One day the senior pastor came and told me about a ‘move of the Lord’ happening up in Canada at a place called the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Toronto. It sounded interesting and I said I would look into it more.
At that time the ‘movement’ began to be called the Toronto Blessing by the press and various Christian magazines wrote gushingly positive articles exclaiming how wonderfully the Spirit was moving and how many people were coming to the Lord and how they were sure that a great revival was going to sweep the world.
To a small town hick living in Alabama (me) it sounded like the greatest thing EVAHHHH! So I kept up with what was being reported, and wondered if I should try to go myself to see what was happening. At the same time, the Blessing began to spread to other regions and countries as people went to Toronto, received the ‘gift’ and began to carry it back to their own churches. Pockets of blessings popped up across the US and in other countries.
It was around this same time that the internet also began to come into it’s own, and I had always been an early adopter of new technology.
On a few of the discussion groups I was a member of, there were some who were decrying the evils of the Blessing, and though I wrote them off as quacks (After all, how could anyone not see that God was moving miraculously?) I determined to somehow get first hand experience so as to know for sure.
And God in his kindness allowed that very thing to happen. it seems that about that time interest in the ‘revival’ in Toronto was waning again, and others were starting to have doubts, and they needed a something new to draw people in.
Miraculously it seemed, an “angel” began to sprinkle real gold faerie dust on the people who sat mesmerized as the ‘blessed’ went barking and howling and crawling up and down the aisles. That drew in people for a time, but someone must have decided that there wasn’t enough growth.
And so - Mr Blessing himself - Randy Clark took his show out on the road so to speak, and trying to spread this blessing to more places, he traveled around the country doing speaking engagements. And one of his stops was only 2 hours away from where I lived!! Oh, joy of joys! A group of us from the church decided to take some of the more spiritual kids and go get us some of that blessing stuff ourselves.
And so a van load of us went down on a Friday evening fully expecting to meet the Spirit.
As we got to the venue, we piled out of the van and cued up to go inside. One of the first things I noticed was the variety of people who had come. Some were formally dressed in suit and tie, their wives in a Sunday dress and low heels. Some were dressed casually as most of our group were. Slacks, khakis and polo shirts were predominant. Others (clearly troublemakers in our minds, but perhaps seeking the Lord we graciously thought to ourselves) came in shorts and t-shirts, mini-dresses and sandals.
The doors opened and we filed in, some eagerly rushing to the front rows where they could perhaps catch more ‘blessing’, others clearly reserved and just wanting to observe the proceedings from the rear, and those of us in the middle, who were perhaps cautious, and yet were hoping for some impartation of holiness, something that would change our lives, making us into super-spiritual giants of the faith.
The music started, the lights dimmed in the room, and we sang popular worship choruses for about 30 minutes or so. The lights came back up somewhat and a shortish, unimpressive man in a plaid shirt and jeans stepped up to the podium and started reading a passage of Scripture. He closed the Bible, and began to mumble through a sermonette that might or might not have dealt with the Bible, or the blessings God, or last weekend’s football game on TV.
It didn’t much matter what he said because there was too much noise from the audience. My memory isn’t so clear after 20ish years, but I know he hadn’t muttered more than 5 words when someone up front growled and then barked. And similar to Pavlov’s dogs one by one other’s joined in making animalesque sounds throughout the 10 minute mumble. Then the band got back on stage and someone came to the mic and said “it’s carpet time”
Like crazed Walmart shoppers on Black Friday the people rushed towards the front of the room, and burly bouncer-like guys got them to line up in about 6 or 7 columns. somewhat rearranging the people by some mystical pre-agreed upon order. Many of my group stayed in their seats to observe for a while, and a few cautious souls sauntered forward, myself included. I was not very pentecostal, and so was going forward more to get a better view of what was going on, rather than to experience whatever was happening in front.
Immediately and with no real effort I saw that the column in front of Mr Blessing, (Randy) had a high percentage of young females, and quite a few of them were the ones wearing the mini-dresses. It seemed to me that they didn’t want it to be TOOOOO obvious so they had arranged a few of them into other columns as well.
There were perhaps 4 “anointed” men at the front who would pray and put their hand on the head of the person at the front of their line. and after some inaudible prayer the person would generally fall backward and start twitching while they made strange noises.
They had catchers who would stand behind the person being prayed for, catch them as the fell backward, and move the person to an open spot on the floor where they could convulse at will while the next in the cue would come forward to get ‘blessed’. All the while the room sounded similar to a petting zoo at feeding time with roosters crowing, dogs (or maybe wolves) howling, some creature roaring, and in general it was audio pandemonium unchecked.
I couldn’t help but wonder for a while what the “blessing” was, and who was the recipient was supposed to be as I saw men and women rolling and twitching on the floor in what was quickly becoming very immodest attire on some of them.
Then suddenly it was my turn and I was standing in front of some guy who was praying (?) in an unintelligible mumble with his hand on my head. He then whapped me on my forehead with the butt of his hand and I went down.
I was dimly aware of being dragged to an open space on the floor and being laid on my back. I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed, but I was in darkness either way. The sound in the room had disappeared and it was eerily quiet. I was fully conscious, or seemed to be in my mind anyway, and yet I appeared to be completely isolated from my surroundings in every way.
I’m not sure how long I just laid there in the darkness, and was not sure WHY I was laying there in that state. In my mind I reasoned that I must ‘waiting on the Lord’, and so I was content to take a nap, so to speak, as I waited. Yet still nothing happened for what i thought must be 10 or 15 minutes, and so I thought to myself that nothing was going to happen and maybe the others wanted to leave and were waiting for me, so I decided to get up.
Very much to my surprise I couldn’t move. I struggled to sit up, but as soon as I did I felt a tremendous weight on my chest that would not allow me to move. It was similar to being underwater, in that the pressure was all around me, and yet it felt solid, as if I was completely encased in cement.
I stopped struggling, and honestly don’t know to this day if my physical body even moved a centimeter the whole time I was down. But in any case, in my mind I thought I might as well wait a few more minutes, since maybe this was God’s way of telling me to be still and wait on Him.
But after what seemed like another 5 minutes maybe, with nothing happening still, I tried once again to sit up so we could leave. This time the pressure immediately began again with one very big difference. I very clearly heard a low, gruff male voice above me, but close to my ear say, “Damn it! Lay down and stay there!”
Immediately, I had decided that someone must have put some dark cloth over my face that muffled sound and probably one of those big bouncer types was holding me down for some reason unknown to me. As I thought those thoughts I heard what I can only describe as an evil chuckle that sent a shiver down my spine.
Not knowing what else to do, and becoming just a little panicked I did the only thing I could think of: I prayed.
It wasn’t a very lofty high-sounding prayer. It was more like, “Jesus, I don’t think this is a very good place. Help me!” But the effect was incredible. In an instant the pressure was gone and I sat up. The darkness left my eyes and I could see the room again. The utterly chaotic noise came back in a flood, and I was back in the world.
I stood up and went to the back of the room where I found a few of my group sitting together and chatting to each other. I asked, “How long I was laying there? 15 or 20 minutes?” To my surprise they said about an hour and a half! It was already about 10:30 pm and we still had a two-plus hour drive to get home and even longer by the time we took the kids who didn’t drive back to their homes.
The van was much quieter on the way back as those who weren’t asleep mostly sat processing what they had seen and heard that night.
One asked me what it was like. I was the only one who went to the front and actually went down. All I could (or would) say was, “It was different.”