Tag Archives: sanctification

Testify! A glimpse inside the world of ‘holiness testimony,’ through the story of Amanda Berry Smith


Back in 2004 I had the privilege of editing an issue of Christian History & Biography on the topic of the holiness movement. That issue triggered an e-newsletter on the life and testimony of Amanda Berry Smith (subject of my upcoming Emergent Cohort talk–see the previous post for details):

Since the holiness movement was the focus of my graduate studies, and since the current issue of Christian History & Biography is on this topic—Issue 82: Phoebe Palmer and the Holiness Movement—I can’t resist introducing you to a woman who, I think you’ll agree, was one of that movement’s most fascinating figures.

This is the self-described “washerwoman evangelist,” the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preacher, singer, missionary, and orphans’ home founder Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915).

We meet Amanda Smith briefly in this week’s featured online article from Issue 82: “I received my commission from Him, brother,” the story of women holiness leaders, written by my friend and fellow Duke graduate student Jennifer Woodruff Tait. But there’s more to Smith’s story:

Born a slave, Amanda Berry Smith was educated mainly at home and was employed for the early years of her life as a domestic worker. She endured two unhappy marriages but found “the joy of the Lord” in 1868 in a classic Wesleyan sanctification experience. Not content to sit still with her experience, she launched out the following year (her second husband and children had died by this time) as a traveling preacher to black churches in New York and New Jersey. Continue reading

Local (Twin Cities) event: “Holy America, Amanda!”: How the 19th-century holiness movement addressed racism and other social sins in middle-class America


This local event (yes, I know I shamelessly stole the title from one of my own recent blog posts) is the November meeting of the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort, 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 12th at Solomon’s Porch, Minneapolis (corner of 46th and Blaisdell).

Through the life of Amanda Berry Smith, an ex-slave, memoirist, and highly respected evangelist in the holiness movement of her day, we will look at several themes:

1. The holiness movement as an attempt to figure out how to live faithfully to Christ in the 19th-century urban Northeast’s consumerizing, modernizing culture (and what that may or may not tell us about how to do likewise in our own consumerist, modern/postmodern culture).

2. The courage needed to bring an unpopular message of sin (in this case racism) and the need for change to a middle-class Christian audience (Amanda had this in spades, but it didn’t come easily for her).

3. The relationship between social justice and the sanctification of individuals.

The Emergent Cohort is an opportunity for thinking and questioning people to join with others asking similar questions in an accepting, relaxed venue. The Twin Cities Emergent Cohort has been meeting in its current location for almost two years and involves participants sitting on couches, drinking coffee, and talking about a theological or social topic in a respectful and engaging way. The cohort meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month at noon at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis (again, corner of 46th and Blaisdell). The party breaks up about 1:30. Bring coffee or lunch and join us for theological conversation.

Summary of chapter 9: Eternity, temporality, and the art of dying well


The medievalist C. S. Lewis could not shake the idea of purgatory—the place of final sanctification before the judgment. He believed it, though not (he said) in its full Roman Catholic panoply. This came partly from a seriousness about sin: surely none of us thinks we can stand before a holy God after death without some sort of cleansing! But the deeper grounding of the doctrine for Lewis as for the medievals is this: Our life is a breath; a blade of grass; a brief, transitory phase between birth and death; a twinkle in time compared to eternal life with God in heaven, or eternal damnation without God and with Satan in hell. You want to live it as well as you can, and when it comes time to die, you want to be as prepared as possible to meet your eternal destiny. Continue reading