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Thursday, April 29, 2010

There are various accounts of Shekinah Fellowship floating around. Here is one account that I trust to be accurate, first because it was written by a member of the ministry and second because it was written much closer to the actual events then anything that would have been written in more recent times. The memory of what took place some thirty years later may not be as clear as the memory of someone young, an on site eyewitness, writing just a few short years after the events had taken place. Also this writing was approved by Pastor Brant Baker himself prior to publication in the Shekinah Magazine.
So here I present to you:
The "official" version of the history of Shekinah Fellowship of Long Beach California, as told in the spring of 1975 by assistant Pastor Joe Dallas who was under Pastor Brant Baker's watch at Shekinah Fellowship .

During the summer of 1971 the Jesus People Movement was at it's peak. Evangelism pulsated in every major southern California city. Churches were shocked, baffled or delighted to find hundreds of thousands of young people interested in attending worship services. Magazines were printing feature articles from various viewpoints of the phenomenal revival of Christianity among the youth.

As the Jesus People Movement increased, home Bible study groups began to spring up. Having forsaken old habits and acquaintances, many of the kids who had given their lives to Jesus found themselves friendless. There was a need for intimate fellowship coupled with the desire for thorough Biblical training. Informal meetings where believers could worship and learn the Word of God together became common.

One such group was meeting in Long Beach. Each of the Long Beach high schools had been exposed to the preaching of the Gospel through MARANATHA concert guest speakers during school assemblies, or personal witnessing from the students within the schools. Many students responded to the call of Christ.

Every conceivable type of background was represented- drug pushers, athletes, actors, cheerleaders, gang leaders, band leaders, boy chasers, homosexuals, doctor's sons, un-wed mothers, the "somebodies" and the "nobodies" from Long Beach gathered together in Jesus name.

Without fear of exaggeration it could have been described as a melting pot made up of every human circumstance and need. Backgrounds were generally forgotten and it was agreed that,"If any man be in Christ he is a new creation." So on this basis, the concept of Christian fellowship was introduced and established.

Leading the group was twenty-three year old Brant Baker. Brant had forsaken a chaotic Hollywood existence after re-dedicating his life to Jesus.Why certain men are chosen and others are not remains God's business. However, a brief view of Brant's former way of living helps to understand his compassion for young people. Being the son of a wealthy business woman and of a father active in politics, Brant was well acquainted with the affluent society. He was raised with religious convictions but the lack of fundamental Biblical training left him without proper spiritual nourishment. He received Jesus Christ at the age of sixteen, while attending a Billy Graham Crusade in San Diego CA, but the relationship between him and his Lord never really progressed.

While still young, Brant accepted a job working for Desilu Studios in Hollywood. He was brought into regular contact with some of the top celebrities of that time and life, as Brant described it, seemed to consist of a series of parties and engagements that never stopped.

Tired of it all, he returned to his home in Newport Beach CA where he and his mother opened a men's clothing store on Seventeenth Street in Costa Mesa CA. During this time, a small church in Costa Mesa was beginning to experience an unusual growth in attendance. It was recommended to Brant and soon it became his regular church home. There he fervently studied to learn the Word of God.

This small church, Calvary Chapel, soon became not only Brant's church home, but also a place of regular worship for over three thousand young Christians.
Under the ministry of Pastor Chuck Smith, Brant became thoroughly versed in the basic teachings of the Bible. The teachings would later serve as a foundation for his own ministry.Along with learning the scriptures, Brant was beginning to acquire a deep hunger to serve. His goal was to be used of God. It inspired him into a deeper study of the Word and the things of God.

Personal acquaintances with several of the leading ministers enabled Brant to be exposed to the workings of the ministry. The call to full time service became more apparent to him and his desire increased to respond to that call. An opportunity to teach a small group opened up at one of the churches in Long Beach.

At this time, Brant acquired a close friend and spiritual companion, Linda Torre. Together he and Linda drove from Costa Mesa to minister in Long Beach.Things did not work out though. As more and more personal and financial problems developed, it was obvious that Brant was to wait a little longer. During this time of waiting he learned the meaning of the Lord's instruction to, "Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."

A most difficult trial arose when Brant's grandmother suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalized. Brant knew the shock and sense of personal loss both he and his family would suffer if she died. He began to pray for her healing.Then one evening, while alone with her in the intensive care unit of the hospital, Brant laid his hands on her and began interceding. What he now describes as the Shekinah glory filled the room and his grandmother's miraculous healing began!

