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ASBURY REVIVAL UPDATE #5: Asbury Revival overwhelms Wilmore, major changes made to accommodate crowds

ASBURY REVIVAL UPDATE #5: Asbury Revival overwhelms Wilmore, major changes made to accommodate crowds
University starts live streaming of worship services

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
February 20, 2023

Asbury University calls it an "Outpouring" ... Asbury Theological Seminary calls it an "Awakening" ... the media call it "Revival" ... the Wilmore Police Department calls it an "Unprecedented Event" ... others call it a "Spectacle."

What is "it?" Whatever "it" is, is happening at tiny Asbury University in small town Wilmore, Kentucky with everyone struggling to describe in human words an incomprehensible and indescribable action of God.

I am absolutely fascinated by what is happening at Asbury University. First of all I am Christian and I realize the need for God to break through in today's world, since He has been kicked to the curb by society and we all have suffered for it.

I, like many others, have pleaded with God to send revival. And it looks like He has heard our collective prayer and is answering it, in His own way, through a small Christian college in east central Kentucky.

Secondly, I am a journalist. And as a seasoned religion writer I am intrigued by how the Asbury story is unfolding. It changes daily.

Asbury University has been very low-key about what is happening on its campus. The university has not made any attempt to hype the growing revival. Initially the school did not even live stream the services but rather simulcasted services to overflow revival settings. But all that changed Sunday (February 19).

In fact, the university doesn't classify it as a "revival." Asbury initially merely called it an "outpouring" ... an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, or even an "awakening."

"Whether you call this a Revival, a Renewal, an Awakening, or an Outpouring, what we have experienced on our campus is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life," explained Asbury President Kevin Brown. "It has been a beautiful picture of what Scripture refers to as the 'Fruit of the Spirit.'"

"I think it is wise to see this, at the current phase, as an Awakening," neighboring Asbury Theological Seminary President Timothy Tennent blogged. "Only if we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight and say 'yes, this has been a revival.'"

However, the Wilmore Police Department calls it an "unprecedented event."

"Thank you for your patience during this unprecedented event," the Wilmore Police Department posted on its Facebook page Sunday (February 19) afternoon after the "unprecedented event" had exceeded both parking and seating capacity at the University and around town.

But the word of revival leaked out and The Word is continuing to leak out and people have flooded to Wilmore and on to Asbury University creating traffic jams and long lines just to get into any live venue.

Wilmore has a population of about 6,000 and Asbury has a student body of about 1,600. St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas -- the largest Episcopal Church in the United States -- has a baptized membership of 9,746, which is a third larger than the entire population of Wilmore. St. Martin's ASA is 1,445, which is just a little less than Asbury's 1,600 student body.

President Brown explained that "authorities had to redirect traffic away from Wilmore."

"Our town's institutions, and our town's infrastructure is just not in a place to absorb the influx of the blessed guests we have had come to Wilmore," he explained. "We just don't have the infrastructure to support the guests who are coming."

Saturday (February 18) ten thousand people crowded into town, by Sunday (February 19) that number doubled to more than 20,000. Traffic was snarled. State patrol was called in for traffic control. Vehicles needed to be separated at the US 68 and State Road 29 traffic "Y" outside of Wilmore. Residents were asked to take Highway 29 into town, but they needed local identification, where visitors were routed along Highway 68 then to parking areas. Then by Sunday afternoon all the parking and available seating were filled.

"The time has come when we realize the need to host this differently," President Brown said. "Beginning today, February 19th, we will start live streaming portions of our services."

The live streaming schedule is:
✓Sunday (February 19) 6:30--10 p.m.;
✓Monday (February 20) 1--4 p.m. & 7:30--10 p.m. (This is the concluding public worship service of this recent outpouring upon the Asbury University campus);
✓Tuesday (February 21) 7:30--10 p.m.;
✓Wednesday (February 22) 7:30--10 p.m.; and
✓Thursday (February 23) 8--10 p.m. (The National Collegiate Day of Prayer).

The University's live streaming link is: asbury.edu/outpouring

President Brown considers the February 8th outpouring of the Holy Spirit (275 hours and counting) as the mature fruit of the educational mission of Asbury University which was first established in 1890.

"To play a role in stewarding of God's Spirit on our campus, and to do it in collaboration with the Asbury community, has been one of the great honors of my life," he said.

Friday (February 24) the Outpouring moves from the Asbury campus and out into the outlining areas. The University is working hard to find other spaces and locations, such as schools and churches, away from Wilmore to continue to simulcast for those who want to come to Central Kentucky and experience the Asbury Revival.

The Asbury president noted that people are still making travel plans to head to Kentucky and experience the Asbury Revival even though it is known that the local community cannot continue to support the overwhelming influx of people.

"Out of deep respect for them," President Brown explained. "I don't want anyone to plan to come to Wilmore or to plan to come to Hughes Auditorium only to be denied the opportunity to sit in one of our facilities."

I first heard about The Revival from an ACNA priest in Atlanta when he texted me on February 10: "News is there's a revival breaking out at Asbury University. Students are worshiping in the chapel 24/7 and won't leave. If you know anybody up there, you might wanna look into it."

He heard about it from his curate, who is an Asbury alumnus, who heard it from his friends on campus.

So I started looking into the story and Virtue Online is one of the first religious news agencies to start posting about the Asbury Revival.

Now the story is spreading not only through the religious press but also the secular media is catching wind of the story, including the mainline media.

But it is not the Fourth Estate which is being credited with spreading the good news about the Asbury Revival. It is the newly so called "Fifth Estate" -- the blogosphere and social media -- which caught the wind of The Revival and has spread the news far and wide with lightning speed.

The news has electrified those who hear it. Thousands upon thousands of people are descending upon Wilmore and Asbury University. These people want whatever it is that Asbury has. So they are coming to tap into it.

The Asbury Revival story is like a diamond with many angles and facets to look at.

As the crowd comes, they take a spark of whatever is happening at Asbury with them when they return home. And that spark, that glowing amber, that small lighted torch is being fanned into flame and passed on through various parts of the United States and even the world.

Sparks from the Asbury Revival are spreading like wildfire from GROUND ZERO -- Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.

But it is not only those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty who are flocking to Asbury there are also the curiosity seekers, those who do not have a spiritual reason to go but just want to be where the action is. And then there are the bloggers, cameras in hand, who head for Wilmore for footage.

"We ventured to Asbury, out of curiosity, and to see the spectacle," Craig Reynolds posted. "We didn't go seeking attention, healing or anything other than just to check it out really."

And there has been criticism from all sides about what has been going on at Asbury including just what to call it -- an Outpouring, an Awakening, a Revival, a Renewal, a Movement. Does this nitpicking really matter? The Holy Spirit is doing something and people are responding to Him powerfully. Is that not what counts?

"In the meantime, here's what I know," writes Asbury's Journalism Professor Rich Manieri. "The thousands who have come in anticipation and desperation to experience the hope found only in Jesus don't really care what it's called."

Some are criticizing The Revival through their own personal theological bent, others through political eyes or prejudices. Isn't it enough that the Holy Spirit is manifesting Himself in His way and people are responding to Him as best they can in their way?

What is happening at Asbury is a conceptual moment. We may be witnessing the embryonic stage of an Awakening on the scale of the Great Awakenings. Only history will tell. But to be sure this unprecedented spiritual event will make the history books.

It already has its own Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_Asbury_revival

However it will take years, if not decades, for that seed which is being planted in the soil of Asbury University to germinate and grow, mature and flower and eventually permeate through the culture to influence education, the family, religion, media, entertainment, business, and the government.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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