Updated: Jun 2, 2019
In early April 1960, Father Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest and then rector of St Mark's Church in Van Nuys, California, received Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the Gift of Tongues. He shared his personal experience from the pulpit the following three Sundays. A few short weeks later, spiritual tension within the congregation at St Mark's escalated and a growing media frenzy ensued. Father Bennett decided his spiritual experience was too valuable to fight over and the best action to take was for him to resign.
At the invitation of Rt. Rev. William Fisher Lewis, late Bishop of Olympia, he became the vicar, and later rector, of St. Luke's in Ballard, Washington, which was ready to be closed
as hopeless. He, his wife, and three children accepted the call and began a new life. A few years later, in 1963, his beloved wife, Elberta, died. He dedicated his book Nine O'clock in the Morning to her, calling her "'One of God's great ones' and a true soldier of Christ."
After three years of being a widower, Dennis and Rita Reed were married. In 1991, not long after they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, Dennis passed away.* I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in April with Rita Bennett at her Washington home. The hours passed quickly as Rita shared stories about her husband Dennis, their ministry Christian Renewal Association, the books they had written, and the speaking engagements that took them around the world together.
Recently I had a friendly phone conversation with Rita during which we talked about the Great Awakenings. She proceeded to tell me it is believed that the Fourth Great Awakening in America was from 1960 - 1980. Her husband, Father Dennis Bennett, had been a catalyst of the ecumenical charismatic movement through the Holy Spirit in 1960 and throughout the twenty years of the Fourth Great Awakening.
After a short pause, she proposed, "could ecclesia2020 be part of the Fifth Great Awakening starting forty (40) years after the Fourth Great Awakening ended?"
In the words of another dear friend, "HOLY WOW!"
*Details of the life of Father Dennis Bennett provided by Rita Bennett's website, emotionallyfree.org.