Martha's Vineyard: Rich in Revival's Power

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MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass. -- When you think of Martha's Vineyard, images of a playground for the rich and famous may come to mind.

However, the popular vacation spot has a strong Christian heritage and has been the site of powerful revivals in the past. Now the Massachusetts island is witnessing another move of God.

Take a ferry to Martha's Vineyard off the coast of the state's mainland, and it's easy to see why those with fame and fortune, along with some of our nation's presidents, gravitate there. You'll find a picturesque New England island with deep blue harbors, sandy beaches, breathtaking cliffs, and memorable lighthouses.

A Cry for Spiritual Help

A look beyond the luxury, though, reveals many of Martha's Vineyard residents saying that this is an island of people crying out for help.

"There's a lot of darkness here," island resident Bernadette Crossland told CBN News. "There's a lot of drugs. There's a lot of alcohol. There's a lot of sexual perversion."

Entertainer Louise Duart lives on Martha's Vineyard. She's been praying for God to break that bondage.

"This is one of the places in the country, as beautiful as it is, has more 12-step programs than almost any place else in the country," Duart said.

Add to that intensely liberal politics. Martha's Vineyard has been described as the bluest corner of the bluest state. Though Massachusetts surprised the country by electing Republican Sen. Scott Brown -- in this area, he lost by two-thirds.

A Christian Heritage

Historian David Barton says the island hasn't always been this way.

"Martha's Vineyard has a strong Christian heritage," Barton told CBN News. "Too many people see Martha's Vineyard as what it is today, not what it's been for centuries. But you go back and it was very early founded by very pious, very devout Puritans."

In the 1800s, for example, the sounds of Christian revival came to the Massachusetts island. Worshippers praised God on the grounds of the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association, a community founded 175 years ago.

"It was all part of the revival movement, which started in Kentucky in 1799 and just grew all over the country," explained Bob Allen, a guide at the museum devoted to the Association and the revivals on Martha's Vineyard.

Allen explained that in 1835, a man by the name of Jeremiah Pease helped lead the first revival on Martha's Vineyard. He built a stand and benches on the camp meeting grounds. Attendees also set up nine tents.

The revival grew and so did the number of tents on the grounds. By the late 1850s, there were more than 300. Then in 1864 alongside 500 tents, some participants decided to build cottages to stay in while the services were being conducted. Cottage City was born.

It has been estimated that between 15,000 to 20,000 people traveled to Cottage City from all over the country to attend the revival services. Miracles and healings were witnessed, and many people gave their hearts to Christ.

Eventually, the meetings were held in a giant tent. And then in 1879, the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association Tabernacle was built. The iron, open-air structure is still in use today.

Today's 'Inspiration Weekend'

Dr. Charles Stanley with In Touch Ministries recently spoke at the island's "Inspiration Weekend" gathering, which celebrated Martha's Vineyard's rich Christian history. Stanley said he longs for revival there. He preached in the Tabernacle to islanders curious about Christianity and to believers wanting to be recharged.

"One of the reasons I came up here -- I thought, 'Lord, You use whoever You're going to use, but I would certainly like to see something happen in the northeast,'" Stanley told CBN News. "'Here, 70 percent of the nation's population lives up in this area. It would be just like You to take this little spot and do something the world would never expect.'"

Grammy award-winning Bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs has also prayed for God's Spirit to be poured out upon Martha's Vineyard.

"If Martha's Vineyard got on fire for Christ, if revival truly started right here, it would start a fire in the Northeast," Skaggs said. "There have been prophetic words about a fire in the northeast, and I honestly do believe that revival is going to happen in the Northeast."

American Idol finalist Mandisa also took part in this year's "Inspiration Weekend."

"I'm praying that many, many, many will be saved, and not just that they'll be saved, but that they will do what the woman at the well did," Mandisa said. "They will go, and they will tell everyone that they know about all that God has done and that those people's lives will be changed as well."

Responding to the Gospel's Power

The sounds may be different from those heard at the revivals of yesteryear, but the message is the same.  Turn your life over to Jesus Christ and allow His power to transform you.

Island resident Crossland said people are already responding.

"The power of God is going to fall here tremendously," she said.

"This is like turning the hearts of the children back to the forefathers," historian Barton explained. "There's a change that's on the way. There's a different wind blowing, and it will have an impact. God is on the move in New England, no question about it."

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.