Christian College Becomes Ground Zero for Viral 'Revival'

Thousands flock to Kentucky's Asbury U in TikTok-driven prayer event that's lasted more than a week
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2023 6:05 AM CST
Christian College Becomes Ground Zero for Viral 'Revival'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/SplashofPhotography)

Early on Feb. 8, a routine chapel service took place at Kentucky's Asbury University, a small Christian college in Wilmore. "I would call it unremarkable," the school's president, Dr. Kevin Brown, tells NBC News of the gathering in the 1,500-seat Hughes Auditorium. What's happened since has been anything but: Thousands have been flocking to the school from all over the country for what's being called a "prayer revival" of sorts. After some students stuck around after that initial service, more soon arrived, and videos started circulating on social media showing what the congregants were up to.

"We've been here in Hughes Auditorium for over a hundred hours—praying, crying, worshipping and uniting—because of Love," Alexandra Presta, the editor of the school paper, the Asbury Collegian, wrote in a Sunday update, per Religion News Service. The hashtag #AsburyRevival has been proliferating on videos posted to Instagram and TikTok, which are drawing millions of views, and visitors to the simple chapel have expanded beyond the school community. On Tuesday, for example, some 3,000 people showed up to pray (overflow facilities were set up), with almost two-thirds of them arriving from different states, according to Brown.

Brown says the school, which was the site of a similar event in 1970, was careful not to get involved promoting what was going on. "We wanted to place an abundance of respect towards the experience of our students," he tells NBC. However, Brown announced new restrictions on Saturday that will likely bring the high-profile nature of the gathering to a close. In addition to barring people from worshiping in the chapel 24 hours a day, the school says the last public worship will take place on Wednesday afternoon, per WDRB.

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Whether what has been happening meets the definition of a Christian "revival" is another matter. NBC notes that such events typically are "marked by conversions and wildfire growth," and that "outpouring," "gathering," or "nonstop worship meeting" might be more accurate terms here. Some on social media are even more skeptical. Nick Hall, who's been immersed in the evangelical world for decades, examines the question more closely, detailing for Fox News his pilgrimage to Wilmore to see what was going on for himself. "I can't say for certain if this is revival," he wrote after his visit, describing what he saw as an "incredibly simple, humble, and ordinary" event. (More prayer stories.)

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