Faith healing ministry
Aimee Semple McPherson's faith healing demonstrations were extensively written about in the news media and were a large part of her early career legacy. No one has ever been credited by secular witnesses with anywhere near the numbers of faith healings attributed to McPherson, especially during the years 1919 to 1922. Over time though, she almost withdrew from the faith healing aspect of her services, since it was overwhelming other areas of her ministry. Scheduled healing sessions nevertheless remained highly popular with the public until her death in 1944.
Alleged incidents of "miraculous" faith healing are sometimes clinically explained as a result of hysteria or a form of hypnosis. Strong emotions and the mind's ability to trigger the production of opiates, endorphins, and enkephalins; have also been offered as explanations as well as the healings are simply faked. In the case of McPherson, there was no evidence of fraud found. In August 1921, doctors from the American Medical Association in San Francisco secretly investigated some of McPherson's local revival meetings. The subsequent AMA report stated Aimee Semple McPherson's healing was "genuine, beneficial and wonderful."
McPherson claims to have experienced several of her own personal faith healing incidents, among them one in 1909, when her broken foot was mended, an event which first served to introduce her to the possibilities of the healing power. Another was an unexpected recovery from an operation in 1914 where hospital staff expected her to die, and in 1916, before a gathered revival tent crowd, swift rejuvenation of blistered skin from a serious flash burn caused by a lamp exploding in her face.
Her apparently successful first public faith healing session of another person was professedly demonstrated in Corona, Long Island, New York, 1916. A young woman in the painful, advanced stages of rheumatoid arthritis was brought to the altar by friends just as McPherson preached "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever", meaning, in part, Jesus had the same power to heal now as in ancient times. McPherson, laid hands upon the crippled woman's head and she allegedly walked out of the church that same night without crutches. Sick and injured people came to her by the tens of thousands. Press clippings, and testimonials became mountainous. To people who traveled with her, the numerous faith healings were routine. Lubricating her hands with spiced oil, McPherson touched and prayed over the infirm and reporters wrote extensively of what they saw. When asked by a journalist about these demonstrations, McPherson indicated, "the saving of souls is the most important part of my ministry."
Not all healings were successful and McPherson had occasional well-publicized failures. But these were apparently few and people in ever increasing numbers came to her. She was invited back again and again to cities that she previously visited. Perhaps one of the more dramatic public faith healing demonstrations of her career occurred starting in late January 1921 at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. The Spreckles Organ Pavilion in the park was site of several earlier revival meetings by many of her predecessors, and there McPherson preached to a huge crowd of 30,000. She had to move to the outdoor site since the 3,000 seat Dreamland Boxing Arena could not hold the thousands who went to see her. To assist the San Diego Police in maintaining order, the Marines and Army had to be called in.
During the engagement, a woman paralyzed from the waist down from childhood, was presented for faith healing. Concerned because numerous, previous demonstrations had been before much smaller assemblages, McPherson feared she would be run out of town if this healing did not manifest. Believing in the reality of the living Christ, filled with sincere passion beyond love for humanity, McPherson prayed, and laid hands on her. Before 30,000 people—and captured for all time by photography—the woman supposedly got up out of her wheelchair and walked. The large gathering responded with thunderous applause. Other hopefuls presented themselves to the platform McPherson occupied, and though not all were cured, the sick, injured and invalid continued to flood forth for healing. Before witnesses and reporters, a goiter allegedly shrank, crutches abandoned, an abscessed arm purportedly returned to normal. Many hundreds of people wanted her help, more than she could handle and her stay was extended. As with many of her other meetings, McPherson labored and prayed feverishly for hours over the infirm, often without food or stopping for a break. At the day's end, she would eventually be taken away by her staff, dehydrated and unsteady with fatigue; her distinct, booming voice reduced to a whisper. Originally planned for two weeks in the evenings, McPherson's Balboa Park revival meetings lasted over five weeks and went from dawn until dusk.
Later in 1921, investigating McPherson's healing services, a survey was sent out by First Baptist Church Pastor William Keeney Towner in San Jose, California, to 3,300 people. 2500 persons responded. Six percent indicated they were immediately and completely healed while 85 percent indicated they were partially healed and continued to improve ever since. Fewer than half of 1 percent did not feel they were at least spiritually uplifted and had their faith strengthened.
Denver Post reporter Frances Wayne writes while McPherson's "attack" on sin "uncultured,...the deaf heard, the blind saw, the paralytic walked, the palsied became calm, before the eyes of as many people that could be packed into the largest church auditorium in Denver". In 1922, McPherson returned for a second tour in the Great Revival of Denver and asked about people who have claimed healings from the previous visit. Seventeen people, some well known members of the community, testified, giving credence to McPherson's claim "healing still occurred among modern Christians".
Actor Anthony Quinn, who for a time played in the church's band and was an apprentice preacher, in this partial quote, recalls a service:
"I sat in the orchestra pit of the huge auditorium at the Angelus Temple. Every seat was filled, with the crowd spilling into the aisles. Many were on crutches or in wheelchairs. Suddenly a figure with bright red hair and a flowing white gown walked out to the center of the stage. In a soft voice, almost a whisper, she said, 'Brothers and sisters, is there anyone here who wants to be cured tonight?' Long lines formed to reach her. She stood center stage and greeted each one. One man said, 'I can't see out of one eye.' She asked. 'Do you believe, brother?' And suddenly, the man cried, 'Yes, sister, I can see, I can see!' And the audience went crazy. "To a woman dragging herself across the stage on crutches she said, 'Throw away that crutch!' Suddenly, the woman threw away her crutch and ran into Aimee's open arms. I left that service exhilarated, renewed".
Ironically, when McPherson retired for much needed rest after a long and exhausting faith healing service, she would sometimes suffer from insomnia, a problem she would contend with for the rest of her life. Regarding her own illnesses, she did not abstain from visiting doctors or using medicines. McPherson considered each faith healing incident a sacred gift from God, passed through her to persons healed and not to be taken for granted. In visiting foreign lands, for example, she paid scrupulous attention to sanitation, concerned that a careless oversight might result in acquiring an exotic disease.
In later years, other individuals were identified as having the alleged faith healing gift. On stage, during Wednesday and Saturday divine healing sessions, she worked among them, or was even absent altogether, diminishing her own singular role. Divine healing, in her view, was not the emergency room, entertainment or something to puzzle scientists, it was a church sacrament. In her own writings and sermons, McPherson did not refer to her own particular personal proficiencies, conveying divine healing was accessible by faith and devotion.
***Below pictures are of Balboa Park, San Diego at the Organ Pavillion with Aimee on stage and the thousands who gathered. The 3rd picture was taken November 23rd, 2013 and was a worship event that TGN was at where numerous healings took place.
***Above information was shared from Wikipedia