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Adventure and Atrophy in a Charismatic Movement: Returning to the 'Toronto Blessing'

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In the summer of 1996, the author visited the source of the 'Toronto Blessing', spending many hours and several days at meetings of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and talking with adherents and participants. Conducting ethnographic research through the lens of pilgrimage, the study explored the work of the fellowship and assessed its popularity within the context of contemporary revivalism. The study was published (Percy, "Morphology") and concentrated on the distinctive romantic grammar of assent that formed the theological construction of reality for participants. The article concluded with the observation that the 'success' of the fellowship was likely to be short-lived. In the autumn of 2002, the author returned to the fellowship to conduct further research and specifically to examine the nature of atrophy in a charismatic movement. After the millennium and with many failed predictions of global revival, how did the fellowship cope with its own declining numbers and a withering international support-base, with its unfulfilled hopes, and with the non-reification of its visions? Using the theoretical framework of James Hopewell (drawn from the field of Congregational Studies), the research suggests that this charismatic fellowship persists in being adaptive, in spite of the obvious loss of its popularity and influence, continuing to offer a viable spiritual resource within global revivalism that emphasises the importance of romantic (spiritual) adventure.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2005

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