George Whitefield preaches first open-air sermon – February 17, 1739
This week marks the anniversary of when famed 18th-century evangelist preacher George Whitefield preached the first of numerous open-air sermons.
Whitefield, a leader of revivals during the First Great Awakening, preached his inaugural outdoor sermon before an audience of about 200 coal miners in Kingswood, located near Bristol, England.
“Whitefield had been drawn to Bristol for three reasons,” history professor Howard Snyder wrote in 2017. “His home was nearby Gloucester on the Welsh border north of Bristol. He had been in touch with Howell Harris, leader of the Welsh revival which had begun some years earlier.”
“Then, too, turmoil and rioting had recently broken out among the coal miners of the region, particularly at Kingswood," Snyder continued. "In these unsettled conditions Whitefield had immediate success in preaching among the neglected Kingswood colliers.”