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Today in OPC History

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September 23

Jesus People Movement

On this day in 1971, many Orthodox Presbyterians were reflecting on the challenge of ministering to the so-called “Jesus People Movement.” The Presbyterian Guardian reported that two Orthodox Presbyterian congregations were sponsoring gatherings of “Jesus People” in Rockville, Maryland (under the supervision of Knox church in Silver Spring) and in Harmony, New Jersey (at Calvary Community Church). According to the Guardian: “In both these cases, the young people involved are from all sorts of backgrounds, who have come to know the Lord through the testimony of faithful witnesses young and old. The groups include former addicts, many with police records, Satan cultists, and ‘drop-outs.’ Their joy in the Lord is an inspiration to all who know them.”

Guardian editor John Mitchell commented that the Jesus People Movement “may fade away, like so many other fads.” Indeed OPC encounters with the movement match the recent description of Jesus People in the award-winning study God’s Forever Family (Oxford University Press, 2013). Author Larry Eskridge describes the movement beginning in San Francisco in the “summer of love” in 1967 and sweeping across the country as many young people abandoned drugs and sex for Bible reading and prayer. In its heyday in 1971, several groups of Jesus People infiltrated established churches, sometimes harmoniously (as in the episodes with the OPC) and other times in boisterous and confrontational ways. Eskridge argues that the movement died out by 1975, confirming editor Mitchell’s prediction. Yet Eskridge goes on to suggest that its long-term influence on the spirituality of American baby boomers continues even to this day.

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