era hungry. The church challenged the fiscal policy of the hard line government of R. B. Bennett, approved contraceptives, ordained a female minister and spoke out against anti-Semitism. In 1932, Council approved the International Peace and Disarmament Report and in 1934 the report on Christianizing the Social Order (Schweitzer et al. 2012:25, 31, 40, 46).

In 1942, General Council declined to support conscription, but once war began, the UCoC approached the conflict with “sober determination.” However, in October of 1939, a group of 68 United Church pacifists criticized the church for supporting the war effort. Their manifesto stated that the church had held that war was contrary to Christ’s will, and that the advent of war had not changed that commitment. A firestorm of controversy erupted. Newspapers across Canada denounced the signatories as traitors and questioned the loyalty of the UCoC. The general council sub-executive disavowed the signatories and proclaimed the church’s loyalty to Canada and king. Several signatories were forced from their pulpits. The church’s involvement in the war effort remained controversial, and the church itself actively supported several individuals for conscientious objector status (Schweitzer et al. 2012:59-66).

During this period, the church supported government intervention on behalf of striking miners in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, ostensibly in aid of the war effort. However, this intervention signaled what became consistent United Church support for organized labor. The church also began its long history of intervention and support of minority groups. UCoC agreed, on the one hand, to the moving of the Japanese-Canadians from coastal areas, but, on the other hand, then both established schools for the children of those moved and strongly opposing deportation. The church also participated with the Canadian Jewish Congress in helping to raise awareness of the European refugee crisis. Near the end of the war, a commission reporting to the General Council called for a postwar Canada as a full welfare state (Schweitzer et al. 2012: 66-70).

The church ended the war optimistic that it could continue to play a central role in transforming the country’s spiritual and social fabric. Indeed, the period from the end of the war to the end of the 1960s has been described as a golden age for the United Church of Canada. Evangelism drives, returning veterans, the baby boom, and the move to the suburbs all helped the church grow at a rate that astonished observers and officials. Hundreds of new churches, church halls, and manses were established. Membership support was generous in this optimistic period as well. A new headquarters building in 1959 reflected this optimism. Membership peaked in 1968 at about 3,500,000 (Schweitzer et al. 2012:72-83, 93, 98).

The 1970s saw continued involvement in inclusivity and social activism by the General Council and central office. Key issues were
abortion, women’s roles in the church (perhaps the most contentious), French-English relations, relationships with First Nations peoples, racism in South Africa and the right of the Palestine Liberation Organization to represent the Palestinians (Schweitzer et al. 2012:109-11, 129-35).

The study document, “In God’s Image…Male and Female,” received by General Council in 1980, and its 1984 follow up report, “Gift, Dilemma and Promise,” together created a media splash and controversy, especially over interpretation of scripture and homosexuality. In 1988, general council approved a statement that removed homosexuality as an obstacle to ordination. The church also began in the 1980s a continuing process of recognizing its own complicity in social injustice, resulting in a series of apologies to those who felt victimized or marginalized by those injustices (Schweitzer et al. 2012:141-47, 151-53).

Meanwhile, dropping numbers of members, congregations, and resources, plus growing mistrust and resistance to the central leadership, led to efforts at restructuring and maintaining the institution itself. These began to displace the social justice and sexuality issues, though the church continued to be active in various initiatives (Schweitzer et al. 2012:164-70, 174-77).

The United Church of Canada is today a considerably smaller organization than it was in the 1950s and 1960s. Further, both declines in membership and a much more secularized and multi-cultural Canadian society and government have reduced its influence. But pronouncements by its General Council continue to be widely reported and seem influential in public opinion, as witnessed by the 2012 General Council decisions to oppose a northern oil pipeline and to propose a selective boycott of some Israeli goods. These decisions were front page news in Canada’s leading newspapers (Lewis 2012).


Identifying the beliefs of the United Church of Canada (UCoC) can be complicated and sometimes frustrating for several reasons. On the one hand, the UCoC is a mainline, Trinitarian, Protestant, Christian church that holds, to some degree, most traditional Christian beliefs. On the other hand, the UCoC is one of only perhaps three churches formed across the lines of confessional tradition. Within its broad tent are sometimes conflicting theological views that are legacies of those earlier traditions. Further, the merger was driven by missionary and socio-political goals, the efficient Christianization of a new country, rather than by the imperative of a specific theological position. Thus, those legacy beliefs have not generally been abrogated (United Church of Canada 2006; Schweitzer et al. 2012:xi, 14).

The UCoC is often considered a “non-creedal” church, and a number of observers have considered this to mean that it has no theology. Yet, in fact, the UCoC subscribes to three creeds, two ancient and one of its own making, and the church website offers three fairly comprehensive and approved statements of belief. However, a policy of inclusiveness and freedom of belief within the church means that individual members (and even churches) may well hold contrasting views. The problem for observers is not that there is no theology, but that, as one writer has acknowledged, the church is “awash in theology” (Schweitzer et al. 2012:259-60; United Church of Canada 2006).

Conventional theology aside, the really defining characteristic of the UCoC belief is a passionate commitment to inclusion and what is usually called “social justice.” As noted in the “Group History” section above, this social concern began almost immediately after the formation of the church and has continued with proclamations and declarations. The inclusion of openly gay and lesbian clergy and acceptance of same-sex marriages are among the more notable contemporary examples (Schweitzer et al. 2012:291-94).

In terms of more traditional theological concerns, the church has accepted both of the ancient creeds and has produced a new one which shifts the emphasis more toward what is seen as God’s will in human interactions, though it remains fairly conventional. It is much loved and widely used. There are also the three statements of faith mentioned above: the “doctrine” section of the “Basis of Union,” the 1940 “Statement of Faith,” and the 2006 “Song of Faith,” all considered to be still in force. These are theologically similar, but collectively reflect “an ongoing and developing tradition of faith” (Schweitzer et al. 2012:259, 272; United Church of Canada 2006).

The primacy of Biblical revelation (both old and new testaments) is accepted in all three documents, though the value of other sources of revelation has grown somewhat over the three statements. Further, the need for interpretation, both scholarly and in community, is acknowledged. It is stated specifically that Scripture is to be taken seriously but not literally (Schweitzer et al. 2012:259-61, 272; United Church of Canada 2006).

Descriptions of God as being “a mystery” beyond full human understanding and transcending human categorization are essentially traditional, as is the belief in Jesus Christ as the ultimate revelation of God. The documents use terms such as “Son of God” and identify His life is as exemplary for human behavior (United Church of Canada 1940, 2006).

The role accorded to the Holy Spirit is also generally traditional, though this seems to have shifted somewhat. The Spirit is considered to be God’s continuing presence among believers and the source of Christian commitment. Earlier statements used Methodist terminology such as conversion, justification, and sanctification in discussion of the Spirit’s role in human life, but these terms are absent from the contemporary “Song of Faith” (United Church of Canada 2006).

The understanding of salvation (soteriology) also appears to be shifting. The original doctrinal statements of the “Basis of Union” make specific reference to salvation through conversion, repentance, God’s grace and regeneration, and include a paragraph on sanctification. The 1940 “Statement of Faith” omits much of this wording and places somewhat more emphasis on baptism. References to conversion are implied in the “Song of Faith” but not directly stated. Specific references to revival conversion on the Methodist model are absent from all three documents. Specific eschatological language is absent from all three documents. Without specific text, there is nevertheless a general acceptance of a post-millenialist theology (United Church of Canada 1940, 2006).

In contrast, the three documents present an increasing concern for the recognition of God’s love of all peoples and for ways in which the church can witness to that love. The “Song of Faith” is notably specific in its concern with inclusion, naming several groups that have traditionally been marginalized, and expressing the church’s remorse for its part in excluding or marginalizing of such people (United Church of Canada 1940, 2006).

One writer notes that, in choosing to emphasize social justice, “the United Church abandoned the notion of the self as needing conversion and formation, once central to its social imaginary, a belief that had formed the core of evangelical Protestantism for two hundred years.” Evangelical church historian Mark Knoll has argued that at the time the church embraced social justice as its chief mission goal, this left it “with little to offer by way of specific Christian content…” but this is clearly an exaggeration, as this review of doctrinal statements clearly shows (Schweitzer et al. 2012:291-92).


The primary rituals of UCoC are the weekly meetings for worship of the pastoral charges (congregations). In general, these worship services follow a pattern of music, prayer, scriptural readings, and preaching that would be familiar to members of most mainline, evangelical and non-liturgical churches. The UCoC, however, is the result of a merger across denominational lines of three pre-existing worship traditions, and practices a policy of “ordered liberty” regarding the form of services. As a result, each individual congregation is free to establish (or continue) its own form or order of service, and there is considerable variation among congregations. It is probably safe to say that experimentation in forms of worship is more common in the UCoC than in other mainline Protestant churches. Regular Sunday worship is already fairly informal (Schweitzer et al. 2012:xvi, 185, 188, 191).

Many congregations, perhaps most, use some version, directly or with local modifications, of the orders of service provided in the denomination’s recent hymnal, Voices United: The Hymnal and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada (Hardy 1996) or its even more recent supplement, More Voices (United Church of Canada 2009). The Voices United Hymnal offers a very wide range of music, both traditional and contemporary, and from a wide range of cultures. These resources also offer orders for special services such as baptism, induction of new members, installation of a new minister, weddings, and funerals. These also are open to modification. Scriptural readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and the Letters are taken from the Common Lectionary used by most mainline denominations (Hardy 1996).

Communion is offered at intervals, frequently once a month. The “wine” used is grape juice, and can be presented in several ways: with a chalice and platen at the altar, with small cups at the altar, or by passing around the congregation trays of small cups and plates of bread (usually in the form of wafers). Baptism may be of infants or of adults, and is usually by sprinkling of water. The Creed is usually the UCoC’s own New Creed. (United Church of Canada 1940, 2006).

The traditional black Geneva Gown, inherited from predecessor churches, is today often replaced by more colorful liturgical garments, though they do not necessarily follow the colors of the season as they do in liturgical churches ( Worship Resources, Church Seasons and Special Sundays).


The UCoC operates on a “bottom up” system of government that begins with the individual congregation (called by the church a pastoral charge). The members of the congregation elect from among themselves a congregational board or council that makes or proposes policies. In critical areas (budget, pastoral changes, etc.), policies must be approved by a congregational vote. Clergy of the UCoC are called ministers. There are several categories, including ordained and diaconal ministers, and three categories of lay ministry (United Church of Canada 2010).

Each congregation calls its own pastor (as opposed to having a minister appointed or assigned by a church office). It is also responsible for all of its own day-to-day operations: raising money; constructing or maintaining buildings; hiring lay staff, such as musicians and caretakers; and deciding when to worship. It also establishes policy on candidacy for baptism and on marriages, operation of Sunday school, youth programs and outreach within the community (Church of Canada 2010).

Collections of 35 to 60 pastoral charges make up a Presbytery (there are 85). Presbyteries are made up of ordained and lay delegates and are particularly active, in an advisory capacity, at times of ministry change. Presbyteries, in turn, are members of one of thirteen conferences. Conferences are responsible for the training and education of candidates for ministry, for developing church mission strategy, and for electing Commissioners to attend meetings of the General Council (Church of Canada 2010).

The General Council is the church’s highest legislative body (or court). Every three years ministers and lay commissioners meet to set policy and choose a new Moderator (the highest executive and public face of the church). The inclusiveness valued by the UCoC is reflected in the Council’s choice of moderators. There have been female, First Nations and openly gay moderators in recent years. An executive committee and a sub-executive committee govern between meetings of the General Council. The General Council usually acts on questions or proposals (called “remits”) from conferences or on study documents produced by committees appointed by the Council. The church has recently considered reducing the system of four levels of governance (or courts) to three, but has taken no church-wide action (Church of Canada 2010; Moderators 2013; Schweitzer et al 2012:168-69).


Criticizing the United Church of Canada (UCoC is something very close to being Canada’s national sport. The criticism comes from both within and without the church. Numerous members, and even congregations, have left the church in fervently held disagreement. There are several factors involved in this criticism. One key factor is a division between a rapidly aging, often conservative, membership and a somewhat younger, vigorously progressive, leadership. A second is the UCoC’s policy of freedom of belief, growing from its history as a merger of churches across denominational lines. The church does not require even its ordained clergy to subscribe fully to any of its several statements of belief. These divisions played major roles in the controversy over the “New (Sunday school) Curriculum” and, more recently, in the church’s inclusion of gay and lesbian clergy and acceptance of same-sex marriage (Schweitzer et al. 2012:xi, xiii, 107-09, 125-26, 135, 142-43, 151-53, 155, 164-68).

There is another major factor in both internal and external criticism of recent policy pronouncements of the General Council. The leadership of the church and a large (but unquantifiable) portion of the membership see inclusiveness and action for social justice as a matter of God’s expectations for the church in this world and feel a continuing call to a leadership role in these issues. This thinking was implicit, even in the original urge for merger itself, an urge to use church resources as efficiently as possible to Christianize a new country. Some of the very earliest actions of the new church were toward fulfilling what was seen as God’s command to love others. This feeling of religious obligation to others less fortunate, to reflect God’s love for all people, led to whole trainloads of food for depression-era hungry, to criticism of a hardline conservative government, to support for organized labor, and to a very strong anti-war position in the pre-war era. That pacifism led to severe controversy as the country began to prepare for war, and much later, as the church sheltered Viet Nam War American draft dodgers. The church still supports the largest mission-to-the-homeless system in Canada, and actions of the General Council in recent years underlined very strongly the church’s commitment to the marginalized and the disenfranchised, to the underdogs, wherever these persons can be found (Schweitzer et al. 2012:24, 31, 42, 49, 60-63, 103, 112-13, 289; donors)

The problem is that a significant portion of Canadians, especially older and more conservative Canadians, see religion and social activism as somewhat separate spheres of activity. As Canada has become more secularized, an increasing number of commentators have taken strenuous exception to the political stances that commitment to social justice implies. A common epithet refers to the church as “the NDP at prayer” (the New Democratic Party [NDP] is Canada’s left-wing political party. Aside from the controversy over issues related to homosexuality, the church’s commitment to various marginalized groups, such as First Nations and black South Africans in the era of Apartheid, have raised an outcry (Schweitzer et al. 2012:xiii, 126, 133-35, 163-64, 166, 173, 177, 281-83).

