The transfer of a celebrated Baptist church to pentecostal hands in the early years of the Great Depression illustrates a less abrupt but more dramatic shift in power from established black and white denominations to pentecostal and evangelical churches over the ensuing decades. Until the Great Depression, the nation’s established churches were on an upward trajectory in both numbers and influence. But the Great Depression crippled the Protestant establishment, which slipped from the center of charity and social reform to the periphery. At the same time, the economic crisis made room for evangelical and pentecostal churches that emphasized individual salvation and authentic religious experience. While the established churches struggled to maintain programming and participation, upstart evangelicals and pentecostals employed creative techniques and a core of committed volunteers to keep church operations afloat and expand membership. While it would be decades before evangelicals and pentecostals rivaled their established counterparts in numbers and national influence, the Great Depression marked the beginning of a gradual transition of power from the mainline to its upstart rivals.
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