In the 1950s and '60s, traveling evangelists crisscrossed the nation by train, going from church to church to speak at revival meetings.
Those meetings don't happen too often anymore, but Pastor Arthur Houk remembers them fondly.
Members of the First Baptist Church in Hayden hope to bring back the old American tradition of church revivals by hosting meetings every day next week. Evangelist Charles Sanders will speak at the revivals, sharing his experiences spreading the Gospel while traveling the world.
Sanders is a full-time evangelist with 24 years of experience. He travels the country in a motor home visiting various churches, and he has previously preached in South America, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Germany, Australia, New Guinea, Korea and Singapore.
There was a time, Houk said, when people would attend revival meetings every day for two weeks straight. His wife, Shirley, remembers living in New York City, when people would ride the train straight from work to church. The church would be full of people come to hear the special music and the words of a different preacher.
The purpose of the revivals was twofold, Houk said.
"For Christians, they would grow in grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior. Christians are encouraged to bring non-Christians in for the unsaved to get saved."
When Houk, 72, began preaching, 16 or 18 people would usually want to be baptized through immersion, as is the Baptists' practice, to symbolize the change in beliefs the revival had caused. Houk finds himself baptizing fewer people these days.
Houk blames the current disinterest on a changing society. When revivals were at their peak, few women worked, so they easily made it to every meeting. Nor were there as many social activities available to members of small communities. Lastly, television wasn't ubiquitous, and people were more prone to leave their houses in search of entertainment, Houk said.
Houk doesn't expect to see the crowds he saw in the '60s. But there are some congregation members still excited about the revival.
Jackie Manley plans to attend as many meetings as she can but will miss some at the end of the week because she'll be traveling. Her husband, John, will probably make it to every meeting.
Manley, too, can recall revivals from her youth, when she was growing up in the Assembly of God church and evangelists were fine orators as well as Bible scholars.
Manley explained the contrast of evangelist and pastor, saying, "The evangelist sows the seed and the pastor nourishes it." She considers Sanders to be particularly good and looks forward to slide shows he'll present on the Middle East and other places he has traveled.
The revival meetings begin at the First Baptist Church at 185 N. Second St. in Hayden on at 7 p.m. tonight. Meetings will then be held at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 6 p.m. on Sunday, and at 7 p.m. each night after that until Friday.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at email@example.com.