Another source of controversy has involved the church’s magazine, The United Church Observer, which has very strongly supported Palestinian aspirations. While the UCoC has a history of strong support for Israel and the Jewish community generally, recent actions in support of Palestinians, including a call for boycott of Israeli goods traceable to settler communities in disputed areas, has enraged a number of very vocal supporters of Israel. The church has been specifically accused in print of anti-Semitism (Schweitzer et al. 2012:239-57; Lewis 2012).

In the midst of this very public controversy, there have been outspoken calls for the church to return to religion, the very activity the leaders of the church (and many of its members) believed they were supporting with their actions. For the UCoC, actions for inclusion and social justice are seen as a matter of religious integrity. To many conservatives, the church’s actions are seen as a politically-motivated betrayal of religion (Lewis 2012).


 Fred Victor. n.d. “Our Donors.” Accessed from on 28 February 2013.

Hardy, Nancy. 1996. Voices United. Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada: The United Church Publishing House.

Lewis, Charles. 2012. “Church at Risk Over Activism.” The National Post, August 16. Accessed from on 28 February 2013.

Moderators of The United Church of Canada. 2013. “Timeline.” Accessed from on 18 February 2013.

Schweitzer et al. 2012. The United Church of Canada: A History. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

United Church of Canada. 2013. “Overview: A Brief History.” Accessed from on 9 January 2013.

United Church of Canada. 2010. The Manual. Accessed from on 15 January 2013.

United Church of Canada. 2009. More Voices. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

United Church of Canada. 2006. A Song of Faith. Preamble, Appendix A and Appendix D. Accessed from on 9 January 2013.

United Church of Canada. 1968. “A New Creed.” Accessed from on 9 January 2013.

United Church of Canada. 1940. A Statement of Faith. Accessed from on 9 January 2013.

United Church of Canada. “Overview: The Basis of Union.” 1925. Accessed from on 9 January 2013.

United Church of Canada. n.d. “Church Union in Canada.” Accessed from on 9 January 2013.

John C. Peterson

Post Date:
28 February 2013





New Latter Rain Movement



1947 (Spring):  George Hawtin, a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada pastor, founder of the college, and its principal, resigned under pressure from Bethel Bible College Saskatoon. Faculty member Percy G. Hunt resigned in sympathy.

1947 (October 21):  Hawtin and Hunt joined Herrick Holt, in a new work, Sharon Orphanage and Schools.

1947 (Late Fall):  Hawtin and Hunt, with several others, attended a Vancouver, British Columbia, revival led by healing evangelist William Branham.

1947-1948 (Winter):  Hawtin and others promoted a regime of long fasts and prayer meetings modeled on Branham’s revivals and the book, Atomic Power with God through Fasting and Prayer, by Franklin Hall.

1948 (February 11):  A young woman student reported a prophecy of a door opening into a gift of ministry in the body of Christ. Revival broke out on campus, drawing outsiders.

1948 (Easter):  Special services described as The Feast of Pentacost drew large numbers of people to the campus.

1948 (July 7-18):  What is considered the first Camp Meeting was held on campus, drawing worshipers in the thousands from all over Western Canada and places in the U.S. The teachings of this revival became known as The Latter Rain and spread widely.

1949:  General Council of the Assemblies of God USA condemned Latter Rain teachings. At least one key official resigned in protest, and the issue almost split the denomination.

1949 (Late):  Leadership of the movement began to slip from the hands of the Sharon group as other centers developed.

1952:  As an organized movement, the Latter Rain began to fade.

1967:  Characteristic Latter Rain positions became major elements of the Charismatic Renewal movement.

Present Day:  Latter Rain theology is central to numerous movements, such as the Vineyard Churches, The Kansas City Prophets, and the Toronto and Lakeland revivals, as well as hundreds of independent neo-Pentecostal churches.


Several authors have placed the beginnings of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s (sometimes called the New Order of the Latter Rain to distinguish it from at least two earlier uses of the term “Latter Rain”) in a context of a Pentecostal renewal already well underway. Many Pentecostals felt that, after the Azusa Street period, Pentecostalism had become “dry” or had “cooled off” because it had lost its focus on the emotional, supernatural, and ecstatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit (Riss 1987:Chapters 1 and 2).

Several movements in the early war years had begun to examine this loss of supernatural emphasis and had spawned a generation of “Healing Revival” preachers, among them William Branham, who started his ministry somewhat later (1946). This made him contemporary with several better known revivalists, such as Billy Graham and Oral Roberts. But Branham was somewhat further outside of the mainstream, with his heavy concentration on casting out demons, supernatural healing, laying on of hands, end time predictions, and his contention that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was wrong (Riss 1987:1-2, Chapters 1 and 2).

Meanwhile, a minister of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) known for his “unrestrained zeal,” George Hawtin, became involved in a dispute with the Saskatchewan District of the PAOC. Several years earlier, Hawtin had founded Bethel Bible College, then in Saskatoon. He had sold the college property to the district in order for the college to become an official institution of the district. He was soon in trouble with the district administration for, among other things, making decisions without informing or asking permission of the district. There were also questions about the college’s academic standards. In the late spring of 1947, Hawtin’s resignation was sought and given. Faculty member Percy G. Hunt resigned in sympathy (Riss 1987:53-55; Holdcroft 1980:2).

That fall, Hawtin and Hunt joined Herrick Holt, pastor of the Four Square Gospel church of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in a new venture, Sharon Orphanage and Schools, founding that organization’s Bible college and becoming the nucleus of its first faculty. A substantial number of students from Bethel transferred to the new school (Holdcroft 1980:3).

At about the same time, Hawtin and others from Sharon journeyed to Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend a revival led by William Branham. They were deeply impressed by the supernatural and ecstatic elements of the revival, aspects of Pentecostalism they felt had been lost over the years. They also became aware of a book, Atomic Power With God through Fasting and Prayer, by Franklin Hall, which proposed that one could reach a level of direct communication with God by fasting for long periods (as much as 40 days) and engaging in extended periods of intense prayer (Riss 1987:56-60).

On the group’s return to North Battleford, they promoted the practices proposed by Hall and encouraged prayer for an “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” similar to what they had seen in the Branham revivals Riss 1987:60-63).

Students took up the challenge. On February 11, 1948, following a regime of fasting and prayer, one of them, a young woman, reported a prophecy involving an open door which was “an invitation for students to pass through into gifts and ministry in the Body of Christ.” Revival broke out on campus, classes were cancelled. Outsiders heard about what was happening and joined in (Holdcroft 1980:3).

Revival continued, including supernatural “signs and wonders.” Leaders, following Branham’s example, began “calling out” individual students, laying hands on them in order to impart “blessing in the spirit” (something Pentecostals had always believed involved “tarrying,” waiting prayerfully for the Lord) and then giving prophecies for each individual (Holdcroft 1980:3).

At Easter of that year (1948), the school held special services described as The Feast of Pentecost. The event drew large numbers of people to campus and led to the organization of what is considered the first Camp Meeting, held July 7-18, 1948. For this event, the attendance was in the thousands (Riss 1987:66-68).

By this time, the revival was becoming somewhat structured, and it was the teachings of this revival that, collectively, came to be called the Latter Rain, a term that had been in use periodically, at least since the late nineteenth century, to identify a particularly enthusiastic and emotional element in the developing Holiness and Pentecostal movements (Holdcroft 1980:1, 4-7).

These teachings, which were largely proclaimed as direct prophecy, generally followed the lines of phenomenon observed at
Azusa Street and in the meetings of William Branham. They included such things as speaking in tongues, being “slain in the spirit,” being baptized in the spirit, supernatural healing, singing in tongues (“heavenly choirs”), laying on of hands, and an imminence of end times, among others (Riss 1987:72-74).

These teachings spread very widely very quickly, splitting or absorbing a number of established Pentecostal churches and becoming a movement within a few months. While Latter Rain teachings valued relational networks and condemned denominationalism (contending that no church or organization had any right to give direction to any other church), the Sharon group early on formed a team of “Presbyters” who visited Latter Rain churches and essentially managed the movement through directive prophecy (Riss 1987:67-74; Holdcroft 1980:4, Apologetic Index n.d.:4).

By mid-1949, the movement had become a major concern for more orthodox Pentecostals. The General Council of The Assemblies of God USA meeting that year formally condemned Latter Rain teachings as unbiblical and heretical (Riss 1987:103-19).

In the meantime, several other centers formed. The first one was the Elim Bible Institute in New York, which had already been involved in attempts to revive a more emotional and supernaturally focused Pentecostalism and which already had the resources to compete with the Sharon group. The second center to rise to a position of influence was the Bethesda Missionary Temple in Detroit, Michigan; another soon followed in Texas. Leadership and control of the movement were quickly sliding out of the hands of the Sharon group and beginning to fragment (Riss 1987:103-10).

By 1952, the Latter Rain as a recognized movement was clearly beginning to fade, although a number of strong congregations continue into the present day. Also, a number of Latter Rain teachings became major parts of the Charismatic Renewal movement that blossomed starting about 1967 (Riss 1987:140-43).

Much Latter Rain teaching is central in numerous contemporary movements, such as the Vineyard Churches, The Kansas City Prophets, and the Toronto and Lakeland Revivals, as well as hundreds of independent neo-Pentecostal churches (Sanchez 2008:4-6; Houdmann 2002:2)

Of particular contemporary interest are two teachings of the movement that can be traced back to William Branham, teachings that are still widely held, despite not being prominent in the early life of the movement. The first is a powerful sense of a restoration of the attributes of the early church in preparation for the end times, including the “Five-fold gifts of the Spirit”: prophets, apostles, elders, preachers, and teachers (as outlined in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians). Prophets and apostles, it is understood, hold authority directly from God (Holdcroft 1980:6-7).

The second is also an end-times prophecy, that the most devoted members will become “The Manifest Sons of God,” forming an undefeatable and immortal army that is able to overcome all obstacles to bring all people into geographically organized single churches in preparation for the reign of the Lord. This prophecy is the basis for the Joel’s Army (or Overcomers), a phenomenon that has become prominent in recent years. Evangelist Todd Bentley, who led much of the Lakeland Revival, is a prominent proponent (Warnock 1951:83; Sanchez 2002:5-6).

While there is no longer an active movement headquartered in North Battleford, the revival grounds themselves, now beautifully landscaped and with extensive facilities, still operate, though largely as a conference center. At least two religious meetings, including “The Feast of Pentecost” and a summer camp, are held each year, and there is also a global missions project housed there (Holdcroft 1987:7).


The doctrines and beliefs of the Latter Rain religious revival movement are somewhat difficult to define since collectively they constitute something of a moving target, and have never been officially codified.

The movement was a protest against the more formalized Pentecostalism of the time, particularly what was considered by many to be a “dry” denominational church, lacking in emotional and spiritual life (Holdcroft 1980:2). Further, it was a movement that tended largely to privilege the mystical and subjective (prophecies, experiences, intuition, and directives straight from God) over exegeses of the written word. These prophecies and directives changed from time to time. Also, when the movement used the Bible, it did so in a highly stylized, symbolic and typological interpretation (that is, looking to the Hebrew Scriptures to interpret the New Testament) (Holdcroft 1980:2-7; Houdmann 2002:1).

Notwithstanding the above, it is possible to identify a number of teachings or beliefs, though leaders of the movement would resist the institutional implications of calling them doctrines.

First and foremost, of course, is the acceptance of the concept of The Latter Rain as found in the Hebrew Scriptures in the books of Deuteronomy (11:14), Joel (2:23) and Zechariah (10:1). These passages describe an early rain to start a crop and a latter rain to bring it to maturity for harvest. Latter Rain adherents see their revival as a sure sign that end times are imminent (Theopedia n.d.:1).

The Latter Rain movement saw the term “Latter Rain” as symbolizing a time of restoration of a victorious, universal church, including all of the apostolic gifts, in the end times, in contrast to the rather dour, pessimistic, Calvinistic dispensationalism widely held in the Pentecostalism of that period. Where the healing revivalists of the time emphasized healing and early Pentecostals emphasized tongues, Latter Rain emphasized prophecy (Riss 1987:116).

The apostolic gifts to be restored included speaking in tongues, healing, spirit blessing, prophecy, and the five-fold ministry, including prophets, apostles, evangelists, preachers and teachers. The roles of prophets and apostles, lost to the church in the Middle Ages, would now be restored to provide leadership of the victorious church, preparing the world for the return of Jesus Christ. Put another way, the Latter Rain will complete God’s work on earth, with the church united and victorious over the world, and will usher in the Kingdom of God. The movement also believed that spiritual gifts (including healing) could be received by the laying on of hands from one believer to another, in contrast to the traditional Pentecostal emphasis on “tarrying” (prayerful waiting for God’s presence) (Theopedia n.d.:1; Houdmann 2002:1-2).

Most other teachings followed from these basic beliefs, but the interpretation of these beliefs was carried out within the context of an intense, active search for a subjective, emotional, and interactive relationship with God. This meant that the prioritization and emphasis given the various elements of these beliefs tended to be shifting and circumstance-specific. Part of this circumstantial context was the belief that Christians could be demonized and require deliverance. Another part was the belief that intense, emotional praise and worship could usher God into the believers’ presence (Houdmann 2002:1-2). A somewhat unrelated belief was that women should have full and equal ministry (Houdmann 2002:2).

There are debates over whether the Latter Rain movement should be considered premillennial, postmillennial or just amillenial. Most Latter Rain believers seem to have accepted an end-times scenario in which denominational lines will be destroyed and the church will be unified by “overcomers” equipped with supernatural powers, thus preparing the world for the return of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the Kingdom of God. The role and timing of the Tribulation and the Rapture do not appear to have been settled. These issues are considered important by a number of groups, notably dispensationalist fundamentalists (Warnock 1951:83).

There was also the belief, inherited from William Branham and expanded by latter Rain teachers, notably George Warnock in his book The Feast of Tabernacles, that certain very devout members would become “The Manifest Sons of God”. Those who reached this level would have Godlike powers that included speaking any language and “teleporting” from place to place, forming an army that is able to overcome all obstacles to bring all people into geographically-organized single churches in preparation for the reign of the Lord. This prophecy is the basis for the Joel’s Army (or Overcomers) concept (Warnock 1951:83; Sanchez 2008:5).

