Friday, 12 November 2010

PNEUMA Review of 'Searching the Source of the River'

Diana Chapman's book, 'Searching the Source of the River' has been reviewed in the latest edition of Pneuma, The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (Pneuma 32 (2010), Book Reviews page 307).

Reviewed by Rev Dr. Pamela M. S. Holmes

Diana Chapman' book is an important contribution to the recovery of the histories of ministering women within the Pentecostal tradition. Written in an easy-to-read style, it serves as a resource for popular audiences and basic degree or Bible College level students interested in a clearer picture of the early days of the movement. With few endnotes and only a Select Bibliography, its usefulness beyond the above mentioned audiences is limited even with the author's offer to supply further documentation upon request.

Nevertheless, it is an essential read as it reduces the paucity of women's history by gleaning from primary sources the stories of several imperfect, ordinary won1en including Catherine Price, Mary Boddy, Margaret Cantel, Lydia Walshaw, Carrie Judd Montgomery, Christina Beruldsen, Eleanor Crisp, Polly Wigglesworth, Margaret Scott, Mabel Howell and "missionary ladies." Following the historical examples set by the New Testament, early church, Montanists, medieval mystics, Anabaptists, Quakers, Methodists, and Holiness teachers, these women, fuelled by the Spirit, pioneered churches, led revivals, taught, preached, and ministered faithfully and sacrificially from 1907 to 1914 in the early years of Pentecostalism in Britain.

Furthermore, sandwiching these stories Chapman raises several important issues that the current Pentecostal and charismatic movements need to address in two provocative chapters entitled 'Bringing Hidden Things to Light" and "Running with the Flame." Now that this remembering and retelling has occurred, Chapman insists that the present generation act by incorporating these stories into its identity and practice rather than denying or dismissing their reality as some sort of anomaly. Using the metaphor of a River, Chapman suggests that, these women, closest to the source in the early days of the revival, dug wells unique to themselves from which many drank and flourished. While a later traditionally institutionalized, literally-biblically-interpreted, legitimated, and culturally conformed Pentecostal movement blocked those wells with boulders, now that those boulders have been identified, they need to be removed so that water can once again be drawn. Similarly, rather than continuing to capture water further downstream which has become polluted by man-made channels, the discontinuity with the past, which disrupted the Spirit-initiated and -inspired flow of the movement by allotting secondary or invisible status to women in comparison to that of men, must be avoided.

Now that women's contributions, considered by Chapman to have reflected the heart and mind of God, have been remembered and given their proper prominence, continuity with Pentecostalism's source and beginning can be reestablished and built upon. A necessary first step has being realized by Chapman as "Remembered women ... we honour you." The rest is up to others within the movement.


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