Her recovery is still a mystery to several of the attending doctors. An opportunity to teach in Long Beach again opened up, in the home of one of Brant's previous acquaintances.
Each Saturday evening a handful of teenagers gathered to hear Brant teach lengthy Bible studies. A time of worship followed and special prayer was made for those desiring healing or baptism in the Holy Spirit. Miraculous recoveries from a variety of illnesses became a common part of these meetings.

As the group expanded, new facilities were set up in a local church's Sunday School room. There, the name "Shekinah Fellowship" was conceived.Emphasis had always been placed upon the presence of God at each gathering. So the name "Shekinah," the presence and glory of God seemed appropriate.The growth continued and shortly another move was made to a larger church where Brant continued to minister for over a year. It was during this time that he was ordained by the State of California as a licensed minister of the Gospel, and Shekinah Fellowship was incorporated by the State as a recognized church organization.

Services were held Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, to avoid conflicts with other church services, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.Approximately two hundred young people were a regular part of Shekinah Fellowship, so it became necessary to appoint elders and deacons to assist Brant in the feeding of the flock.

As other young men began to take the responsibility of spiritual oversight, an amazing thing began to happen. Several of the "kids," who were regularly attending Shekinah, were now becoming involved as ministers. No one had attended a seminary or received a degree, yet somehow teenagers, who had previously known next to nothing about spiritual matters, were now vital instruments in the hands of God. Singers, musicians, evangelists, teachers, counselors and an infinite variety of personal ministries were being developed. This has been the case ever since.

The attendance on Saturday evenings had increased until Shekinah had again outgrown it's meeting place. So the decision was made to build a sanctuary with whatever materials God provided.

The sanctuary was provided in the form of a vacated health spa in the middle of a Long Beach shopping center. After acquiring the building, Shekinah was faced with the problem of reconstruction and interior decoration. There was little experience in such areas but prayers were said and work began.

Help came, seemingly, from the far ends of the earth. It came in strange forms; a thousand dollar check in the offering, volunteer assistance from a licensed carpenter and donated building materials which could have cost hundreds of dollars. No individual could take the credit because everyone was involved. As the members of Shekinah Fellowship built their own sanctuary, they found themselves also building a bond of fellowship and partnership which would endure for years to come.

Growth increased and the Saturday night services were becoming more structured, as people from various age groups, and back grounds, began to attend. The healing service, which by itself lasted an hour, became an increasingly amazing part of the ministry. Originally, conditions such as minor colds, back problems and even sunburns characterized the heeling's which occurred. As the attendance increased, so did the miracles.

Through the gift of the word of knowledge, Brant would begin calling out the names of various illnesses which were present in the congregation. Those were either healed or in need of healing would begin to come forward for prayer and then would testify to the miracle God had performed in their body.Instant recoveries of arthritis, deafness, and crippling diseases were reported during the time of testimonies.

The building, which had been reconstructed in October, 1972, held a maximum capacity of three hundred. By December, it was overcrowded. Legally, services could no longer be held there because it was too hazardous.A hugh Foursquare Church existed only a few blocks away from Shekinah's building. It was obvious that growth was going to continue, so the next building used for services should logically be one with ample room for expansion.

On several occasions, ministers from Shekinah would drive by the large, white, Foursquare sanctuary and consider possibilities, but it all seemed too fantastic to even consider. The pastor of the church had never attended a Shekinah service and perhaps knew nothing of them.The need was pressing, so finally a meeting was arranged between Steven Boyd, Shekinah's associate pastor, and Rev. Billy Adams, pastor of the Long Beach Neighborhood Foursquare Church.

Rev. Adams had been personally acquainted with Aimee Semple Mcpherson, founder of the Foursquare denomination. He had preached to capacity crowds at Angelus Temple, headquarters of the Foursquare organization, and had traveled around the world as an evangelist and missionary. Thousands attended his meetings in cities throughout the United States.To the suprise of perhaps every church in Long Beach, Pastor Adams gave Shekinah permission to use his sanctuary for weekly services. It had the capacity to seat a thousand people. So in January 1973, Shekinah Fellowship met at the Foursquare Church and continues to do so.(Editors Note: this was written in 1975)

The Expansion
Once the move to the Foursquare Church was made, expansion took on almost unbelievable proportions. Pastor Adams had a fatherly concern for the young ministers of Shekinah fellowship and his guidance and advice proved to be the very thing needed for the ministry's growth.The month of June marked two important steps for Shekinah- the very first outreach service was held in San Diego and the beginning of a weekly radio program, "The Shekinah Fellowship Hour."