Defenders of Latter Rain teachings see them as “a major step in the long unfolding of Biblical truth. They place themselves on a par with the Reformers, the Puritans, the Wesleyans, and the nineteenth century evangelical revival. New Order doctrine, they believe, is the final rung in the ladder whereby God’s people climb upward as they ‘go on unto perfection’” (Holdcroft 1980:8).


Worship services conducted by Latter Rain churches were either revival services or events modeled after them. Most were exuberant, since members came seeking an emotional and personal spiritual experience. The service could also be described, using a much later term, as interactive, since worshipers took a very active part in the service (Holdcroft 1980:10).

Since Latter Rain teaching held that intense praise and worship would usher God into the worshipers’ presence (sometimes described as the restoration of the Tabernacle of David), the early part of these services usually consisted of music, including singing in tongues, dancing and waving raised hands, and individual shouts of praise (Liichow 1997:3; Houdmann 2002:2).

Once an intense atmosphere had been established, there might be a sermon on an end times or prophecy theme, followed by an extended time of healing, casting out demons, testimony, and spirit blessing. This would again include individuals falling down “slain in the spirit,” speaking and singing in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and weeping. Healing and exorcisms were performed by the leader praying and “laying on of hands.” Early on, Latter Rain congregations developed the practice of “calling out” individuals by name, blessing them with a laying on of hands, and providing a prophecy for them (Holdcroft 1980:4-5).

The times of service tended to be flexible, again following the revival practice. If testimony and seeking continued, so did the service in most cases. Services tended to be long and to occur several times a week (conventionally Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday evening, but other times were often scheduled).


Initially the leadership of the Latter Rain consisted of just three men: George Hawtin, Percy Hunt, and Herrick Holt. Over time, as the movement expanded, so did the leadership group, and eventually leadership passed out of the hands of the Sharon group (Holdcroft 1980:1-4).

There does not appear to be any record of who within the early Sharon group, other than Hawtin, were among those who went to Vancouver for the William Branham meetings, save that there were “several” people. Given the timing, a fair guess is that all three were involved (Riss 1987:56-57).

But once the revival began at the school, others became involved rather quickly. With the formal beginning of the Bible school,

the three founders were soon joined by George Hawtin’s brother and brother-in-law, Ernest Hawtin and Milford Kilpatric. As the
revival gained momentum, they were also joined by George Warnock. Warnock had once been personal secretary to W. J. Ern
Baxter, who had become an associate of Branham’s ministries. Baxter himself later joined the group on a part-time basis. Warnockwrote a book called The Feast of Tabernacles, which has been held to be a major publication of the group, and expanded on Branham’s concept of “The Manifest Sons of God” (Riss 1987:53-62).

In terms of church polity, the movement established a position that strongly supported local church autonomy and opposed any form of denominationalism. One observer noted that “conflict and hostility emerged in relationships with the New Order because of their vindictive militant denunciations of existing denominations and church policies.” An oft-reported remark of one of the leaders was that “no church exercises or has any right to exercise authority of jurisdiction over another church, its pastors or members.” Yet in spite of this rhetoric and positioning, leaders of the movement did in fact exercise control, both within and without the group (Holdcroft 1980:6-7; Apologetics Index n.d.:2).

The belief that apostles and prophets were being restored to the church in this era gave rise to identifying movement leaders with these positions, and allowing them to contend that their directive prophecies came directly from God, and that, therefore, these prophecies were beyond question or challenge. Control within the group was reportedly tight, being described by at least one former member as “dictatorial” (Holdcroft 1980:5-7).

The Sharon group also formed teams of travelling “Presbyters” that included these apostles and prophets, who visited Latter Rain churches and institutions, controlling them through prophecies that were considered to have precedence over any other decision-making authority. The Sharon group has been described as rejecting any teaching that did not originate with its leaders (Holdcroft 1980:6-7).


The movement that came to be known as The New Order of The Latter Rain was born in controversy. One author has stated flatly that it “was an organizational schism before it was a spiritual cause.” The same author, L. Thomas Holdcroft, describes the schism as “the unrestrained zeal (of the founder and leaders of Bethel Bible Institute) pitted against the necessary conservatism and restraints of responsible denominational leaders” (Specifically the Saskatchewan District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) Holdcroft 1980:2).

This “unrestrained zeal” continued after the key players moved to North Battlefield and, over time, provided fuel for a number of other controversies. The group’s somewhat unorthodox beliefs provided sparks. Its success in drawing large numbers of members from other churches, nearly splitting the Pentecostal Assemblies denomination, fanned the flames (Holdcroft 1980:3-4).

The earliest controversies grew from the vituperative comments made, and sometimes published, by the founders regarding the leaders of other churches and denominations. Later theological controversies fall primarily into two groups, largely identifiable by the source of the criticism, though there is substantial overlap (Holdcroft 1980:6).

The first of these originated very early on and came largely from Pentecostal sources. Pentecostals rejected the use of personal prophecy, the transmission of spiritual gifts (such as healing, prophecy and tongues) by the laying on of hands from one believer to another. The also rejected what was considered by Pentecostals to be distortion of Scripture, the belief in the Manifest Sons of God predictions, and the restoration of the positions of apostle and prophet, calling all of these contrary to the historic teachings of Pentecostalism. This list of objections formed the basis for the 1949 official rejection of the Latter Rain movement by The Assemblies of God and several other Pentecostal organizations (Riss 1987:119).

Later, a fairly large number of generally fundamentalist groups published, first in books and journal articles and later on websites, objections to the eschatological teachings of the Latter Rain, to the Manifest Sons teaching, to the restorationist teaching that identified specific living apostles and prophets, to what they considered “untested” prophecy, and to what they also considered misuse, or failure to use, Scripture. One of the more succinct statements of this position is from Holdcroft: “No group can remain sound in faith and practice if it gives authority to experiences for their own sake, rather than on the ground of the standards of the Word of God” (Holdcroft 1980:10).

Another, much broader criticism comes from sources outside of these two communities and applies to Pentecostals generally and perhaps to groups within the Holiness tradition as well, but has been aimed specifically at Latter Rain teachings. That is the contention that the emotionalism, supernaturalism, tongues, healing, and other teachings concerning spiritual gifts, constitute a modern neo-Montanism, a revival of a third century Christian heresy. This is an issue that goes well beyond the scope of the present article. (“A Study of Denominations,” n.d.:1-4).

Contemporary criticism revolves not around the Latter Rain movement itself, but around the various present-day manifestations
of teachings and practices that originated with, or were developed out of, Latter Rain teachings. Some of these include the Army of Joel and similar groups based on the Manifest Sons of God teaching (which actually came originally from William Branham), the Shepherding movement, restorationism and dominionism (Sanchez 2008:1-6).


Apologetics Index, Apologetics Research Resources on Religious Cults and Sects. n.d. Accessed from on 29 November 2013.

Holdcroft, L.Thomas. n.d. Strange Fires, The New Order Of The Latter Rain . Accessed from on 5 August 2013 .

Houdmann, S. Michael. n.d. Got . Accessed from 5 August 2013.

Liichow, Rev. Robert S. n.d. Restoration “The Latter Rain Movement .” Accessed from on 5 August 2013.

Riss, Richard M . 1987. Latter Rain; The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-Twentieth Century Evanngelical Awakening . Honeycomb Visual Productions, Ltd., Mississiauga, Ontario, Canada.

Sanchez, Casey. 2008. Todd Bentley’s Militant Joel’s Army Gains Followers in Florida .

Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report , Fall. Accessed from for armageddon on 26 November 2013.

A Study of Denominations, Montanism. n.d. Accessed from on 26 November 2013.

Warnock, George H. 1951. The Feast of Tabernacles. Bill Britton: Springfield, MO.

John C. Peterson

Post Date:
10 January 2014




Olga Park


1891 (February 24):  Olga Park was born Mary Olga Bracewell in Gargrave (North Yorkshire), England.

1910:  Park and her family emigrated to British Columbia, Canada.

1914:  Park began to receive unsolicited psycho-spiritual experiences of the Cosmic Christ and other beings from the life beyond death or “heavenly realms.”

1917 (March 24):  Olga Bracewell married James Fleming Park, a Vancouver banker originally from Glasgow, Scotland, in St. Luke’s Anglican Church, South Vancouver, British Columbia.

1919:  Park gave birth to her son Robert Bruce Park.

1922 (June 4):  Park gave birth to James Samuel Park who died a few days later. Olga had an out-of-body experience at the time of Jamie’s birth.

1923–1940:  Olga became active in St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Vancouver in the 1920s, but continued having visions and direct mystical experiences, which she mostly kept to herself. She carefully recorded the details of her interior experiences, and eventually developed a regular morning and evening practice of contemplative prayer.

1941–1963:  In the mid-1940s, Park received the words and music for a mystical communion service she practiced for the rest of her life in the privacy of her home. She corresponded with the Psychical Research Society in England, became the Canadian representative of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical Research,
1956–1963 ( Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies n.d.) , and was a member of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship (Evanston, Illinois) during the same period.

1960:  Park published Between Time and Eternity (Vantage Press).

1964:  Park moved to a small cottage in Port Moody, British Columbia where she devoted the rest of her life to living as a solitary contemplative, and to the regular practice of the mystical communion ritual given to her by her Teacher from the life beyond death.

1968:  Park self-published Man, The Temple of God .

1969: Park self-published The Book of Admonition and Poetry .

1974: Park self-published An Open Door .

1978: When she broke her ankle, Park moved from the cottage to live with a friend in Vancouver. She continued to receive visits from seekers and learners, sharing her wisdom and contemplative practices with others.

1983: Park transitioned to a care center for the elderly in Vancouver where she received regular visitors.

1985: Park died in December due to advanced age and complications of an undiagnosed stomach condition. Despite intense pain at the end of her life, she passed away peacefully in the presence of a friend.


Mary Olga Park (who preferred to go by Olga) was born on February 24, 1891 in Gargrave, North Yorkshire, England. Her mother,Ellen Bracewell, was a nanny for the local gentry and her father, Bruce Bracewell, was a tradesman and interior decorator for great manor homes in England. His ancestors had been weavers. Olga loved reading, showed an early talent in music, and possessed a clear and pure soprano voice. She attended various schools in the suburbs of Birmingham until the age of fourteen when she won a scholarship to Aston Pupil Teachers’ Centre for three years, intending to become a teacher.

As a child, Park attended prayer meetings until Darwinian debates broke up her local Wesleyan Methodist church. Some members left because they found a literalist interpretation of the origins of humanity in the book of Genesis incompatible with the more recent findings of geological science. Olga’s cousins were high Anglican, and despite parental disapproval, she sneaked off with her cousins to attend the St. Thomas Anglican Church nearby, drawn by the music, liturgy and sacramentalism.

Then, in 1910, Olga and her family made a life-changing move to Canada. Her father decided to leave behind everything he had built in England in hopes of improving his prospects. The unsolicited psycho-spiritual experiences Park described in her self-published books, Between Time and Eternity (1960) and An Open Door (1972), began a few years later around 1914.

The transition to Vancouver was difficult, as Olga was forced to abandon a promising singing career in England where she had social connections and educational opportunities. She described Vancouver of the early days as a place of pioneer conditions with few cultural amenities.

In 1917, Olga married James Fleming Park, a Vancouver banker who was originally from Glasgow, Scotland. They lived in various residences in Vancouver. Throughout this period, she taught Sunday school in an Anglican church, developing an innovative educational curriculum for youth. There she became friends with the rector at that time, a man of progressive spiritualunderstanding, Charles Sydney McGaffin, who after his death became her spiritual partner working with her from the life beyond death.

In Vancouver during the late 1950s and early 1960s Olga Park was exposed to Theosophical and Spiritualist concepts and practices. She briefly attended Spiritualist meetings and adopted some of their terminology, but chose not to self-identify as a Theosophist or Spiritualist. She saw herself as a Christian mystic on a contemplative path.

In mid-life, she embarked on a detailed study of the New Testament scriptures to discern what the historical Jesus might have actually said and taught versus the interpretation the developing Christian church in the early centuries imposed on his life and teachings. In many ways, she anticipated the scholarship of Jesus historians like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg and others. Eventually, she left the institutional church because she felt much of what she called the “Churchianity” of her times was not aligned with the actual life and teachings of the Jesus she served based on her visionary awareness.

In 1964, after her husband’s death in 1959, Park moved out of her son’s home to a one-room cottage in Port Moody on the Burrard Inlet east of Vancouver to devote herself to contemplation. During this time until the end of her life, her mystical experiences and visions intensified. After her removal to the cottage, interested seekers of all ages and walks of life who heard of her by word of mouth or picked up her books began to visit. Some became her “learners” and received instruction in the practice of solitary communion she had received as well as the mystical understanding on which it was based.

Olga had numerous extraordinary visions throughout her long life, along with many other varieties of mystical experience. As sherecounted in Between Time and Eternity, these came entirely unsought, and at first she was uncomfortable with them. It was only in her later years that she spoke of them to friends, and compiled her spiritual records for distribution to acquaintances who expressed interest. By this time such experiences were so extensive that she simply accepted their unusualness, and hoped they would be of help to others.

A key thread through all of Olga Park’s visions was that they related to the purpose of life on earth and her sense of the Cosmic Christ’s ongoing role in the spiritual evolution of humanity. While her experiences were received within a Christian context, they addressed spiritual principles that transcend religious and ideological boundaries. In 1972 Park reflected on her rich spiritual life and recounted some of the themes interwoven among these mystical experiences in her book An Open Door .

Olga continued living alone at the cottage until 1978, when at the age of 87 she moved to Vancouver due to frail health after breaking an ankle. There she resided in a friend’s basement suite until January 1983 when she moved to a care center for the elderly in Vancouver. Olga died in December 1985 at the age of ninety-four. Her son, Robert, died a few years later. Her two grandchildren, Jim and Valerie Park, and a great-grandson survive her.


As a mystic wary of institutional church structures and religious organizations, Olga insisted she did not wish to form a “group-structure,” certainly not one involving dues, membership, official status, or doctrine. She emphasized the importance of direct interior experience over uniformity of belief. Park made it clear she did not intend to found a church or religious movement.

