the Glory of God
Free Methodist Evangelist Emma Ray Joined Forces With Seattle Pacific Students
EMMA RAY AND HER HUSBAND, L.P., moved to Seattle following
a devastating fire that leveled its downtown in 1889. They decided that here L.P., a stone mason, could make a clean start in his ongoing
battle with alcoholism. Shortly after arriving in the city, Emma
and L.P. became Christians at the First African Episcopal Church.
Born into slavery and raised in poverty, Emma Ray quickly immersed herself in evangelistic work. Instead of traveling from city to city, however, she ministered to an itinerant population in Seattle. “She’d visit people in jail and on the waterfront,” says Priscilla Pope-Levison, professor of theology and assistant director of women’s studies at Seattle Pacific University. “She also worked with addicts.”
Ray later joined Seattle’s First Free Methodist Church and served at the Olive Branch Mission. In her 1926 autobiography, Twice Sold, Twice Ransomed: Autobiography of Mr. and Mrs. L.P. Ray, she recounts her initial meeting with Seattle Pacific students:
“During our first experience in jail work, a band of Christian
workers came from the Free Methodist Church at Ross, near
Fremont, in this city. These meetings were conducted by a Sister Griggs, who has since died. She was assisted by several young
people, from the Seminary, a Free Methodist school in the vicinity, in [the] charge of Rev. A. Beers and his wife. This school was called at that time The Seattle Seminary,
but is now known as Seattle Pacific College.
“A young colored boy
by the name of Kraft was
converted in the county jail through the efforts of these workers. His was a remarkable case. He was doing time for some petty offense. After hearing
Sister Griggs’ message and the testimonies of the young students, he got under pungent
conviction, and afterward prayed through to victory.
His testimony was clear and sound. He was bold to witness and to live the right life there
in the presence of his fellow prisoners. The band took a great interest in him.
“When he had served his sentence, he had nowhere to go. We gave him a temporary home with us until he could get work. During the time he was with us, the students invited him over to the Ross Church. He went the following Sunday. He came home with his face beaming with the glory of God. ‘Oh, Brother and Sister Ray, I wish you could have seen what I have seen today. There were about seventy-five saved young people there. They testified so freely and some got blessed; others shouted and praised the Lord. I did not know that white people had such good religion.’ ”
Editor’s note: The “Ross Church” mentioned by Ray later became
First Free Methodist Church, located adjacent to SPU. Ray also refers to the first president of SPU, Alexander Beers, and his wife, Adelaide. To read Ray’s full autobiography, click here.
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