“Whether you like it or not, you’re an actress.” Charlie Chaplin to Aimee Semple McPherson

I’ve only witnessed speaking in tongues once – what struck me about it was the ardent wish of the people gathered to experience the spirit – they all seemed to be riding the same euphoric wave. It was kind of uplifting, what was odd was when it was over they all went back to talking about Costco. Perhaps that’s an example of the spiritual blended with the pragmatic?

I don’t know. What I do know is I read a piece in the Los Angeles Times this morning about an evangelist who arrived in this city 100 years ago.

Aimee Semple McPherson was a religious leader with a broad following.

She built the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles to hold her theatrical services and was one of the the first women to buy a broadcast license.

This was a typical service with Aimee officiating:

This is the parsonage she built behind the temple, note the radio tower:

This is the retreat she built in Lake Elsinore:

Her life was punctuated by scandal, land swindles, failed movie deals and legal suits… and a fraud charge in 1926 for a kidnapping story the district attorney believed she concocted to cover a several month long tryst with a married man. The D.A. eventually dropped the case for lack of evidence.

This is a fingerprint expert examining her eyeglasses:

And yet, despite the controversies and scandals, she persevered. During the Great Depression she and her staff delivered food, clothing, and money to those in need. Her church fed over 1.5 million people, and provided medical treatment for children and the elderly.  During the war years she built a center to provide for servicemen.

She died at the age of 53 while in Oakland where she was scheduled to hold a revival meeting. Found unconscious in her hotel room by her son, she had overdosed on a Seconal.

Her ministry, and the Angelus Temple, survive to this day.

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