Throughout her life, Olga had out of body experiences, visionary awareness, precognition, “third-eye” seeing, and daily communication with the life beyond death. At times she would channel the voice of a friend or contact in the spirit world. She integrated these experiences into her life in a way that sustained a balance between thinking and feeling, and always affirmed the importance of rationality. She taught that growth in divine wisdom and love was the ultimate purpose of such heightened states, not the states themselves.

Park shared freely her interior visions and insights as well as specific pragmatic spiritual practices to any who inquired. She did not believe in proselytizing, and emphasized the importance of responding to genuine inquirers. She taught that establishing a regular time and place for prayer and contemplation would expand consciousness and enable seekers to receive their own direct illumination and guidance.

Over her lifetime Olga had at least a hundred students of diverse ages, demographics, and religious backgrounds who were drawn to her mostly by word of mouth. Most often, she met with her learners one-on-one at her cottage in Port Moody, British Columbia, but frequently in groups of about two to four people at a time. Some were neighbors or friends of neighbors. About ten percent were middle-aged housewives, sometimes accompanied by their husbands. A number of middle-aged men sought her out as well. one a Dutch immigrant to Canada and photographer. Park was also visited by several educators from local colleges and universities in the fields of Religious Studies, English Literature, and Philosophy who heard of her through their students or colleagues. The majority of her students were working-class people from middle-class and some upper-middle-class backgrounds.

At least twenty percent of the people attracted to Olga Park were youth. Her first learner, a young man from England who sought her out after picking up one of her self-published books in an esoteric bookstore in Vancouver, later returned to England to specialize in the sale of organic fertilizers. Many university students interested in spirituality or religion sought her out. In the early 1970s, a number of her learners were hippies, part of the countercultural movement on the West Coast of North America. A striking number of these young people went on to become artists: among them a poet, a potter, a writer on spirituality, and a glassblower. One of her grandson’s friends, who attended to Park’s needs when she broke an ankle, later became a professional nurse. Park also engaged briefly with two teenaged girls who visited regularly for a time in the early 1970s. A young potter and visual artist working with prisoners at a local prison put her in contact with an inquiring inmate with whom she corresponded for a time.

More than half of Olga’s students were nominally Christian or had Christian upbringings, but many had grown disaffected by conventional religion because of its focus on belief and dogma. These were seeking a spiritual practice that enabled them to discover correlations between the contemplative traditions of Christianity and those of other spiritual traditions, particularly those of Asia like Buddhism and Hinduism. Park was open to those who called themselves agnostics, atheists, or those from other religions.

Meetings with Park were seemingly informal, beginning with conversation and tea. However, she would soon begin to share her mystical experiences and visions, offering insights into their meaning and purpose. Then she would receive questions, and dialogue would ensue. After a number of visits, students would often be invited to participate in her weekly communion partaking at her altar in an alcove of the cottage. There she would explain the symbols and meaning of the communion ritual and teach the songs and prayers that led up to and out of what she called “the Holy Silence” (“The Communion Service” n.d.). If they chose, students would then continue practicing the communion ritual in the privacy of their homes. The words, songs, and instructions for her communion service are available on her website (Olga Park: Twentieth-Century Mystic n.d. ).

Olga was devoted to the being who manifested to her early in her adult life as the Cosmic Christ, and felt herself dedicated to the path he had established on earth during his incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth. She saw the Jesus of her visions as still actively at work addressing our emerging planetary crisis. She did not accept the doctrine that it is essential for everyone to accept the Christian Jesus in order to be “saved.” Rather, she saw the Cosmic Christ as a human being who had attained mastery of spiritual principles during his lifetime, and whose life and teachings were in alignment with the principles and teachings of other leaders and founders of world religions. He had attained the status of the Cosmic Christ but was not God incarnate. This Jesus was for her a poet and wisdom teacher, as evidenced by his parables and oral wisdom sayings, and a scientist in the oldest sense of the word “science” as integrated knowing.

She taught that Western materialist science and linear thinking have shut many out from more inclusive, intuitive knowing. The Christ was her supreme teacher, because he had attained mastery of the life forces through many incarnations. Yet she drew on the wisdom of the world’s religions East and West in her interpretation of her visions and of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, noting the interconnections among the various wisdom traditions. She was both grounded in her Christian heritage and inter-spiritual daily. In her later life, Olga communed with presences from the life beyond death and experienced visions
frequently, on almost a or weekly basis. Some of Olga’s most significant visions are described in her own words on a website containing her self-published writings: the story of the psychic vase and its shattering; a viewing of the panorama of religions throughout the ages; an experience of the Cosmic Christ as Osiris in the Great Pyramid of Giza; an out-of-body tour of the Church of Christ of the Future; an account of the Temple of God Consciousness; and her receiving of third-eye vision (“The Communion Service” n.d.).


In the early 1970s, it was revealed to Olga through a series of visions that she was commissioned to instruct others in the partaking of bread and wine at a home prayer table, which, she suggested, could be located in a niche or corner of one’s room. The purpose of this practice, for both herself and her learners, was to accelerate spiritual growth toward maturity (spiritual integration) and to establish a balance between contemplation and action in one’s daily life. Her students were invited to follow suit by setting up their own prayer tables or dedicated places as convenient and committing themselves to regular times of prayer, meditation, and communion. When they again visited Olga at the cottage they would discuss the insights and possible transformations in their lives that proceeded from their practice.

Olga taught the importance of establishing a special place and time dedicated to prayer and meditation. She emphasized that a person’s psychic and spiritual energies could be easily disrupted by the constant comings and goings of everyday life, and that it was therefore important to build a temple or sacred place within the soul that was at one with Creative Spirit. She saw her prayer table as more of a dining table for communion rather than an altar or place of sacrifice, as a sacred space where partakers receive healing, comfort, and guidance, surrender their daily concerns to a higher power, and offer prayers for others.

In addition to her practice of morning and evening prayer, Olga developed a communion service that she said was given to her by her Teacher and guide in the other life whom she associated with the author (or source) for the accounts in the Gospel of John. She taught her practice to any of her students who requested to participate at the cottage in groups of no more than two or three. Many of them then decided to continue practicing it in their own homes. For a time, some of the students practiced communion at home with one other student, but most of them practiced in solitude. They did not form an established group apart from Park during her lifetime or after her death, but some met together to discuss her ideas, practices, and her non-literal approaches to the Bible.

Olga rejected the doctrine that Jesus’ execution by the Romans was a sacrifice God required of his “only Son” in order to forgive humankind for their sins. In Olga’s ritual, the bread symbolizes the “Word of life revealed from heaven,” and the wine “the love of Christ and the fellowship of heaven.” The service consisted of an interweaving of hymns and scriptures that led up to and out of the Holy Silence. The purpose of the service was to activate higher levels of consciousness within each participant. She taught that this Holy Silence was at the center of everyone’s being, and was the generative source of all life where we are interconnected and one.

Additionally, she taught that the purpose of entering the Silence was to cultivate the “hearing of the Voice.” This inner hearing was not a ringing in the ear by a voice perceived as external from the self, but an emergence of wisdom-knowing from the innermost core of each person. She taught one could receive guidance from the innermost core of oneself that is simultaneously the core or hidden center of the cosmos. Her teaching was based on the sense that the microcosm or small order of things is essentially one with the cosmic order or larger order of things. Therefore, the hearing of the Voice was for her not a matter of external guidance bestowed by a God outside the world or the individual self, but a Presence indwelling each person and alive within all things.


As a spiritual leader, Olga encouraged her students to trust their own interior guidance. One of her constant expressions was, “Don’t take my word for it. Test it out for yourself to see if it works.”

She encouraged the full development of the individuality of each of her learners. Yet those close to her believed she spoke with such authenticity on the intensity and quality of her visions that it was evident she lived in many dimensions at once, negotiating them with grace. Many of her students noticed that when they arrived at the cottage, Park would often begin talking insightfully about an issue or question with which they had been struggling; yet she insisted she did not read minds but was simply “attuned from within” to what was going on with each person.

She often compared what she called spiritual “at-one-ment” or “attunement” to being linked up to a specific bandwidth as received on a radio. She also taught that “all is by mediation,” and saw herself as one who had the capacity to mediate between one dimension and another. During some of her early out-of-body experiences she had been taken by her guide in the afterlife (the figure she called her Teacher) to assist others in their transition from life on earth to the life beyond death.

Olga’s continuous direct encounters with beings and teachers from the life beyond death convinced her that consciousness survives death. Much of her teaching focused on how to awaken and develop what she called “a three-fold consciousness,” a balance of body, soul (including mind and emotions), and spirit. Her students often commented that mere association with Olga stimulated visionary or mystical awareness in them.


Olga Park’s greatest challenge, her call to a solitary, contemplative life, involved some degree of loneliness in the early years. Feeling out of tune with the materialist, linear thinking of her era (the assumption that what we can see and measure empirically is the entirety of reality) she nevertheless continued to keep careful records of her interior experiences.

Her preference to work with small groups of people drawn to her and her desire to step outside large institutional structures meant that she would not lead a movement. However, her hidden life, and her teachings on the importance of a regular practice of prayer and praise, had profound repercussions in the lives of many. Her papers and writings are now being collected in the archives at the University of Manitoba. She lived by Jesus’ teaching that a teacher scatters seed, unaware of the hidden repercussions of acts that at first seem small.

Olga’s decision not to promote herself as the leader of a movement flowed out of a considered understanding that the insights and teachings of the original founders of many religions have often been diminished or even perverted by the institutional structures that grew up around them. She argued that when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the creeds and doctrines of the church often misrepresented the life and teachings of Jesus, the Jewish mystical teacher. She felt that Jesus’ legacy would not have necessarily died without the church, but that it could have been carried on through smaller, more diverse groups of practitioners. Therefore, her legacy is not merely based on her own personal charisma, but on her teaching about the value of a regular practice of contemplation and communion, which can be carried out in one’s home or ordinary circumstances by individuals and small groups. Her teaching on how to open to the presence of the Cosmic Christ and to come to embody this Christ-consciousness is expressed in her extensive writings, many of which have not yet been published at this time.

Olga’s teachings remain clearly within the Christian mystical streams. Because her concepts and practices fell within the more esoteric side of Christianity, she was not fully understood during her lifetime. However, she was both a mystic and an activist, as she served as the Canadian representative for the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychic and Spiritual Research when she was in her sixties, and attempted to open discussion in liberal Christian churches in Vancouver about life beyond death. She felt her path paralleled that of the Quakers who focus on the awakening of the inner light in each individual rather than relying on a priesthood or spiritual hierarchy.

Olga Park lived and taught what now might be called an evolutionary spirituality, a sense that human consciousness evolves within a larger, sustaining cosmic consciousness. She noted that evolving beyond egotism and self-centeredness individually and collectively begins and ends with humility, a desire to serve something greater than our narrowly conceived selves. Olga’s God or Creative Spirit was not a punitive or patriarchal Being managing the world from outside or beyond, but a loving Presence, both immanent and transcendent, personal and transpersonal, who uses our mistakes and fragilities to create newness, truth, and beauty. Divine spirit was for her that in which “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).


Buckwold, Jarad. 2013. Olga Park: An Inventory of Her Records at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. Accessed from

Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies. n.d. Accessed from on 15 December 2015.

Longhurst, Brian. 2012. Seek Ye First the Kingdom: One Man’s Journey with the Living Jesus. Portland: Six Degrees Publishing Group.

McCaslin, Susan. 2014. Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga. Toronto: Inanna Publications.

Olga Park: Twentieth-Century Mystic. n.d. (Website created by Susan McCaslin containing Olga Park’s self-published writings). Accessed from on 16 June 2017.

Park, Olga Mary Bracewell. 1960. Between Time and Eternity. New York: Vantage Press. Accessed from  on 16 June 2017.

Park, Olga. 1968. Man, the Temple of God. Accessed from on 16 June 2017.

Park, Olga. 1969. The Book of Admonition and Poetry. Accessed from on 16 June 2017.

Park, Olga. 1974. An Open Door. Accessed from on 16 June 2017.

Todd, Douglas. 2015. “A Journey into Parapsychology,” September 10. The Search. Online blog with the Vancouver Sun . Accessed from on 18 December 2015.


Mary Olga Park fonds. University of British Columbia Library Rare Books and Special Collections. Available at

Mary Olga Park fonds. University of British Columbia Library Rare Books and Special Collections. Collection Description. Available at

Post Date:
18 December 2015


Fadia Ibrahim


1962:  Fadia Ibrahim was born.

1990:  Ibrahim immigrated from Beirut, Lebanon to Canada.

2009 :  The Virgin Mary first visited Fadia Ibrahim during Mass, by inscribing the letter M on her leg in blood.

2010:  In response to now numerous messages from Mary to Ibrahim, a Catholic group in Detroit, Michigan delivered a statue of the Virgin to her.

2010 (March):  Ibrahim began to notice the statue weeping tears of oil.

2010 (May/June):  Mary told Ibrahim to place the statue outside her home.

2010 (October):  The City of Windsor Ontario received the first complaint about the presence of the statue.

2010 (early November):  Media in the U.S. reported on the statute, leading to an increase in visitors.

2010 (November 5):  After opposition to the display of the statue outside of Ibrahim home, the statue was moved to St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church.


There is little known about Fadia Ibrahim’s life before her experiences with the Virgin Mary. It is known that she was born in 1962 in Lebanon and migrated to Canada around 1990 (Yonke 2010). She resided in East Windsor in Ontario at the time her messages from the Virgin Mary began (Willick 2010). Ibrahim attended the St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, an Orthodox Christian church.

Ibrahim’s first encountered with the Virgin Mary occurred during a Catholic Mass. A bloody M appeared on Ibrahim’s leg, placed there, Ibrahim reports, by the Virgin Mary (Wilhem 2010). Mary continued to visit Ibrahim through messages and additional markings on her body. Ibrahim describes Mary in the following way: “She’s pretty. She keeps smiling. She covers her head. … She’s 49, 50 years [old]. … She’s like, I don’t know how to say, she’s different. She’s different” (Yonke 2010). Once word of her messages from Mary began to spread, a family of Chaldean Catholics from Detroit presented a boxed four-foot statue of the Virgin Mary to Ibrahim (Yonke 2010). It is believed that the statue originally came from the Los Angeles area (Morgan 2010).

