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Bob Slosser

Renewal Requires Power and Guts to Succeed

By Bob Slosser
CBN.com

CBN.com - Terry Fullam cut an imposing figure as he stepped into the dark-brown pulpit of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Darien, Connecticut, a suburban town of imposing figures, after being directed there by God in an encounter at Mount Sinai.

A long black cassock and loose surplice topped by a slender green stole signifying the season of Trinity, made him seem even larger than his 6'5", 250 pound frame. The l75 pairs of eyes fixed on him in hushed, breathless silence.

"This morning as I start my ministry among you, I must ask your prayers." A humble beginning, thought several. "For I come in the assurance that this is the Lord’s call as well as your own." Humph. You could almost hear it in the pews. "It is certainly my prayer that God will, in our time together, mold us and make us according to His will." That was all he said for many months about his divine interview at Mount Sinai.

But he pressed the moment. And pastors should give thought to his approach. I must point out, however, that there was disagreement among old timers as to whether the following episode occurred the first, second, or third Sunday (Terry thought it was the second). I believe it was the first. Oh well….anyway….The Rev. Everett L. Fullam stood erect, perfectly still, and said, "I think it’s important for all of us to realize something. In the coming months, one of two things will happen to each one of you."

Expectancy tightened. "Either you will find yourself opening up more and more to the Lord, in which case you will be growing and expanding in your relationship with Him – and you will know it – or else you will find yourself constricting and tightening, in which case the atmosphere will become intolerable."

The silence was absolute. "Some of you will find it necessary to go." Everything held still for a second, then emotions spun off into directions that would not be clearly defined for sometime. The word of the Lord spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit changes lives. It has always been so. It would be so there. It would be impossible for the people to come into the sanctuary and sit in those pews week after week, with any degree of openness, and not be changed, one way or the other. Fullam knew that. History supported it. But which way would it be with the people of Darien?

Darien, my friends, would burst wide open and spill over into much of the world. Four continents would be affected seriously. The Prime Minister of South Africa would become converted and eventually the nation would abolish apartheid under Nelson Mandela. Singapore would be touched spiritually. Washington, D.C., families would be affected by weekly meetings. The ministry to parishes included hundreds of Protestant and Catholic congregations.

St. Paul’s itself quickly outgrew its sanctuary and had to take refuge in the Darien High School for Sunday services. A bursting Sunday evening meeting, heavily populated by youth, took up residence in a sizable Stamford church. Perhaps the most significant thing St. Paul’s did at home was a national and soon international three-day weekend program for visiting clergy and church leaders, whose results are still felt.

Externally, a powerful piece in the puzzle that reached parishes and leaders in America and abroad was the church’s unusual commitment to release Fullam, who became recognized as one of the country’s, if not the world’s, ablest preachers and teachers on renewal. Preaching the pure Word and filled with the Holy Spirit himself, he led enormous numbers of people into deep conversion and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Because of his towering intellect, creativity, outstanding musicianship, and gentle, warm spirit, he gave the charismatic revival a taste of class and respectability it lacked in the early days. He even chaired the Episcopal Renewal Ministries a.k.a. Episcopal Charismatic Fellowship at first, for numerous years.

The outside ministry move was one that elders of a handful of extant churches with powerful and intelligent preachers need to consider. Speaking at a service early in Fullam’s ministry at St. Paul’s, I advised that the church owed it to the rest of the world to release Terry to travel and minister 70 percent of his time. His was not a local or regional ministry. Necessary to enactment was the development of a strong staff that would not let St. Paul’s Church slip until his time there was over, in God’s eyes.

My book on Darien ended with an epilogue saying that The Miracle had not ended in 1979 but that it was impossible to say whether the ending was far or near. Although St. Paul’s, Darien, continues in good health, The Miracle ended in the 1980’s ultimately after Fullam retired. God’s gifts and calling are without revocation (Romans 11:29), yes, but times and seasons change or are fulfilled, just as Terry’s were, and God turns to new or different vehicles according to his time. Christian fellowship ebbs and flows, then surges again in quality and quantity far too profound to be covered by one reporter. May the Lord grant His church favor in the days ahead. Today we have a universal church that knows not the name of Fullam or Azusa Street.

Tell me what you think: bob.slosser@cbn.org

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