Jesus People

The Jesus movement was a Christian movement beginning in California in the late 1960s, spreading up the West Coast and throughout North America in the 1970s before subsiding by the 1980s. Members of the movement were referred to as Jesus people, or sometimes as Jesus freaks. The Jesus movement in some ways was a response to the hippie counterculture movement of the late 1960s. In the summer of 1967, the “Summer of Love”, tens of thousands of young people flocked to San Francisco to celebrate personal expression, to experiment with drugs and to participate in open sexuality.

As many became disillusioned with the hippie lifestyle, new evangelists appeared in the San Francisco Bay Area, urging people to follow Jesus Christ and to forsake drugs and promiscuous sex. By early 1969 a synthesis of hippie Christians and evangelical religion (especially Pentecostal religion) was spreading up the West Coast and across North America. One aspect of the Jesus movement that attracted youth was the use of folk, pop and rock music, in contrast to conservative churches that had traditionally shunned such entertainment.

In Seattle a group that became known as the Jesus People’s Army (JPA) was started by Linda Meissner and a Vancouver chapter of JPA was headed by Russ Griggs. The Vancouver JPA organization was significant and included an eighty-acre ranch, a bakery-delicatessen, a school for high-school dropouts and a coffee house (Shepherd’s Call). For a period of time around 1969 to 1971 some of the Vancouver JPA members stayed at 823 Jackson Avenue.

Annie Girard (at that time Annie Walker, pictured above in 1972), took over the building at 823 Jackson Avenue in 1969 from the AME. By then, the AME had long since ceased as a functioning congregation, the members having dispersed from the Strathcona neighborhood. Largely this was the result of upward mobility as the AME members moved to better neighborhoods as they could afford to.

The name “Fountain Chapel” was given to the building by the AME church when the congregation first started in 1921, but Annie Girard (who was not associated with AME, had her own non-denominational worship service and was ordained by the Assemblies of God) decided to keep the name Fountain Chapel to refer to the building. Rev. Girard referred to her ministry as the “Cry In The Wilderness“, perhaps because she saw her mission in part as providing refuge for young people searching for answers in a complex and difficult world. In her interview with Marlatt and Itter for the Opening Doors project, Rev. Girard recounts how she helped many kids get off drugs and gave them a place to stay: “I went around to Jericho Beach and I went around these places and I gathered up kids, kids that were on drugs and said ‘Hey, come on kids. I can find more for you than drugs. Come on, I’ll show you a better way.'”

It was during this time that some of the JPA members needed a place to stay and Rev. Girard invited them to stay in the Fountain Chapel for about a year in a communal living arrangement. Eventually Rev. Girard broke with the JPA but some of the individuals remained. In his book “The Far-Out Saints of the Jesus Communes”, journalist Hiley H. Ward chronicles his experiences traveling throughout North America visiting people associated with the Jesus movement. Mr. Ward notes that while the Jesus Movement was predominantly white, for the most part it was racially integrated and non-discriminatory. On this point Ward highlights the Fountain Chapel as an example of integration and comments that: “Ann Walker, a black, heads a white commune (Fountain Chapel) in Vancouver, after splitting off from the Jesus People Army group.” [Ward, p. 88]