After receiving the statue, Ibrahim stored it inside her home. It was on Canada Day (July 1), she reports, that her daughter discovered that it was dispensing oil. It was a request from Mary that led her to then build an enclosed pedestal on her front lawn to display the statue. Visitors began to appear immediately, and some brought flowers. According to Ibrahim, Mary was pleased. She states that the statue was smiling and secreting oil. Shortly after the statue was placed outside the home, Ibrahim began to report oil secreting from her own hands. Ibrahim stated the oil came from the statue and was of the Virgin Mary (Yonke 2010). Daily attendance at the statue rose to as many as 1,000 visitors per day (Willick 2010).

Following persistent complaints from neighbors about the noise and traffic generated by visitors, municipal officials ordered Ibrahim to remove the statue from her lawn by November 19, 2010. Ibrahim reports also receiving a message from Mary requesting that her statue be moved. According to Ibrahim, “She told me she wanted people to go back to the church,” said Ibrahim. “My house is not a church.” Ibrahim later commented that the statue was happy in its new location (Kristy 2010). Ibrahim initially offered the statue to her own church, St. Ignatius of Antioch Orthodox Church, but the pastor declined her offer. Father Chaaya at St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church, which serves primarily Catholics of Lebanese origin, did agree to accept the statue at St. Charbel’s, although he was not convinced at the time that the tears were real. Within a short time, however, he changed his mind: “Then, during recitation of the rosary on the evening of Nov. 13, the Maronite priest said he and about 50 worshippers clearly saw tears dripping from the statue’s eyes. “It’s true. I saw it,” Father Chaaya said. “Now I know” (Yonke 2010). Nonetheless, the transfer of the statue from an independent to a church-controlled site proved definitive. As Laycock (2014:192) noted, “Once it was inside the church, the statue received far less attention. There have been no reports of Ibrahim receiving messages or the statue secreting tears.”


Many visitors to the statue at Ibrahim’s residence believed that the tears from the statue were a sign from God and an indication of the world reaching dark times. Visitors felt that Mary wept out of heartbreak as the world destroyed itself through injustices such as crime and war. Pam Martin, a visitor of the statue, believed the statue indicated such a message: “I watch the news and I can’t help but be saddened by what I see…[Mary’s] weeping for us because we’re killing this world” (Jette 2010). Ironically perhaps, Windsor was known as “sin city” to Americans (Wilhelm 2010). Thus, at least some locals believed that the statue brought much needed attention, prayer, and hope to the area. In this way, the statue was appreciated as a miracle. “I think it’s a miracle from God,” Ms. Ibrahim told The Blade. “She wants people to pray, go back to the church. She like people to believe on her Son, and she want people to help each other as before” (Willick 2010; Yonke 2010).

In addition to believing the statue itself is a miracle and a message, visitors believed that the oil from the statue possessed healing powers. When Ibrahim started to report oil miraculously appearing on her hand, visitors began to seek out her personal blessing. There are reports of visitors receiving healing and answers to the prayers from worshiping the statue and being blessed by Ibrahim (Wilhelm 2010).


Large groups of believers, predominantly of the Catholic faith, visited the site to be in communion with the miracle statue of the Virgin Mary. Although in place for a very short time, the statue in Windsor became a pilgrimage site for believers in Marian apparitions. Visitors reported being overcome with emotion upon simply looking at the statue. Worshipers also repeated prayers, such as the Hail Mary, and held religious items such as rosaries and Bibles while worshiping. Even after the statue had been placed in the St. Charbel Maronite Catholic Church, believers attested to the statue’s secreting of tears: “I swear to God, honestly — we’re in church right now — by the fourth decat you could see it, it was just so clear,” Ms. Rizk said. “The tear formed on the top of the eye and dripped down and stopped at the bottom of the eye. It was a statue one second and then it became a miracle, right in front of my eyes” (Yonke 2010).

The most important ritual believers engaged in was collecting the Virgin’s oily tears. They believed the oil to be sacred whether through direct contact with the statue itself, with the hand of Ibrahim, or with the hands of those who did touch the statue. Ibrahim only allowed a handful of visitors actually touch the statue. These lucky few would place their hands on the heads of other visitors and bless them. Visitors brought with them ziploc bags, cotton balls, and makeup remover to collect the Virgin’s tears of oil and bring them home (Wilhelm 2010). Sometimes Ibrahim would use her hands to make a cross with the on the forehead of visitors. One woman described the experience as overwhelming: “When she touched me, I just felt overwhelmed and everything seemed to come out,” said Rosanne Paquette. “I felt this warmth, and it was unbelievable.” Another woman testified that her teenage granddaughter was cured of leukemia after Ibrahim anointed her with the oil: “She just put the oil on her, prayed for her…. The doctor said her blood, everything was normal” (Willick 2010).


Fadia Ibrahim and her statue of the Virgin Mary encountered opposition from two sources: neighborhood residents and municipal officials and officials of the Roman Catholic Church.

Once Ibrahim had moved the statue of Mary from inside her house to the front lawn, the statue quickly came under fire. Neighbors disliked the large increased traffic and noise in the neighborhood, which only increased when the U.S. began to report about it (Caldwell 2010). Neighbors quickly complained to the city and organized a petition against the statue that was delivered to municipal officials. Due to the lack of a building permit and to building code violations, the city gave Ibrahim until November 19 to remove the statue. Ibrahim quickly objected to the city’s notice and collected hundreds of donations and signatures for a petition to save the statue before finally acceding to the city’s demands. Ironically, a city solicitor at the time, George Wilkki, spoke to the media telling them there was an easy solution to the city’s issues with the statue. Ibrahim simply needed to apply for a minor variance and a building permit. Then, the statue could remain at its location in her front yard (Wilhelm 2010).

At the same time, Catholic Church officials had begun to investigate the validity of Ibrahim’s statue and its miraculous tears of oil. Church officials dissuaded people from visiting the shrine but never officially denounced the statue. Father John Ayoub of the Diocese of the Windsor Orthodox Church, St. Ignatius of Anitoch Church was more measured in his response (Laycock 2014: 192). He stated that he did not find the statue to be a miracle of God. However, he continued to accept Ibrahim as a member of his parish and allowed others to believe in her message if they so desired. Ibrahim, on the other hand, reportedly felt disappointed by the lack of support from the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

On November 5, fourteen days before the city’s deadline for Ibrahim to move the statue, visitors who arrived at Ibrahim’s home found that the statue had been removed. The expressed sadness and curiosity. The only explanation for the removal of the statues was contained in two notes left outside the home. The note on the outside of the statues casing simply asked visitors to leave the family and home alone. The other note, located on the front door of the home read, “The statue has been relocated and this structure will be taken down shortly. Please stay off this private property. Visit your church, please.” Members of the Ibrahim initially denied knowledge of the statue’s location when visitors made further inquiry (Vijay 2010).

Ibrahim did subsequently offer an explanation. She stated that she had received a message from Mary asking her to take the statue of the weeping Virgin to the church. Ibrahim insisted that Mary did not want believers coming to Ibrahim’s house to pray, thereby treating it as Mary’s home. Mary, Ibrahim asserted, had only wanted her to attract public attention and then direct believers back to the church. Ibrahim denied any relation between the city’s demand for her to move the statue, or the strain the statue had created on her neighborhood and family, and her decision to give the statue to the church Her final statement was that Mary had given “a message…to pray you have to pray in church” (Vijay 2010).


Caldwell, Simon. 2010. “‘Weeping’ Virgin Transferred to Canadian Church.” The Catholic Herald. Accessed from on 4 November 2014.

CBC News. 2010. “Front-yard Virgin Mary to Come Down.” Accessed from on 4 November 2014.

Jette, Martha. 2010a. “Miracles: Do They Still Happen Today?” (Part 1 of 2). Accessed from on 16 November 2014.

Jette, Martha. 2010b. “Is Madonna ‘Weeping for the World?’” (Part 2 of 2). Accessed from on 16 November 2014.

Kristy, Dylan. 2010. “Visitors Welcome at New Home of ‘Weeping’ Madonna.” The Windsor Star , November 8. Accessed from on 24 November 2014.

Laycock, Joseph. 2014. The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Laycock, Joseph. 2011. “Controversial Mary Statue Weeps because ‘We’re Killing This World.’” Religion Dispatches. Accessed on Nov 16, 2014 from .

Lewis, Charles. 2010. “Weeping Madonna: Separating miracles from wishful thinking.” National Post , November 5. Accessed from on 4 November 2014.

Morgan, Dale. 2010. “Canada: Hundreds of Superstitious Virgin Mary Worshipers Flock to Windsor Home to See Virgin Mary Statue.” Accessed from!search/Fadia$20Ibrahim$20Canada$3A$20Hundreds$20of$20superstitious$20Virgin$20Mary$20Worshipers$20flock$20to$20…/bible-prophecy-news/BEPkyKdPj4E/ywF8T3qvcQcJ on 4 November 2014.

Paterson, Andrea. 2010. “A World Without Miracles.” Accessed from on 4 November 2014.

The Canadian Press. 2010. “Homeowners Must Remove Structure Housing Virgin Mary.” Accessed from on 4 November 2014.

Vijay. 2010. “Windsor’s Mysterious ‘Weeping’ Madonna Has a New Home.” Accessed from on 4 November 2014.

Wilhelm, Trevor. 2010. “Hundreds F lock to Windsor to S ee W eeping Virgin Mary S tatue.” Postmedia News. Accessed from on 16 Nov ember 2014 .

Willick, Frances. 2010. “Crowds Flock to See Mary’s ‘Tears’.” The Windsor Star , November 2. Accessed from on 23 November 2014.

“Windsor Ontario’s W eeping Madonna.” Accessed from on 16 November 2014.

Yonke, David. 2010. “Faithful Flock to See the Statue of Mary Reported to Weep at Night.” Toledo Blade , November 21. Accessed from on 21 November 2010.

Post Date:
8 December 2014



Cowboy Trail Church


1882:  The first cattle were brought into Alberta Province by American John Ware.

1886:  The forerunner of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede took place.

1923 (July):  The first Calgary Exhibition and Stampede was held.

1963:  The Canadian Cowboys’ Association was created.

2005 (February 1):  Cowboy Trail Church was established.


Cowboys have a long history in western Canada as they were part of the process of taking First Nations land for the development of large cattle and horse ranches (Fleck 2003; Dary 1981). It was African-American cowboy John Ware who first brought cattle intoAlberta Province from the U.S in 1882, and American open-range cattle ranching soon was a favored style in the industry (Breen 1901-1910). Calgary became the hub of the Canadian cattle industry. However, just as in the U.S., it was not long before fenced ranches replaced open range and the role of the cowboy diminished. As in the U.S. cowboy culture continued through rodeo culture. By the middle of the nineteenth century rodeos became popular as cowboys roped cows and broke in wild horses in order to win cash prizes, engage in sport, and provide entertainment for growing rodeo audiences (Fleck 2003). In 1886, the forerunner of The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, The Calgary and District Agricultural Society, took place. The first Calgary Exhibition and Stampede was held in 1923. The term “rodeo” only gradually came into use, and it was only in the 1940s that events were referred to as rodeos by participants. The Canadian Cowboys’ Association was created in 1963. It covered three provinces at that time: Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; Ontario was included in 2005 ( Leduc Black Gold Pro Rodeo & Exhibition 2014) .

Cowboy work has always been predominantly male and characterized by its seasonal, low-paying work, dangerous work that required strength, stamina, knowledge of horses and cattle, and skill in riding and roping. Cowboy culture has been characterized by individualism, independence, and social marginality. As the number of traditional cowboys diminished, rodeo work and culture continued the kinds of physical skills, personal qualities, and social marginality of its predecessor. The social marginality of rodeo culture meant that a substantial pool of males with fragile ties to family and religion was available to evangelical recruiters.

Cowboy churches originated in the United States during the 1970’s and began spreading to other nations, most notably Canadaand Australia. The cowboy church movement is non-denominational, though many churches are affiliated with particular traditional denominations. There are over 800 cowboy churches in the U.S. Cowboy Church of Ellis County in Waxahachie, Texas, which was established in 2005, is reputed to be the world’s largest cowboy church. Its membership has grown to nearly 2,000, with over 1,700 in regular attendance. There is a Monday evening service to accommodate those who attend rodeos and competitions on weekends (Bromley and Phillips 2013).

Cowboy culture in Canada manifests the same marginality as counterparts in the U.S. The dangerous lifestyle is exhausting as rodeo cowboys often participate in 100 or more rodeos annually in the quest for prize money. As one observer summarized these features (Fleck 2003):

“The toughest thing in their life is their marriages because they’re on the circuit, moving around so much,” he says. “The divorce rate is very high and alcoholism is very high because temptation is always there. A guy has been gone for three or four months, away from home, and there’s always these rodeo girls around…and when they have a spare minute, it’s into the saloon.”

Cowboy culture is also in decline as the oil boom has drawn men toward the better paying oil drilling industry. It is estimated that Canadian crude reserves, predominantly in tar sands, rank third in the world and will draw hundr eds of billions of dollars in oil production investment over the next several decades (Skerritt 2014).

The handful of cowboy churches with a distinctly western flavor in Canada include Willow Creek Cowboy Church in Nanton and the
Clearwater Cowboy Church in Caroline. Probably the best known Canadian cowboy church in Canada is the Cowboy Trail Church in Cochrane, which was founded by Bryn Thiessen in 2005. Thiessen and his four sisters were brought up in a Mennonite family in Gamble Flats. He and his wife have three children and own the 2,500 Helmer Creek Ranch near Sundre where he raises horses and cattle and she raises Border Collies (Toneguzzi 2014). Thiessen is also a noted cowboy poet.

The Cowboy Trail Church emerged out of the joint efforts of American Mike McGough and Bryn Thiessen. McGough was a professor at the nearby Canadian Baptist Seminary, and after he became award of the size of the cowboy culture, he began getting to know ranchers. He noticed that there was no ministry to farmers and ranchers. In December 2004 Thiessen, McGough, and a few others met and then launched The Cowboy Trail Church in February 2005 (Toneguzzi 2014) .


