Least of all Saints, the story of Aimee Semple McPherson
She was born Amee Kennedy in Canada, on a farm, the child of a much older father, noted for his introspection and gentleness, and a domineering, driving, ambitious mother. Her mother’s personality overpowered that of the father’s and greatly influenced the complex evangelist-to-be.
Her mother was long active in the Salvation Army movement in Canada and her father was a more circumspect Methodist. But it was the mother who carried Aimee along to Salvation Army street evangelizing and testimonials.
Amiee, however, began in her teens to doubt if there was a God and decided she wanted to be an actress. That ambition was displaced when she attended a Pentecostal meeting being led by a handsome Scottish preacher, Robert Semple. The book makes it clear that the preacher’s sexual magnetism played a big part in her conversion.
The two married and went to preach the gospel together in China, where Aimee’s first child, Roberta Semple, was born. The young husband died before converting one Chinese, however, and Aimee returned home, young baby in tow, and much depressed. By that time, her mother had left her father and was living in a New York tenement doing Salvation Army work. Aimee moved in with her mother and lived there a year, doing nothing, much to the consternation of the strong-willed parent. Then Aimee met Harold McPherson -- picked him up on the streets, actually. The two began a love affair that culminated in marriage, the birth of a son, and the beginning of Aimee’s dissatisfaction with the ordinary life of a housewife. Soon she persuaded her husband to go on the road with her and, like gypsies, the two pitched a tent at crossroads all over the country and Aimee preached.
Mostly they went hungry, slept in the open, got rained on and generally lived the life of religious hobos. Soon, Harold McPherson got tired of the life and Aimee got tired of him. She left him under a make-shift palm branch tent on a beach in Florida and sent for her mother to join her and the children.
From that point on Aimee’s career thrived, under the astute business management of Mother Kennedy, who believed God was not interested in a starving evangelist.
The two eventually wound up in Los Angeles where Aimee spent more than a half million dollars building the elaborate Angelus Temple, home of her Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
She also set up a radio station where she broadcast her sermons to her thousands of followers.
Aimee Semple McPherson lived with as much dash as she preached and practiced faith healing. While carrying on a romance with her radio station manager, she disappeared in 1926 amid great fanfare and publicity, returned with an elaborate kidnapping story, and stood trial on charges of obstructing justice. Then she began to drink, make poor business deals, and had a nervous breakdown from which she recovered to make a tremendous comeback and build her church to new heights in 1939. In 1944, she died from an overdose of sleeping pills and was buried in a spectacular funeral which, before her death, she had planned down to the last detail.
A woman in the eye of controversy, Mrs. McPherson was a noted orator and an astute self-promoter who was called “the Queen of Heaven” by her devoted followers and a con artist and hypocrite by her detractors.
A fascinating book.
--Memphis Press - Scimitar , May 12, 1979
Created by The Authors Guild
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