A Los Angeles Christian mission is planting a Unity Tree Thursday as part of a New Year’s Eve celebration designed to push for Christian unity as the nation grapples with racial unrest.
The New Year’s Eve celebration called “Contending for God’s Glory” will take place Thursday at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California, the site of the Azusa Street Revival that birthed the Pentecostal movement. The event, hosted by the Azusa Street Mission, will also include a prayer and worship service slated to feature a multicultural expression of God’s glory and “the Word of the Lord for 2021” anointing service.
In an interview with The Christian Post, apostle Fred Berry, the pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, said “this is a special occasion,” adding, “We normally don’t do a New Year’s Eve service.” Citing the “time that we’re living in with this social tension,” he concluded that “we need to do this to help us bring us together.”
“God sent us an answer to racism in 1906, with the Azusa Street Revival, a multicultural band of people that came together without restrictions, without barriers, and that wasn’t just for black and white, it was also for men and women. Before women could even vote, women were leading services on Azusa Street, young people were leading services on Azusa Street. It spread throughout the United States,” Berry said.
“We’re excited that this flashpoint of revival can again be the hallmark of our Christian unity, that we can give it another shot, especially in the era of the racial tensions that we’re having right now in America,” he added.
According to Berry, “The revival itself, which started April 9, 1906, was the flashpoint for refreshing in the church of the Pentecostal baptism and it birthed, essentially, all of your Pentecostal, charismatic churches around the world. About 800 million are connected to this one revival that went on for three-and-a-half years right here in downtown Los Angeles. That was at a time, in 1906, when there were lynchings and racism running rampant throughout the United States.”
The tree planting is the second attempt by the Azusa Street Mission to plant a tree at the site where the Azusa Street revival took place 114 years ago. “Our tree will not grow and it has not grown, and I believe there’s spiritual significance to that in that our … Christian unity is being challenged and this is a manifestation of our disunity. So again, we’re planting an olive tree, an evergreen tree this time, and we’re believing that this tree will take root and flourish from the first planting,” he asserted.
“The growth of this tree, that part is up to the Lord. We’re believing that it will be a symbol of our unity, that it’s going to thrive, it’s going to manifest itself.”
The tree planting will be followed by a New Year’s Eve service at 6 p.m. Berry is excited that the Mission, which has “been shut down like everybody else” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, will have “our first official service back on the plaza since the end of January 2020.” He stressed that the event will follow coronavirus protocols by promoting mask-wearing and the use of Purell and gloves.
“It’s time for us to come together, display our unity and be more concerned with being six feet under without Jesus than to be six feet apart and worrying about a disease that obviously is not being stopped by the lockdown, it’s still spreading,” Berry remarked.
“And so, we’re just encouraging Christians to … know their history, know their destiny, know that this coronavirus is impacting everybody. But everybody that dies without Christ is dying a terrible death and our responsibility is to display the Gospel, display the goodness of Jesus Christ, and pray for people, pray for our city, pray for our state, pray for our nation and stand up and not be afraid anymore. It’s time for us to come out of the closet and come together in unity and worship the Lord.”
Berry expects fewer than 300 people to show up at the event. Those interested in attending can register on Eventbrite. While registration is free, a VIP ticket is available for $25, which includes reserved seats.
Berry is seeking to build the William Seymour Memorial Wall to honor the leader of the Azusa Street Revival. He has asked the organizations Empower21 and the World Pentecostal Fellowship to help fund the construction of the memorial, which comes with a price tag of more than $1 million.
Describing the memorial as a monument to “honor the multicultural heritage” and “display to the world our unity,” Berry predicted that “the wall is going to be a display and will be part of a religious tourism project that will bring several, millions of dollars to the city. It will be a great benefit to the city.”
The Azusa Street Mission was reopened on May 6, 2006, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Azusa revival. As part of its efforts to “carry the flame of Azusa to the next generation throughout the nations,” the Mission holds an annual celebration called AzusaFest to commemorate the Azusa Street Revival.