Byrn Thiessen characterizes those attending The Cowboy Trail Church as religious, and overwhelmingly Christian, but not necessarily religiously engaged. As he puts it: “Every rancher has a sense of a creator, for sure….Anybody that works in that knows there’s more to it than just a lump of dirt and three lightning bolts” (Junkin 2011). He explains that “I think it’s easier for agricultural people to believe in a creator, because they see it all around them all the time….And many of them understand Native spirituality – they can embrace the mystic side of it (Stephen 2007 ). However, many cowboys are not comfortable with conventional church. As Thiessen has put it, “the contemporary style in church doesn’t appeal much to men, and cowboys don’twant to know a wishy-washy gospel. They want the truth, worded in a way they can understand it. My job is to put the Gospel in a palatable form” (Stephen 2007 ). For that reason Thiessen tries to keep his preaching simple. As he states it, “Mine’s non-negotiable,” he said. “Tell the truth and serve good coffee. Offer opportunities for fellowship. It’s simple, there’s no need to water down the gospel” (Junkin 2011).

Church services at The Cowboy Trail Church are in many ways quite conventional for a conservative Christian church with the exception of their western flavor. As Thiessen describes them, “We have a Western swing, blue-grass style worship. It’s all stringed instruments … We have special guests from time to time. A testimony. Some scripture picked out. And then the sermon. What sets us apart is we sit down to sing and stand up to pray” (Toneguzzi 2014; Stephen 2007 ). Services often end with the congregation singing the “Cowboy Blessing.” Like other cowboy churches, Cowboy Trail seeks to be open and inclusive, to “meet people where they’re at” ( Rosen 2009).


One major source of the rapid growth of cowboy churches has been church planting by conservative Christian groups. Baptists have been particularly active in reaching out to two male groups, cowboys and bikers. Some Baptists in the U.S. have engaged in church planting activities in Canada through the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships (Lilley 2012) :

Church planting is the focus of the partnership that began last year between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and the Canadian National Baptist Convention. North Carolina Baptists are committed to helping plant 40 churches in Southern Ontario, 10 biker churches, and 10 cowboy churches throughout Canada by 2021.

The Cowboy Trail Church is non-denominational but is affiliated with the Canadian Southern Baptists ( Stephen 2007).

Weekly church services are held on Tuesday evenings to avoid competition with weekend rodeos. Cowboy Trail holds its services at the Cochrane Ranche House, a onetime cattle ranch turned convention center. The overall congregation numbers around 300, with about 100 on average attending the weekly services. In addition to its regular services, the church also performs marriages, baptisms and funerals, all in with a western flavor. The church is supported through donations by the congregation. However, the church does not pass a collection plate. Rather, those attending services are invited to drop donations in two cowboy boots that are placed at the church door.

Consistent with Cowboy Trail’s informal organization, bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. The church is administered by it refers to as New Testament Model leadership, a leadership team. Bryn Thiessen, who is a rancher, poet, and founding member of the church serves as pastor. His leadership style is informal and self-effacing. As he puts it, “I absorbed so much teaching over the years and I learned to public speak in 4-H. I like to say I have a Jack Pine degree [meaning that he is self-taught] in theology and veterinary medicine…” (Stephen 2007).


Although many cowboy churches like Cowboy Trail were planted by conservative Christian groups or are affiliated with them in some way, they are sometimes criticized for their western orientation. The critique is that the style of the church becomes more important than the substance of the doctrine ( 2012). This appears to be less an issue in Canada than it is in the U.S. The more significant challenge to cowboy churches, like Cowboy way, is maintaining the kind of commitment from second generation members that energizes the founding generation. If commitment erodes or novelty wears off, cowboy churches may lose the luster they currently enjoy.


Breen, David. 1901-1910. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume XIII. Accessed from on 31 May 2015.

Bromley, David G. and Elizabeth Phillips. 2013. “Cowboy Churches.” World Religions and Spirituality Project. Accessed from on 31 May 2015 .

Dary, David. 1981. Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries. New York: Knopf.

Fleck, Doris. 2003. “Cowboys for Christ.” Faith Today, July/August. Accessed from on 29 May 2015.

Junkin, Sarah. 2011. Cochrane: A Town of Many Churches.” Cochrane Times, October 13. Accessed from on 29 May 2015.

Lilley, Melissa. 2012. “Battleford Cowboy Church is ‘Point of Light’ in Darkness.” BSC Communications, January 31. Accessed from on 30 May 2015 .

Leduc Black Gold Pro Rodeo & Exhibition. 2014. Timeline: A History of Rodeo in North America.” Accessed from on 31 May 2015.

Rosen, Amy. 2009. “Get Along Little Doggie.” The National Nosh, June 18. Accessed from on 29 May 2015 .

Skerritt, Jen. 2014. “Oil Boom Ropes in Cowboys, Leaving Cattle Ranches in the Lurch.” The Age, November 26. Accessed from

Stephen, Cindy. 2007. “Passion as Wide as Alberta Sky.” City Light News, July 7. Accessed from on 29 May 2015.

Toneguzzi, Mario. 2014. “ Cowboy Trail Church Serves Farming and Ranching Community.” Calgary Herald, July 4. on 29 May 2015. 2012. “Cowboy Church.” Friday Church News Notes 13: 16. Accessed from on 20 June 2013.

Post Date:
1 June 2015




Eckhart Tolle


1948:  Eckhart Tolle was born Ulrich Leonard Tolle in Lunen, Germany.

1977:  Tolle was admitted to postgraduate studies at Cambridge University in London, having completed a degree in languages and history at University of London.

1979:  Tolle experienced an “inner transformation,” and after a period of drifting, settled in Vancouver, Canada and began to write his first book, The Power of Now.

1997:  The Power of Now was first published.

2000:  Television personality Oprah Winfrey recommended the book, propelling it to the New York Times Bestseller Book for Hardcover Advice.

2005:  Tolle published A New Earth, which also became a bestseller.

2008:  Oprah selected the book for her book club and subsequently partnered with Tolle in a series of internet seminars featuring discussions and meditation.

2009:  Tolle’s global audience was estimated to be in the tens of millions.


Ulrich Leonard Tolle was born in Lunen, Germany. His parents’ marriage has been described as the unhappy union of “a strong-willed mother and an eccentric journalist father” (MacQueen 2009). Tolle’s parents divorced when he was thirteen, and when Tollerefused to attend school, his mother sent him to live with his father in Spain. Tolle did not attend school between the ages of thirteen and twenty-two as his father allowed him to study philosophy, language and literature on his own (Walker 2008). He subsequently did complete a degree in history and languages at the University of London and then enrolled in a doctoral program at Cambridge University.

By the late 1970s, Tolle was a doctoral student living in London and in crisis, a “neurotic, near-suicidal mess” (MacQueen 2009). Tolle described himself as “so miserable ‘I couldn’t live with myself any longer” (Grossman 2010). This profound crisis provoked an existential revelation for Tolle one evening. In this moment, he states: “Suddenly I stepped back from myself, and it seemed to be two of me. The ‘I’, and this ‘self’ that I cannot live with. Am I one or am I two? And that triggered me like a koan…. It happened to me spontaneously. I looked at that sentence: ‘I can’t live with myself’. I had no intellectual answer. Who am I? Who is this self that I cannot live with? The answer came on a deeper level. I realised who I was” (Walker 2008). In this transformative moment Tolle recounts having gone from “being depressed and basically insane—normal insane, I mean—to suddenly feeling a sense of underlying peace in any situation…” (MacQueen 2009). The transformation involved “a death of the sense of self that lived through identifications, identifications with my story, things around me, the world. Something arose at that moment that was a sense of deep and intense stillness and aliveness, beingness. I later called it ‘presence’” (Cohen n.d.). He reports that “The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness”, just observing and watching” (Scobie 2003).

Dissatisfied with academia in the wake of what he experienced as his “inner transformation,” Tolled dropped out of Cambridge after one year of studying Latin American literature. He then changed his name from Ulrich to Eckhart in homage to 14 th-century German Neoplatanist and medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart. For the next two years Tolle lived in London holding temporary jobs while “sleeping on friends’ sofas, and spending the days on park benches in Russell Square, or sheltering in the British Library” (Burkeman 2009). For a brief period he taught the fruits of his personal transformation in his friends’ homes, before migrating to the United States West Coast and finally settling in Vancouver, Canada in 1995. It was just two years later, in 1997, that Tolle published his first book, The Power of Now, followed in 2003 by Stillness Speaks and A New Earth in 2005. His popularity skyrocketed following Oprah Winfrey’s enthusiastic promotion of The Power of Now in 2000.

Eckhart Tolle is a business and marital partner with Kim Eng. Eng was born in Vancouver, Canada and met Tolle in 1998 after she
attended one of his retreats. Eng has stated that prior to meeting Tolle she was married and a practicing Christian, but was unhappy with both her marriage and her religion. She ultimately left both and began a spiritual search. It was after attending one of Tolle’s retreats that she had was she describes as a transformational spiritual experience. Eng then began seven years of spiritual training with Tolle, ultimately becoming his partner and associate in disseminating his teachings. She also has developed her own career as a counselor and public speaker, and is particularly noted for her “Presence through Movement” workshops.


Tolle’s teachings are often described as a fusion of Eastern philosophies such as Zen Buddhism, New Age philosophy and established religion. He asserts that his teachings actually contain nothing new but rather state the essential understandings of all religions, understandings that have been lost in the extraneous teachings of established religions. Tolle therefore has drawn a strong distinction between religion and spirituality; while the two may coexist, “religion without spirituality, unfortunately, is very common” (MacQueen 2009). The result is that established religion has become part of what Tolle terms “the insanity.” In his view humanity could reasonably be regarded as “[c]riminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals,” beset with “chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty against his perceived enemies
. . .” (MacQueen 2009).

In Tolle’s teachings the fundamental human problem is the sense of self, the ego, which is the product of the structure and operation of the mind. Individuals come to equate themselves with their thoughts, which are the product of their minds, and therefore live in separation from Being. As he has put it, “our true selves are the formless Consciousness, which is Being, which is God. We are all One, and thus we are all God” (Walker 2008). For Tolle, therefore, the concept of a transcendent God that created the universe is not helpful. Rather, Tolle understands there to be an intelligence that is present in every life form and form of life and that constantly creates and recreates the universe. It is the being that knows and experiences life directly; the mind, by contrast operates on the basis of facts, judgments, images, labels rather than direct experience. Operating on this basis the mind lives in a combination of past (memories) and future (projections) rather than in the moment, which Tolle refers to as the Now. Since the mind operates on the basis of constructs rather than realities directly, the mind blocks connectedness with other people and with Being. The mind also finds itself in direct conflict with reality since everyday reality does not coincide with the images and judgments about the way things ought to be based on memories of past and aspirations for the future. It is this resistance to what is and the loss of connection to Being that leads to individual pain and suffering. The greater the individuals’ identification with their minds, the greater the resistance to what is; and the greater the resistance to what is the greater the level of pain and suffering. A “pain-body,” the accumulated pain from past hurtful experiences is the product of this resistance (McKinley 2008).

The solution to the problem of separation from Being, in Tolle’s view, is to be in the Now. The Now is timeless transcendent space, which is who we are. Contrary to conventional logic, we are not what is happening in the present but the space for what is happening (Jonas-Simpson 2010). Being in the Now therefore means both accepting what is and unconditionally surrendering to the present. Avoidance of the present moment therefore is insanity as the present moment is life. Acceptance of and surrender to the present allows one to reconnect with Being. What is required to move in this direction in Tolle’s view is a spiritual awakening, a transformation of consciousness, which will allow humanity to evolve to a higher level. An essential aspect of this awakening process consists in transcending our ego-based state of consciousness and living in the Now.


Tolle does not specify any formal ritual practices. However, in The Power of Now he recommends Eastern chi meditation (a form of meditation that draws on the life force connecting body, mind and spirit) 10-15 minutes a day and extending mindful meditation to daily life. According to Tolle, this is “particularly fruitful while communicating with others and communing with nature. Through maintaining awareness of the unmanifested in the realm of the manifested, a bridge or portal is built between the two” (Cole 2010). At the same time, Tolle seems to see limitations to meditation. He has stated, “Well, at a certain stage practice may be helpful, but I don’t teach practices. The power of presence doesn’t really need it. Presence is teaching, stillness is teaching, so it would be unnecessary to have a practice. Of course, there may be certain people who haven’t yet had an opening to presence and are not drawn to it; so for them practice may be initially helpful—until it becomes a hindrance” (Clurman 2001).

Tolle does recommend a series of “exercises” that practitioners can employ to become more fully in the Now. These include giving the fullest attention to any routine daily activity; paying attention to the gaps between thoughts generated by the mind, allowing the practitioner to disidentify with the mind and become aware but not engaged in thought; drawing attention away from the mind, bringing one’s attention to the present by becoming aware of breathing, and thereby simply witnessing and experiencing; using negative emotion as an impetus to be more present; observing and dissolving the pain-body; and withdrawing attention from the past and present to eliminate the ego. For Tolle, disidentifying with the mind is the single most important element in the journey toward enlightenment.


Tolle has expressed reservations about establishing formal organizations or becoming a guru-like figure. For example, with respect to his teaching material he has stated that “It’s necessary for it to get out into the world, but one needs to be careful that the organization doesn’t become self-serving” (MacQueen 2009). He has, however, established several organizations for disseminating his teachings. With his partner, Kim Eng, Tolle established Eckhart Teachings. This organization manages Tolle’s speeches, lectures and retreats, as well as the licensing, publishing and distribution of his CDS and DVDs. Tolle’s website,, offers an impressive product line of Tolle’s books, as well as parts of the message repackaged into music, cards, calendars, CDs and DVDs. Eng’s meditations and instructional Qi Flow Yoga video are also available. In July, 2010 he established Tolle TV, allowing viewers to access Internet videos of Tolle meditating or teaching. Visitors also have unlimited access to the site’s online community for a monthly fee. ET-TV offers those interested an affordable means of accessing Tolle’s teachings as well as a worldwide reach. Kim Eng also serves in an instructional capacity; she is “the facilitator of the Presence through Movement workshops, in which she draws on her background in meditation, yoga, t’ai chi, and other spiritual practices to offer a more structured approach to embodying Eckhart’s teachings” (Eckhart Tolle TV n.d.). There are over two hundred Eckhart Tolle Meetup groups in over one hundred countries around the world, primarily in North America, Europe and Asia. Several tens of thousands of members use these venues to discuss Tolle’s teachings.

