Remembering The Day “When God Came”
February 5, 2020
by Rich Manieri, Assistant Professor of Journalism
Hughes Auditorium doesn’t look much different than it did 50 years ago. Inside, you see the same wooden seats and the same altar. You hear the same echoes.
But on Feb. 3, 2020, something was different. The view from the balcony told you so.
Among those gathered for 10 a.m. chapel, you noticed an unusual number of graying heads dotting the student section on the lower level. The visitors were here to tell stories, to remember and to bear witness to what happened in this room half a century ago – when God came.
“I was never the same after that,” Jeannine Brabon, an Asbury junior in 1970, told chapel attendees on the 50th anniversary of Asbury’s revival.
Brabon recalled sleeping only about 20 hours that week and barely eating.
Tim Philpot ’73 remembered skipping chapel Feb. 3, just three weeks after a car accident that almost killed him. He went to class later that day only to find no one in the classroom.
“God got my attention,” he said.
Philpot eventually made his way to Hughes.
“On Friday morning at 1 a.m. I stood at the back and I grabbed the young lady who was next to me… I came running down the aisle and I sat right there. I forget who was around me except for Steve Seamands ’70 and Steve prayed with me. Lots of people prayed with me.”
The 1970 revival that overtook Asbury, and eventually spread to other college campuses and communities throughout the country, began as a typical chapel service. It ended some 185 hours later. Classes were canceled for the week.
“It was exhilarating and astounding,” said Tim Walz ’73. “I couldn’t sleep for three days and nights. I only left Hughes to eat, shower and change clothes all those days. It was just too exciting to miss anything.”
To any current audience of college students, “1970” sounds like ancient history; a bygone era. Asbury President Dr. Kevin J. Brown made the point that the University’s revival should not be relegated to a time capsule.
“Asbury might be a lot of things,” he said. “But we are not a museum…[Revival] is a real, present and active thing because we serve a real, living, present and active God.”
Revival is often called a “spiritual renewal” or “movement of the Holy Spirit.” The 1970 revival is being celebrated this year but it is one of several in the school’s 130-year history. There were revivals in 1905, 1908, 1921, 1950, 1958, 1992 and in 2006, when a regular chapel service led to four days of prayer, worship and testimonies.
“Revival and renewal. This is our active confession of who is real and true and the triumphant king in our lives,” Brown said. “Revival is the power to become less so that someone else can become more.”
In addition to extended chapel on Feb. 3, the anniversary celebration featured a series of events and concluded with a hymn sing and stories Monday night.
“I am learning that the Spirit of God knows no constraints of time or space,” said Charles Faupel ’73. “I also know that this incredible move of God in 1970 is but a foretaste of what awaits us in the coming days, weeks, months and years.”
For the Asbury alumni who were in Hughes on February 3, 1970, and again today, the memories are still fresh and vivid. They can still see their fellow students, in droves, streaming to the altar. They can hear testimony after testimony and shouts of praise. And to a person, they will tell you they could, and can still, feel God’s presence in this place.
“To this day, if I meet someone who was there, we just look at each other and stand silently, usually with a tear. I am honored to have experienced standing on holy ground,” said Lynette Gibson ’72 Wood.
Those who were here in 1970 might not have thought of Hughes as “holy ground” until they witnessed revival. But that’s what can happen when, as Brabon said, “God pulls back the curtain of eternity.”
Can revival happen again? If so, when? Brabon predicted sooner rather than later.
“This is the year God is coming. He’s here.”
When Brabon finished speaking, she walked back to her seat and took her place among current students. Something was different today – the view from the balcony told you so. Today, witnesses were here, witnesses who returned to the same building, 50 years older and forever changed.