Meanwhile, the services in Long Beach continued to grow. As the ministry became more widely known, new opportunities to minister in various churches developed.The next city Shekinah began to visit was Bakersfield. It was at this time that the first television program was produced. "Shekinah Fellowship Presents A Very Special Special" was taped in Santa Ana and has been shown in cities both on the east and west coasts. The radio program also increased in scope and popularity. "The Shekinah Fellowship Hour" was now being heard in various states such as Washington and Arizona.

By December 1973, the Saturday night meetings in the Long Beach Foursquare Church were filled to capacity. Eleven months had passed since Brant Baker had begun services in the new facilities and approximately one thousand people attended each week. A 90 voice choir became a part of the ministry, along with an orchestra and two singing groups. Miracles of healing had increased tremendously, with some cases of cancer, blindness and similarly hopeless diseases and conditions being cured instantly during the meetings.

A vision of unity among the many members of the Body of Christ inspired the members of Shekinah Fellowship. As more people from nearly every church denomination continued to attend, it was soon evident that Shekinah Fellowship was a meeting ground in which any man or woman, naming the name of Christ, would be welcomed.

A show of hands revealed the various denominations as Brant called them out. A surprising number of Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians were seated in the midst of Pentecostals and Full Gospel believers. Clearly, it was understood that they had come to Shekinah, not the organisation, but literally, "the presence of God," who knows no denominational boundary.

The Easter Gathering
The next major step the ministry took occurred in April, 1974. A few months earlier, Brant announced a plan which he felt God had laid upon his heart- a four-day series of Easter services to be held in the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium. The auditorium seated over three thousand people, requiring more ushers and assisting ministers than Shekinah had.

The real test of faith was the cost. Over fifteen thousand dollars would be needed for expenses.There is a motto both common and dear to Shekinah, "When God guides, God provides." So plans for the Shekinah Fellowship Easter In gathering began.The Fellowship wasn't really that well known and word-of-mouth would not have been sufficient.

Advertisements were placed in various newspapers and periodicals. Television spots were scheduled. Radio commercials were recorded and played on several stations. Young artists produced hugh posters which the Long Beach Public Transportation System carried throughout the main streets of the city spreading the word that a divine healing service was to be held downtown.

The interior of the Municipal Auditorium was bleak and dingy. It was hardly suitable for the joyous services to be conducted there. Decorations were clearly needed, yet it was impossible to purchase expensive decorative objects. Hugh flowers were constructed out of cardboard and tin foil, flanked with multicolored petals and leaves. Signs were designed to be placed at strategic points to encourage those who read them to "Look to Jesus."

The support from the local churches was essential for success of the in gathering. Untold personal sacrifices had to be made by each individual and no man was without his particular difficulty. Long hours, last minute changes and personal conflicts combined to force each minister to seriously consider his willingness to fulfill his calling.The valuable lessons learned during the months of planning and preparation made it all worthwhile.

True to His word, God blessed the services. The first night special guests, Dino Kartsonakis and Madame Bilquis Sheikh, appeared. Dino, world famous pianist with the Kathryn Kuhlman ministry, performed for a half hour giving brief testimonies and comments between numbers. Madame Sheikh, former assistant to the President of Pakistan, gave her glorious testimony. She told of her conversion from the Moslem faith to Christianity.

On Friday evening a special musical presentation, "Glory To God," was presented by the choir, orchestra and various soloists. The Saturday evening meeting drew the largest crowd and a divine healing service highlighted the evening. Sunday afternoon the final service was conducted. Rev. Billy Adams testimony had become indescribably dear to the hearts of all those involved with Shekinah Fellowship who had come to know him so well. He represented the fatherly care and concern which every young person so desperately needed.

The exposure the ministry received during the Ingathering opened new doors in several southern California cities. Regular services began in Canoga Park, Palm Springs and Escondido. More television shows were also produced and shown on major network stations. Services in the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium continued to be held monthly. However, the auditorium was scheduled for reconstruction within a few months and no other Long Beach building was adequate for the monthly Shekinah Fellowship services. But, God had a blessing in store for Shekinah.

Angelus Temple
It came when Dr. Rolf McPhearson and the Board of Directors invited Brant and the ministry to conduct the evening service at Angelus Temple on the Fourth of July. The invitation was a direct fulfillment of the promise God had made to Brant a year earlier when he had visited AngelusTemple.

When he had come down to the front platform after the service, suddenly, he had a portend that someday, somehow, he would be ministering on the very platform.Along with the excitment of ministering at Angelus Temple, there arose an interest in the background of the Foursquare denomination and it's founder, Aimee Semple McPhearson. Several of the ministers of Shekinah, including Brant, began reading the accounts of Mrs. McPhearson's campaigns. It became more evident then ever that revival was desperately needed.