Tolle’s visibility and influence have been significantly enhanced through his association with Oprah Winfrey. In 2008, Oprah selected A New Earth for her book club; she and Tolle then collaborated on a ten-week series of web seminars to discuss chapters of the book and lead meditations. These “webinars” attracted millions of viewers. Tolle’s books have now been translated into thirty-three languages, and many millions have been sold around the globe (MacQueen 2009).


Tolle predictably has faced criticism from the conservative Christian community as well as the secular mainstream press. One source of conservative Christian condemnation is Tolle’s implication that Jesus is unnecessary as a means for salvation: “Religious critics have called him the Antichrist for claiming you can save yourself, no God or Jesus required.” As Tolle put it, “’Was Jesus the son of God?’ Yes. But so are you. You just haven’t realized it yet’” (Grossman 2010). James Beverley, professor of Christian thought and ethics, summarizes the conservative Christian critique: “From a Christian perspective, Tolle misquotes the Bible to assert his strange mix of Hinduism, Buddhism and New Age pop,” he says. “He misrepresents the teaching of Jesus about the self and ignores the clear claims of Jesus as Saviour, Lord and Son of God” (MacQueen 2009). From this perspective Tolle denies a core pillar of Christianity by asserting that there is no difference between humans and Jesus and God. Some other Christians are more charitable toward Tolle. Theology professor John Stackhouse at the evangelical Regent College in Vancouver has stated that Tolle’s teachings may be beneficial for many: “In fact [he] so chops, strains and rearranges the bits that it borrows that it ends up as a nicely vague spirituality that one can tailor to one’s own preferences” (MacQueen 2009).

Tolle has also faced a number of secular critics who generally are dismissive of New Age and other new forms of spirituality. For example, Time Magazine referred to Tolle’s books as “awash in spiritual mumbo jumbo” (Sachs 2003). According to one review of these assessments: ‘Even by the standards of the self-help book industry, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth is unutterable twaddle,’ said one newspaper book reviewer. ‘Oprah Winfrey’s golden touch has turned a stinker into a bestseller for Penguin.’ Another dismissed the book by saying, ‘Its 313 pages are, frankly, baffling – a mix of pseudo-science, New Age philosophy and teaching borrowed from established religions’” (Walker 2008). Neither religious or secular critique has had great impact on Tolle’s popularity and influence, however. In 2008, the New York Times referred to Tolle as the most popular spiritual author in the U.S., and in 2011, the Watkins Review named Tolle as the most spiritually influential person in the world.


Burkeman, Oliver. 2009. “The Bedsit Epiphany.” The Guardian. 10 April 2009. Accessed from on March 21, 2012.

Clurman, Dan. 2001. “Eckhart Tolle Interview.” Inquiring Mind. Fall 2001. Accessed from, on March 30, 2012.

Cohen, Andrew. N.d. “Ripples on the Surface of Being: An Interview with Eckhart Tolle.” EnlightenNext Magazine. Accessed from, on March 21, 2012.

Cole, Josefine. 2010. “How to Meditate with The Power of Now.” 21 March 2010. Accessed from, on March 30, 2012.

Grossman, Cathy Lynn. 2010. “ ‘Life’s Purpose’ Author Eckhart Tolle is Serene, Critics Less So.” USA Today. 14 October 2010. Accessed from, on March 21, 2012.

MacQueen, Ken. 2009. “Eckhart Tolle Vs. God.” MaClean’s. 22 October 2009. Accessed from, on March 21, 2012.

McKinley, Jesse. 2008. “The Wisdom of the Ages, For Now Anyway.” New York Times. 23 March 2008. Accessed from, on March 21, 2012.

Sachs, Andrea. 2003. “Channeling Ram Dass.” New York Times, 21 April 2003. Accessed from,9171,1004693,00.html#ixzz1qnHPCVFp on April 15, 2012.

Scobie, Claire. 2003. “Why Now Is Bliss?” Telegraph Magazine. 29 September 2003. Accessed from on April 5, 2012.

Walker , Ether. 2008. “Eckhart Tolle: This Man Could Change Your Life.” The Independent. 21 June 2008. Accessed from, on March 21, 2012.

Post Date:
15 April 2012


Army of Mary / Community of the Lady of All Peoples


1921 (September 14):  On the feast day of the Holy Cross, Marie-Paule Giguère was born in Sainte-Germaine du Lac-Etchemin, Quebec, Canada.

1944 (July 1):  Marie-Paule Giguère married Georges Cliche.

1945 (March 25):  A series of apparitions and messages of the Lady of All Nations to visionary Ida Peerdeman began in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

1950 (January 2):  Giguère heard a voice stating that the reason for her suffering “will be all unveiled.”

1954:  Giguère started working for the radio and adopted her media identity as Marie-Josée. God spoke to her about The Army of Mary.

1957 (April):  Giguère became a member of local groups of the earlier established Legion of Mary.

1957 (September):  Cliche and Giguère divorced and their children were placed out of house.

1958:  Giguère was ordered by her spiritual leader to start writing on her life and mystical-spiritual experiences.

1968:  Giguère formed a prayer group with lay and religious friends.

1971 (August 28):  During a pilgrimage with her prayer group to the Marian shrine at Lac Etchémin, the creation of an Army of Mary was revealed to Giguère.

1971:  The first contact with French eschatology author, Raoul Auclair, was established; Giguère gets knowledge from him of the Amsterdam apparitions and the messages of the Lady of All Nations.

1973 (March 20):  For the first time Giguère met Lady of All Nations-visionary Ida Peerdeman in Amsterdam.

1975 (March 10):  Cardinal Maurice Roy of Quebec approved the Army of Mary as a formal Roman Catholic pious association.

1978:  Giguère introduced herself as the (mystical) reincarnation of Mary.

1979:  The publication of the autobiographical and spiritual writings (“Vie d’amour”) of Marie-Paule Giguère started.

1983:  Major land acquisitions were realized in Lac-Etchémin for the creation of a major devotional complex for the movement.

1987 (February 27):  The congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith declared the writings of the movement to be in “major and severe error.”

1987 (May 4):  A declaration by archbishop Louis-Albert Vachon of Quebec called the Army of Mary schismatic; it ceased to be a Catholic association.

1988 (March 2):  An appeal by the movement to annul the declaration of May 4, 1987 was rejected by the Canadian archbishop.

1991 (20 April):  The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome confirmed the declaration of May 4, 1987; it was the ‘final’ decision in the appeal of the Army of Mary to the verdict of being schismatic.

1997:  Giguère is elected as Superior-General of the Community.

1998:  The sympathizing Canadian bishops of Antigonish and Alexandria-Cornwall secretly ordained Army of Mary priests.

2001 (June 29):  A doctrinal note of the Canadian Bishops Conference on the Army of Mary stated that the doctrines are contrary to those of the Catholic Church.

2002 (May 31):  Bishop Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam declared the Amsterdam apparitions and messages for authentic; he rejected the pretentions of Marie-Paule regarding the devotion of the Lady of All Nations/Peoples within her movement.

2007 (March 26):  Archbishop Marc Ouellet of Quebec stated that the teachings of the Army of Mary are false and that its leaders are excluded form the Catholic Church.

2007 (May 31):  Padre Jean-Pierre, superior Father of the movement and newly called the “Church of John,” promulgated the dogma of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate under the title of Lady of All Peoples.

2007 (July 11):  The Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith excommunicated the regular members and ordained deacons and priests of the Community of the Lady of All Peoples; the movement was judged as “heretical.”

2013:  Visionary Giguère, old and bedridden, was supposed to pass away on her birthday, September 14, day of the Holy Cross; the movement keeps low profile.

2015 (April): Visionary Giguère died at age 93.


Marie-Paule Giguère was born in the French Canadian municipality of Sainte-Germaine du Lac-Etchemin (sixty miles southeast ofQuebec) on September 14, 1921. Despite an early wish to live a celibate religious life, she was advised against that course by the Church. In 1944, she married Georges Cliche (1917- 1997 ) who worked at various jobs and also went into local politics. In 1948, they moved to the town Saint-Georges de Beauce. A life full of sickness and suffering for both her and her husband ensued. Her marital life proved to be so problematic (a “nightmare” in her words) that it led to a divorce in 1957 and an out-of-home placement of her five children (André Louise, Michèle, Pierre, and Danielle). However, much later, after she had established the Army of Mary, she partially reconciled with her husband when he became a member of the movement. Meanwhile, while trying to overcome her traumas by giving a place to the celestial voices she had been hearing since she was twelve, Giguère was increasingly drawn into Marian spirituality and devotionalism. Although Giguere had been hearing certain “interior voices” since her teenage years, these mystical encounters increased significantly after 1957. The unveiling of her providential destiny, which was first announced to her in 1950, finally took place in 1958. While hearing voices and receiving messages from Jesus Christ and Mary, she started writing down her life story and started interpreting the mystical phenomena she was experiencing. The titles of her autobiographical volumes, such as Vie Purgative (Purgative Life), Victoire (Victory), and Vie Céleste (Heavenly Life), indicate the progressive transformations she experienced.

In her journalistic work for magazines and radio during the 1950’s, she used the pen name Marie-Josée. After 1958, she referred to herself as Marie-Paule (although also sometimes “Mère Paul-Marie”). She established a foundation for moral support to other organizations and to stimulate priestly vocations under the name Mère Paul-Marie.

After participating in a group visit to an existing small Marian shrine on the edge of Lake Etchemin in the evening on August 28, 1971, Marie-Paule received a revelation confirming the necessity of creating an Army of Mary (“Armée du Marie”). She started the new religious community with approximately seventy five like-minded devotees. This new Army of Mary group was meant to be an alternative to the existing Legion of Mary ( Legio Mariae ), the lay Marian world association founded in 1921 in which she had been involved previously. Against the backdrop of the 1960s counterculture and the Second Vatican Council, her new Army required for members to manifest “personal interior reform” toward the traditional devotional trinity: “The Triple White” (the Eucharist, Mary and the Pope) was to be performed in “an authentically Christian way of life” and also in “fidelity to Rome and the Pope.”

Through the appeal of her messages, her charismatic gifts and her vocal and singing capacities, she enthused her followers and established a successful traditionalist grass-roots Marian movement. The next year, in 1972, a Quebec priest, Philippe Roy, joined the movement and became its director.

It was due to the friendship (through their joint Militia of Jesus Christ membership) of Marie-Paule with an important Church official, the Dutch-Belgian Jean-Pierre van Lierde, sacrista/vicar general of the Vatican State and supporter of the Amsterdam apparitions, that Québecqois archbishop Maurice Roy was persuaded to acknowledge the movement in 1975 as a formal pious association of the Church. This move was the result of inattention and eagerness from his side towards religious initiatives in a time of decay of the Church. He neglected – whether or not intentiously – to conduct a proper investigation on the movement’s ideological stance. Presumably due to the fact that the texts with Marie-Paule’s views were not published before 1979, the movement remained under the radar and unknown to those who were responsible to check its compliance with the doctrines of the faith. It has been reported that Van Lierde stimulated both visionaries, Ida and Marie-Paule, to meet each other.

As a consequence of recognition by the Church, the now formalized movement peaked in the following years. In about ten years the movement, stimulated by their own proselytes and official status, the movement started to expand outside Quebec, finding some thousands of devotees (and not more than that) distributed over approximately twenty (Western) countries.

In 1977, due to another revelation to Marie-Paule, the Militia of Jesus Christ was introduced in Canada and connected to the Army of Mary. That year 200 soldiers of the Army also joined the Militia Christi. The Militia, a chivalric neo-order for stimulating Marian devotion and doing social work, was instituted in France in 1973 without approval of the Church. In 1981, Giguère’s Army of Mary movement modernized its name as the Family and the Community of the Sons and Daughters of Mary. Although this renaming seems less offensive, it connected the movement or “Family” provocatively and directly to its leader, Mary (her reincarnation), or Marie-Paule.

The growth of the movement since the 1970’s also quietly generated a strong flow of financial resources. The Quebec community was therefore taken by surprise when in 1983 major land acquisitions and investments took place in and around Lac-Etchemin in order to create a world center for the Army of Mary and its Militia. These expansions created for the sectarian group a closed, supportive, social and ideological habitat, one that was hostile to external world and authorities and one where not only the ideas grew and the mission started but also the religious practice took place. The group not only organized itself internally. It also created a semi-independent geographical zone, the international center, with monastery-like housing facilities, noviciate, retraites (Spiri-Maria-Alma and Spiri-Maria-Pietro), ateliers, guest houses, press office and radio station, in and around Lac-Etchemin, but mainly at the Route du Sanctuaire 626.

“ Misled” by the formal approbation of the Church, a part of the following did not fully realize the implications of the new teachings when they were published. But, from the early 1980s, people became increasingly worried after closely reading the first published volume of Marie-Paule’s Vie d’Amour. In addition, regional authorities and media were alarmed by the building activities of the Army at the edge of the lake, activities that strengthened the idea of an institutionalizing, self-supportive sectarian community. Nonetheless, it was only after a stream of newspaper articles expressing astonishment at what was actually professed in her scriptures that the bishop of Quebec realized his misjudgment and started to take action against the doctrinal deviations. It caused the new archbishop of Quebec to withdraw the approval of his predecessor. On May 4, 1987, he declared the movement schismatic and disqualified it as a Catholic association because of its false teachings. The Vatican judged their doctrine to be “heretical.” To be completely sure, the archbishop-to-be asked Cardinal Ratzinger to have Marie-Paule’s scriptures also screened by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In a brief note of February 27, 1987, Ratzinger, too, concluded that the movement was in “major and very severe error.” The particular concern was the idea of the alleged existence of an Immaculate Marian Trinity, in which Mary is no longer just Mother of the Son of God, but the divine spouse of God. As a consequence, the theological exegesis of Marie-Paule’s writing by her “theologian,” Marc Bosquart, was likewise condemned. Hence, the Army was forbidden to organize any celebration or to propagate their devotion for the Lady of All Peoples. Priests from the Quebec diocese who got involved would be removed from their priestly functions, although the penalty of excommunication or condemnation was not yet called for.

