Item – Theses Canada

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Johnston, Luke Thomas.
Capturing the Spirit :the Pentecostal Testimony and the crafting of denominational memory, 1920-1992.
M.A. -- Queen's University, 2007
Ottawa :Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque et Archives Canada,[2007]
2 microfiches
Includes bibliographical references.
Given its remarkable growth and profound impact on Canadian Evangelicalism, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) has received surprisingly little scholarly attention. While this project does not attempt to synthesize this denomination's rich history, it does provide a detailed examination of the PAOC's oldest and most widely read publication, 'The Pentecostal Testimony '. More specifically, using the theory of French sociologist Danièle Hervieu-Léger as a springboard, "Capturing the Spirit" attempts to trace the shaping of a denominational "chain of memory" within the ' Testimony' under the guidance of three prominent editors. For Robert E. McAlister, E.N.O. Kulbeck, and Robert Skinner, who edited the 'Testimony' from 1920-1929, 1957-1972 and 1983-1992 respectively, the pages of the denominational newspaper/magazine became a forum for writing Canadian Pentecostals' experiential and profoundly modern approach into a broader tradition. This thesis tracks the editors, who, by drawing on a repository of primitive symbols and selecting components of modern discourse, were able to present the PAOC as a progressive and yet profoundly traditional body. It further attempts to prove that over the past 80 years, the 'Pentecostal Testimony' has played a critical role in galvanizing a disparate group of believers into an imagined community and evoking an authoritative tradition which ensured the movement's development in the face of modernity's corrosive effects. In so doing, "Capturing the Spirit", joins the historiographical discussion surrounding the surprising endurance of religion in postmodern times. Hervieu-Léger and others have argued that the characteristics of postmodern society--particularly cultural amnesia and heightened individualism--have created new dilemmas and novel opportunities for religious expression. However, this thesis suggests that given the PAOC's propensity for individual rather than collective religious experience, its emphasis on immediate eschatological concerns rather than ritualized tradition, and its preference for spontaneous testimony rather than structured leadership, the editors of the 'Testimony' encountered these circumstances much earlier than their mainstream Protestant counterparts. Moreover, it shows that in the face of these modern and potentially fragmentary characteristics, and partially due to the efforts of these editors, Canadian Pentecostals achieved tremendous success. This accomplishment, "Capturing the Spirit" attempts to demonstrate, can be explained by tracing how already in the 1920s, Canadian Pentecostals put into practice the chain of memory which Hervieu-Léger has associated with religion in post-modernity. Over the past 100 years, as this project details, the editors of the ' Testimony' have dealt with a variety of challenges including: break-away sects, doctrinal controversies, leadership scandals, funding crises, and perceived cultural decay. In its three chapters, "Building a Denomination", "Confronting the Challenges of the 1960s" and "Tackling the Dilemmas of Late Modernity", "Capturing the Spirit" begins to trace how, in the face of these developments, the editors fashioned and reworked denominational memory.