The Society for Pentecostal Studies is an academic society dedicated to study Pentecostalism and issues related to Pentecostalism. It was founded 40 years ago by a handful of Pentecostal scholars wanting to work together to promote scholarship among Pentecostals. At that time the Charismatic movement was burgeoning and the society quickly opened to them and others interested in Pentecostalism.
I attended my first SPS meeting in 1973 on the campus of Lee College. It was vibrant and intense as classical Pentecostals struggled with how to respond to Charismatics. I believe it was Ray H. Hughes and Francis Martin who had the most lively discussion about Mary. I started attending as a regular member in 1989 and have only missed a couple since then.
On a carnal note, SPS is an opportunity for Cheryl and me to get out of town, stay in a decent hotel, eat some nice meals, and see some places we have never been to before. We got to take the girls to a few meetings, especially Karisa making it a family trip. She fit right in.
I enjoy seeing old friends and spending time with some of my Cleveland colleagues. It is different to fellowship on a trip. There are always a few former students, some of whom were members at New Covenant.
It is also interesting to be engaged with scholars from a variety of backgrounds. The largest groups are the Church of God and Assembly of God, but there are representatives of all of the Pentecostal denominations in North America, a host of Charismatics, and a good contingency of scholars interested in what makes us tick. We have a few members from other regions of the world as well. It is a great blessing to build friendships with people from other denominations.
I have learned a lot at these meetings. I always leave invigorated and excited about my role in theological studies. My creative juices are stimulated both in the sessions and in the hallways.
We always have some sessions of worship. Often these include local choirs and worship leaders. Thursday evening was a wonderful celebration as we were led in worship by an official of the Church of God in Christ and a praise team. They were followed by a choir from North Central University, the host school for this meeting. It was as Pentecostal as an academic society might be expected to ever be. More exuberance than most of our middleclass churches, less than our history suggests is important to us. There was liberty for all, at least as much as anybody was willing to take.
March 6, 2010