When people think of revival, they often think of nations such as England or the United States where there is such a legacy of revival in the history of their nations. However, revivals have happened across the globe and in this article we will discuss revivals in Canadian history. God has moved in Canada in great ways and I believe Canada’s future will also be filled with revival. It was Duncan Campbell, the great revivalist of the Hebredes Revival, who claimed that God showed him the entire dominion of Canada ablaze with revival.1
In our previous article, titled “The Christian Heritage of Canada,” we mentioned the pre- Confederation revival in Nova Scotia, known as The New Light Revival, involving Henry Alline. It spread throughout the Atlantic provinces and cities, such as Saint John (New Brunswick), and they were so affected that one minister said of Saint John during this time that “one can hardly go through the streets of this city without hearing the voice of praise or seeing the young men assembling together for prayer.”2
The New Light Revival would be followed by many others in Canadian history. Another early revival occured in 1857 when the Holiness minister, Phoebe Palmer, came to Hamilton, Ontario. The evangelistic meetings that she held there in October of that year had attendances that climbed to six thousand people. There were five-to-six hundred testimonies of conversion and these even included those of many civic leaders.3
While revivals such as the New Light and the Hamilton Revival occured before Confederation, other moves of God came after the nation of Canada was formed. When the Azusa Street Revival broke out in Los Angeles in 1906, a Canadian Holiness leader, named E. McAlister, heard of the meetings and came to experience what God was doing. On December 11, 1906, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. He later returned to his home city of Ottawa and began ministering and sharing his experience with others. A Methodist lay preacher, named Charles E. Baker, brought his terminally-ill wife to one of McAlister’s meetings. She was healed and Baker felt the call into the Pentecostal ministry. He held meetings in Kinburn, Ontario and in Montreal, Quebec. An incredible revival erupted and thousands came to Christ. 4
In Saskatchewan, in 1948, a revival movement sprung up which became known as The Latter Rain Revival. It began suddenly in the Sharon Orphanage and other schools, including a Bible school in North Battleford. Teachers from the Bible school had come back from some remarkable meetings in Vancouver, B. C., in 1947. Deeply stirred, they led the students into praying, fasting and studying the Scriptures. On February 12, 1948, the staff and most of the school’s seventy students were gathered in a large classroom when God’s Spirit fell upon them.5 The teacher, Ern Hawtin, describes the event in these words:
Some students were under the power of God on the floor, others were kneeling in adoration and worship before the Lord. The annointing deepened until the awe was upon everyone. The Lord spoke to one of the brethern, ‘Go and lay hands upon a certain student and pray for him.’ While he was in doubt and contemplation one of the sisters who had been under the power of God went to the brother saying the same words, and naming the identical student he was to pray for. He went in obedience and a revelation was given concerning the student’s life and future ministry. After this a long prophecy was given with minute details concerning the great things God was about to do. The pattern for the revival and many details concerning it were given. 6
They continued meeting and on Saturday, February 14, Hawtin records the following occurance: “It seemed that all heaven broke loose upon our souls, and heaven came down to greet us. Soon a visible manifestation of gifts was received when candidates were prayed over, and many as a result were healed, as gifts of healing were received.” 7 Out of this revival many camp meetings and conventions sprung up and Latter Rain leaders held meetings across Canada and America. Healings and the operation of spiritual gifts were major features of this revival.8
While the Latter Rain Revival had much impact in 1948, another Canadian revival would spring up in 1971 in Saskatoon. Here the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church (a church of 175 people) had experienced some frustration over failing to get his congregation involved in evangelism. He came to the conclusion that his congregation did not have a heart for evangelism and, from that time on, began to pray and seek God for revival. He also began emphasing the importance of prayer and challenging his congregation to attend the Wednesday-night prayer meeting. The prayer meeting grew to fifty, then to a hundred, and then to 150 people. The church was really gaining a heart for prayer and even children had prayer meetings. Ralph and Lou Sutra held meetings at the church. The meetings became crowded out and use of a larger building was secured. This too was crowded out and an Alliance congregation cancelled their missionary conference to provide the use of their building for the revival. This 1000-person building was soon maxed out and the largest church building in the city, a 1600-seat United church building was rented. This too was packed with spiritually-hungry seekers and two evening meetings were scheduled to handle the crowds. Many souls were converted and there was seemingly no end to the testimonies of what God was doing. God was moving in unusual ways. There were at least two meetings where there was no preaching. The revival did not stay confined to Saskatoon but, instead, many teams, in fact, over two thousand, came out from the revival. These teams ministered throughout Canada and the United States as well as internationally.
From pre-Confederation revivals such as the New Light Revival and Phoebe Palmer’s meetings to post-Confederation revivals such as the Pentecostal revivals, Later Rain revivals, and Saskatoon Revival, Jesus was exalted in a fresh way and men and women answered the call to salvation and healing and rushed into God’s Kingdom. All heaven broke loose on their souls. I believe that their experience is but a foretaste of the end-time Canadian revival in which the whole Dominion of Canada will be ablaze with revival fire!
1 Ralph and Lou Sutra, “If You Ask Me,” Reports of Revival in Canada.
2 Joshua Marsden, quoted in Faytene C. Kryskow, Stand on Guard – A Prophetic Call & Research on the Righteous Foundations of Canada (Vancouver: Credo Publishing, 1982), 99.
6 Ern Hawtin, quoted in http://www.pastornet.net.au/renewal/index.htm