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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Seeking an intimate religious experience

White describes his experiences with the Charismatic Renewal movement. He was bored at his Baptist church and sought a more intimate religious experience. He found the movement through an acquaintance and discovered a religion that promised "an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with tangible evidence." He is careful to contrast the movement with the "Holy Rollers," Pentecostal Christians so named for their physical, ecstatic worship practices. Charismatic Renewal is "calm, quiet, and energizing."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I was wondering if you could talk a little more about the Charismatic Renewal movement, I'm not really familiar with that.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Actually your talking about my experience in it?
ASHLEY CROWE:
Yeah.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Okay.
ASHLEY CROWE:
And then just the movement in general some too, if you could.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
My experience in it was, as I said, boredom with the Baptist Church. Thinking there had to be something more, and just stumbling over, well I didn't literally stumble over my employer's wife - she came in everyday - I mean the business was in big trouble - and she was always smiling and perky and I thought, this woman must be drunk. But one day a talked to her about, and she said, "Oh no." And she got me to at least go check it out. And I found these people that were just amazing. They always seemed to be in an up mood; their faith level was way, way, way high. I thought, I don't know what this is, but I want some of it. And so I started attending these meetings at Dr. Vanderbilt's. That's when I found out about things like, being slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, and no they didn't handle snakes, drink poison, or run the pews. I went to one of those churches. And I found out that what they were experiencing was an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with tangible evidence. I mean things happened to you; you look different. And I thought this is a neat thing. And I got to checking into it and this has been around for, oh Lord, 30 or 40 years, or more. And it just isn't quite that well known because, unfortunately, the Charismatic movement got overshadowed by the Holy Rollers. Like I said, I've been to one of those churches. So anytime you say Charismatic Renewal people expect you to twitch, and fall on the floor, and roll round, and round, and round, and run up and down the aisles, and all that good stuff. And it's a very calm, quiet, and energizing experience.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Were they services, or?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Oh yea, they were full church services. That's one of my complaints with most Non-Denominational Charismatic Fellowships. Because the praise and worship part of the service would last forty-five minutes. That's the most fun. There's a short break to get the kids all to their classrooms. And then the preacher sits down, and he teaches, for anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half. And that's just a little more Sunday than I can stand. So, right now I'm trying to find a place where the priest doesn't have to go quite on and on and on 'cause by that long, you've lost my attention span. It's like, "I don't know what he said."
ASHLEY CROWE:
Did it grow out of the Pentecostal movement?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
I think so. Yea it basically - If your going to put the two of them together. In my experience at least, if you go into a church of Holy Rollers, they're usually low income, low education, very common folk. Which is fine. And you get into the Charismatic Renewals, the Non-Denominational Fellowships and their more intellectual. And I think the fact that they don't rely so much on emotion. There's a lot of emotion there. But not enough to make you jump up and run up and down the aisle.