The night before the Fourth of July service was to be held, a special service was conducted in Long Beach. Brant read aloud to the entire congregation excerpts from Mrs. McPhearson's book, "This is That." Then a lengthy prayer meeting was conducted. The entire ministry and congregation of Shekinah Fellowship beseeched God for an outpouring of His Spirit and power such as the world had never seen.

On July 4, 1974, the all-day Holy Ghost Rally at Angelus Temple was concluded with a divine healing service conducted by Rev. Baker and Shekinah Fellowship. The same group which had began two years earlier in a living room was now ministering in the headquaters of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

The evening was glourious! Within weeks it was decided that Shekinah should begin holding monthly services at the temple.Monthly services are being held at Angelus Temple. The support and co-operation of the Angelus Temple Board of Directors, along with Pastor Holland and Dr. and Mrs. Rolf McPherson, have been of great help to the ministry.

In Long Beach, the services in the Foursquare Church draw capacity crowds every Saturday night. Oftentimes, the building located next to the santuary serves as an overflow room. Those who are unable to find a seat in the main building watch the service over closed circuit television.
Four days of almost every week are spent traveling. Shekinah holds monthly services in Los Angelus, San Marcos, Riverside and semi-regular services in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Santa Monica, Burbank and Brea.

New churches are visited nearly every week. You may find a Shekinah Fellowship service in a municipal auditorium or a church building which seats a little over a hundred. Services are now being held in Catholic santuaries, Baptist seminaries, three thousand saet Temples, bowling alleys or dining rooms. It is Brant's firm conviction that God is equally present in each place. The Shekinah Fellowship television program is now seen weekly on KCOP Channel 13 Sunday morning at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 1200, in addition to broadcast at various times over UHF stations. The ministry's radio program currently airs over countless numbers of stations throughout the country.

In Long Beach, Bible classes are available, without cost, Monday through Friday from 1:00-4:00 PM. Every night of the week Bible studies are given during a time of intimate, informal worship.Since Shekinah Fellowship's beginning in 1971, eight young men have been ordained as licensed ministers of the Gospel. The ministry is composed of up to two hundred young people who perform their specific functions simultaneously during the services.

The choir consists of 125 members. Over fifty workers assist Brant during the healing service by ministering to and praying for those who come seeking healing. Ushers, counselors, technicians and many other areas of ministry are available to anyone desiring to donate his service.The Vision.

In the Old Testament days, it was common for God to send prophets to heathen nations predicting their doom if they failed to repent. He also sent prophets to His own people pointing out their failures and warning them not to continue in rebellion or indiffrence toward their God. Shekinah Fellowship feels the burden for souls, especially in these evil days. Their is a special commision to awaken the Church, the entire Body of Christ.

It does not take a great deal of insight to notice the contrast between the early Church of the New Testament days and the present Church. The commision to preach the Gospel seems to have either been forgotten or ignored.

What would be the effect if churches everywhere united their efforts to seek for the salvation of souls? Within the Body of Christ, is there not enough material, finance, manpower and energy to turn the world upside down?

Whenever Shekinah begins holding services in a new city, the support and co-operation of the churches in that area, regardless of denomination, is enlisted. Hopefully, such offer of assistance will encourage the churches of that town to work together on a regular basis, whether Shekinah is there or not.

The aim is to bring people into an awareness of the love and nearness of Jesus, while encouraging them to bring others into that same awareness. The world has yet to see what can be done along these lines.

When Brant began to realize the call of God and the plans He had for him, he was deeply concerned with the need for more people to respond to this call. The opportunities to minister with Shekinah are numerous. But more than that, the exhortations to "Give yourself to God and let Him do with you as He pleases," are constant.

This is Brant's continual plea- that all those who have been "born again" into the family of God would realize the anointing and power they have as a Christian.
(End of story. Or is it?)
I just wanted to say that I was awakened at three this morning (Sunday AM). I sensed an urgency to put this here as soon as possible. So in my own two finger hen ~pecking way I did my best to plow through the task of typing the data. I didn't get the task completed until after 7:00 AM, at which time I uploaded it to here.

I honestly think that someone needed to read this. And that God is urging this reader to move forward in ministry. I believe there is a call upon this person's life to accept the task at hand.

God has been calling you to something that is bigger then your own vision, something that has nothing whatsoever to do with your resources. Yield and trust while believing that God has all that you need to fullfill your calling.

Realize that God never calls the capable, He makes people whom He calls capable...
He is faithful. He is the rock of our salvation upon which we stand. A nail driven in a sure place to hang upon.

The Master Creator has called you to service. I bless you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Assistant Pastor David Sloane
Shekinah Fellowship