Despite all measures, the movement did not seem to decline. On the contrary, its mission continued as members were convinced of the real truth that was revealed to them. In 2001, the media frequently reported that the movement consisted of 25,000 followers. In fact, the movement never reached that size; the movement itself estimated in 1995 that its membership was “several thousand” followers spread over fourteen countries. This included forty brothers/seminarians, forty three priests as The Sons of Mary (“Les Fils de Marie”), and 75 celibate women known as members of The Daughters of Mary (“Les Filles de Marie”). There were convents in Green Valley and Little Rock. Most of the following were located in Canada and the U.S., with a few hundred in the Western part of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands a group of approximately twenty devotees was and is active in a Nijmegen-based prayer group. After the interventions of the Church, many left the movement again, and a smaller group of dedicated followers remained.

2007 seems to have been a pivotal year for the movement. When the movement and its teachings were declared false in March, the group strongly reacted with a series of ceremonial feasts (May 31–June 3). During this period, their own new “pope,” Padre Jean-Pierre, promulgated the dogma of Mary/Lady as Coredemptrix, canonized the group’s first saint, Raoul-Marie, and ordained six priests. As a planned final blow to the movement, the Vatican excommunicated the whole movement in July. Since then, not much seems to have changed in community’s policy, although the various measures did winnow the following and, presumably, reduced its means for mission and propaganda. Following this period, the power of Marie-Paule appears to have declined while the influence of her theologians increased. The teachings became increasingly esoteric and the idea of an alternative Church of John (in place of the “degenerated” Church of Petrus) came into being (Martel 2010). After their excommunication, the core following has become more convinced on the demise of the Roman Church of Petrus and the false path the bishop walks by dancing to the tune of Rome and leaving out the major line within the prayer that was given by the Lady. That line (“the Lady who once was Mary”) demonstrated that Marie-Paule was indeed the incarnated, new Mary and Co-Redemptor.

A passing of bedridden Marie-Paule had been predicted for her birthday on September 14, 2013. The prophecy was based on an
“apocalyptic calculation” of verse 5-6 of the book of Revelation. Her passing was expected to take place 1260 days after the start of the Terrestrial Paradise on April 4, 2010. The day passed peacefully, however.


The Community of the Lady of All Peoples regards itself a Catholic movement claiming “ Providential Work with Universal Dimensions.” With this phrasing and by positioning their “Church of St. John” in opposition to the apostolic Catholic tradition of the “Church of St. Peter,” they have distanced themselves from Rome. The group has been declared “non-Catholic” by the Vatican, as it is understood to be a schismatic movement with excommunicated leaders and “heretic” writings. Although it still spreads its theological material, which continues to assert its fidelity to Rome and the Pope, its actual practices are the opposite. The former Army/present-day Community is better understood as a visionary movement with Catholic roots that transformed into a millennial sectarian group with mixed Catholic-esoteric beliefs. They regard their deviating views as Catholic but with “extra” beliefs, for which the Roman Church, they explain, “is not yet ready.”

At the outset, the Army of Mary seemed to be more a new Catholic revival movement reacting to debated modernizations of the Church after the Second Vatican Council. As the role and position of the idiosyncratic visionary and leader Giguère became stronger, especially after her election as Superior-General in 1997, the movement showed more and more characteristics of a sectarian movement. The mystic prose was not focused on God, but became fully centered on Giguère as Mary and/or the Lady of All Peoples reincarnated in her. The Mother (Mary/Marie-Paule) is in their view equal to the Father and of the same nature as Jesus Christ, and so is represented in the Eucharist. Maria has become God for them. Given that position, the theology was not complementary to Christology or Mariology; it was replacement with a completely new doctrine. A growing distinction between adherents and non-adherents to her Vie d’Amour theology came to the surface, leaving less and less space for individual mysticism. New revelations to Marie-Paule, who had first-hand experiences with the divine, changed the movement into a cult of a revelatory kind, where the truth is revealed and individual seekers have to become strict adherents. However, the Army of Mary/Community is in fact not fully a closed cult. The Community has a particularized revealed truth that only partly rejects the paradigms of the Church. It elaborated on the public revelation of the Roman Catholic Church and on fundamental principles, but it started to deviate on some of the basic teachings and the course set out by the Vatican. The Army of Mary claims their teachings overrule verified truth, as mediated by Mary herself and adapted to the modern state of the world, despite their rejection and suppression by the ecclesiastical powers and institutions.

Although Giguère is the divine medium, she did not produce a full exegesis on all dimensions of her mystic experiences. Therefore, two “theologians” were appointed to systematize, elaborate and interpret her mystic writings into a more coherent theology and to elaborate her providential role within the universality of Christianity. This development enhanced the group’s sectarian character. Although the theology is Christian-based, it integrates millennial views, with Marie-Paule as savior (Mary/God), in combination with heretical theological, gnostic esoteric and cosmological teachings. The themes were documented in detail in the research of the movement’s teachings by the Canadian theologian Raymond Martel in 2010 . He described the theology of the Quebec movement as the making of a “Marian gnosis.” In this way the Quebec teachings also deviated from the apocalyptic and end-time interpretations of Hans Baum (1970) for whom the Amsterdam messages are anti-gnostic.

The basis of the theology, redemptive prophecies and eschatology, can be traced to two major sources. The first is Marie-Paule’s scriptures. These include a “revelation” consisting of a series of fifteen volumes titled Life of Love (Vie d’Amour), an auto-biographical and auto-hagiographical corpus of thousands of pages that deals with her life story and mystical experiences. Reading Theresia of Lisieux’s inspirational autobiography, The Story of a Soul (L’histoire d’une âme), and being active as a writer for journals, made Marie-Paule think of putting her life to paper. In 1958, her spiritual superior told her to commence. The text was said to be partly dictated by the Lord himself, not by means of voices or apparitions but by a communication, as she stated, “from spirit to spirit,” initially at the “level of the heart” and later at the level “of the head,” underlining in this way their concurrence. The books form the paradigm and the underpinning of her concept of the Lady of All Peoples and her role within the divine salvific plan. The works also ultimately position Giguère as the embodied appearance of the Lady of All Peoples.

The French Raoul Auclair (1906-1996), radio journalist and author of books on Nostradamus, apparitions, revelations and eschatology (nicknamed “The Poet of the End of the Times”) got notice of the Amsterdam apparitions. By 1966, he had already organized a successful conference on the Amsterdam Lady in Paris where he tried to connect the outcome of the Second Vatican Council on Mary to the Amsterdam messages. He stated that all issues that were brought up during and around the Council had to be interpreted as a confirmation of what was revealed in the Amsterdam messages. The text of the conference was published under the transparent title, La Dame de tous les peuples, and he became the single major international propagandist for the Amsterdam cultus. The French book found its way to Catholic Quebec and was given to Giguère by a friend. After rereading it several times, she recognized the resemblances in the messages she and Peerdeman received and became convinced of the structured connection of both mystic experiences. This idea ultimately brought Auclair and Giguère into contact with each other in 1971. Five years later he joined the Army. In those years, with the Church’s condemnation of the Amsterdam cultus and suppression of its local devotional practice, Marie-Paule’s interest in the Lady of All Nations became stronger. The universality of the Amsterdam messages matched her divine promptings and personal ambitions for a global Marian movement within the Marian era. As a result Marie-Paule wanted to meet visionary Peerdeman. In 1973, 1974 and 1977, she visited the Amsterdam shrine of the Lady of All Nations. Her last visit proved to constitute a new sequel to the Amsterdam apparitions and created an impulse for a shift of the core of cultus to Quebec. Marie-Paule claimed that during mass at the shrine in Amsterdam the visionary Peerdeman pointed at her (Giguère) while saying, “She is the Handmaiden.” This was taken as proof of what was proclaimed in the Lady’s fifty first message, in which Mary announced her return to earth: “I will return, but in public.” This moment was understood to be a recognition of The Lady of All Nations in the person of Giguère by the visionary Peerdeman. Through this maneuver, Marie-Paule retrospectively appropriated the prophesized public return of Mary on Earth ( Messages 1999: 151). Hence, Giguère claimed the devotion of the Lady in Lac-Etchemin to be the sole continuation of the Amsterdam cultus.


In order to give public access to Our Lady of All Peoples in Lac-Etchemin, a church was built within the international Spiri-Marie Center complex. The complex is more a headquarters of an international movement than a dedicated shrine for the Lady of All Peoples or her reincarnation. In an adjacent building to the church, a big shop where books, images, DVD’s are stacked and show the missionary character of the center. Candles, rosaries and all kinds of other devotional material also can be bought for home use or in the Spiri-church. The morphology of the objects seems to be mainstream Catholic, although the symbolism is adapted to the Community’s teachings. Many of the devotional practices are to a large extent in line with those of the formal Catholic Church. The whole décor of the interior is directly inspired by the “original” Amsterdam shrine of the Lady and its imagery. However, a closer look at the décor also shows the symbolism and texts of the movement’s heretical doctrines. For example, one can pray with a combined image of Jesus and Mary that suggests that Mary is present in the eucharist. The central devotional practice is dedicated to the “Triple White” (the eucharist, the Immaculate Mary, and the Pope) through which the sanctification of one’s soul should be realized, inspire the world and the spread the evangelical message of love and peace in anticipation of the return of Christ. Within the cultus no public Marian apparition rituals are known; all messages and appearances seem to be privately received by Giguère.

In the Spiri-church, the devotion for the “Quinternity” is presented. The sacred number, 55 555, was introduced into the teachings as the basis for explaining the logic of the Marian Trinity, consisting of the Immaculate Mary, Marie-Paule, and the Holy Spirit. The devotion states that the combination of the Marian Trinity with the classic trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) creates a total of five “elements,” as the Holy Spirit is regarded as the same for both Trinities. This ensemble is said to be one aswell, as the feminine (the immaculate) is also present in God. Their explanation states that the first coming of the Immaculate Mary is symbolized in the first number 5, and the second coming (Marie-Paule) is represented in double five’s. The double fives represents her actions with the “True Spirit,” namely the Holy Spirit of Mary, a work that started in the year 2000 and which will realize the number 555 when it is finished. This will occur when the new millennium has arrived. In the movement’s systematization, the numbers are supposed to connect the cultus to its origins and close the circle. It would place the formation of the cultus in line with what God reportedly prophesied to Giguère in 1958 about her crucifixion and reincarnation, and about the existence of a Marian trinity. The full number of 55 555 then (the Quinternity ) is the symbol of the actions of the Lady of All Peoples with the True (Marian) Holy Spirit. The figure is presented as a holy number that symbolizes future victory over evil (symbolized in the human number of the beast (666)) and the conditional coming of the new millennium (cf Baum 1970:49-63).

Apart from pilgrimages to the Spiri-Marie center, most of the devotional practices among the adherents take place in the various countries locally within prayer groups. These groups usually meet in informally constructed chapels in houses or garages, as the movement is not allowed to make use of Catholic church buildings. The clean and smooth Spiri-Maria buildings show few decorations and symbolism and do not have burning candles or offerings. An adapted (including a Holy Spirit) painting of the Lady of All Peoples is positioned next to the altar. A sign explains for the visitors the “quinternity.”


New branches have been added to the original Army of Mary since 1980. The present overall Community of the Lady of All Peoples consists of five “works” or branches:

● The Army of Mary (l’Armée de Marie ), established in 1971.
● The Family of Sons and Daughters of Mary (La Famille des Fils et Filles de Marie), established in the early 1980s.
● The Community of Sons and Daughters of Mary (la Communauté des Fils et Filles de Marie) established in 1981. This organization is a religious, pastoral order of priests and sisters, with Marie-Paule as Superior-General since 1997.
● Les Oblats-Patriotes, established in 1986 (August 15). The goal of this organization is renewal of society.
● The Marialys Institute, established in 1992. This organization serves priests who are not part of the Community but share the doctrines.

Those outside of the movement, the media and the Roman Catholic Church, usually still depict the overall movement in a reductionist way as the Army of Mary.

From the beginning, Marie-Paule Giguère has been the central figure. There is considerable information about her past due to her writings. There is less information about her later life as her movement came under pressure, she appeared less often in public, and the group became a more closed sect. Most of the contact with the outside world took place through her assistant, the Belgian sister Chantal Buyse, who also takes care of her hospitalization.

When in 1978 Raoul Auclair moved to Quebec and became the editor of L’Etoile (The Star), the then journal of the movement (since 1982 Le Royaume ), his role as intellectual within the Community started to rise. Ultimately he became the central theologian and interpreter of the movement, for which he was canonized by the Community after his death.

Since 2007, Father Jean-Pierre Mastropietro, wearing a Byzantine crown, has been “acting like a pope” according to the CatholicChurch. Father Jean-Pierre is the head of the Church of John, the Church of Love, which is described by the movement as a “transmutation” of the Roman Church of Peter.


As of 2007, the Army of Mary was excommunicated, and the movement has been placed outside the Catholic Church and will not be allowed to return. The question is whether the Roman Catholic Church will fully ignore the movement or will continue to actively oppose it as the Community seems to still be able to contact and attract the “ignorant.” Presumably the Church will take a practical stance and will wait for the death of the visionary who reached the age of 92 in 2013, is half paralyzed, has mentally deteriorated, and lives in “great agony.” It is likely that after the death of the visionary, their leader and reincarnated Mary, the movement will fall into a crisis. However, followers state that then her Church will be taken over by others within the movement.

A second issue is the relation with the Amsterdam-based shrine of the Lady of All Nations, the inspirational apparitional source for Giguère. It has become a formally acknowledged apparitional site through the recognition by Bishop Jozef Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Both sites and devotions still stand in competition with one another. The organization in Amsterdam is, given its official recognition, distancing itself more strongly than ever from Giguère and her movement. Within the movement the number of references to its roots, the Amsterdam visions of Ida Peerdeman of the Lady of All Nations (instead of Peoples) has been reduced to a functional minimum and is usually limited to texts of the messages and the transfer of the status of being chosen from Ida to Marie-Paule. Nevertheless some of Marie-Paule’s following does not reject Amsterdam and its messages, as this is perceived as the basis for Marie-Paule’s church. They do, however, resent the change of the basic verse line in the prayer that was given by the Lady.


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Post Date:
28 October 2013