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By mid-morning, around 200 people had filled the seats of the Wink Theatre. They raised their hands in worship as the amps came to life. But the crowd gathered in Dalton, Georgia, on the Tuesday morning did not come to sing or to listen to the scripture readings.

They came to see what many are calling a modern miracle. They came to see the Bible.

In 2015, a small group of Dalton residents were surprised when oil began running down the walls of their prayer room. A year later, the clear oil began flowing from Jerry Pearce's personal Bible. Some 400 gallons of oil later, and thousands of miles traveled, the group is drawing diverse crowds from across the country. Oil plays a prominent role in several Bible stories to anoint believers and care for the sick.

While the gatherings are to see the Bible, the book is serving as a way to bring people to the Christian faith, said Johnny Taylor, one of the organizers.

"[The Bible is] just a sign and a wonder," Taylor said. "But it's your faith and it's how you apply it and use it where the miracles come in. We tell people the Bible is not the move, it's just the sign and the wonder, but if you go find out where the Bible is, there's a move going on there."

 

The first half of the two-hour service featured worship music, the playing of shofars and scripture readings. An artist painted in the corner. At one point, volunteers carried microphones throughout the crowd for people to give their testimonies — people walking away from alcohol, cancers being cured, sick children living long past a doctor's diagnosis.

The mood of the theater changed in the second hour, though, shifting from a typical worship service to a revival as Pearce removed the Bible from its plastic bin and carried it throughout the crowd. The line of waiting people extended around the theater aisles. As the book touched their foreheads, many collapsed, some began sobbing or speaking in tongues. At least two people came onto the stage to be baptized.

Leaders in the group are clear: They are not worshipping the Bible. They are not a healing ministry, though tests on the oil have found healing properties in it, Pearce said. Other tests have been unable to prove what kind of oil it is, he said.

On Nov. 19, Linda Ruby was at the Wink Theatre for her second time. She had been troubled with years of fatigue and bitterness before her first encounter, she said. While she was waiting to be handed a piece of cloth dipped in oil, she said God spoke to her.

See the Bible

Services featuring the flowing oil Bible are regularly held at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Wink Theatre in Dalton (115 W Crawford St.). To ensure the event is being held or to check about other locations, visit https://hisnameisflowingoil.org/events/.

"As I stood before the table, I heard God say, 'Cancer will fall,'" Ruby said.

Since the first trip to see the Bible, she has not felt bitter or tired as she had before. She believes God healed the cancer she did not know she had, though Ruby was never tested by a doctor, she said.

Walter Holmes has made the hourlong journey north from Atlanta a half-dozen times in the past year, he said. Each time, a stranger approached him with a kind word or an empathetic ear that was just what he needed at the moment, he said. Holmes is studying to be a pastor, he said.

"I usually see in the atmosphere the presence of the Lord is here," Holmes said.

For an event focused on a centuries-old book, the entire atmosphere of the service feels very modern, from the guitar-led worship music to multiple people in the audience holding their phones up to livestream. Pearce and Taylor do not advertise the Bible. They go where they are called to, though an engaging social media presence draws considerable attention. They also, importantly, do not defend it.

Online, the ministry is a lightning rod.

For all the Facebook comments praising the services, dozens of blogs and online comments call the Bible a "parlour trick" or the whole thing a hoax. Others praise the healing qualities of the oil, saying it cured them of allergies that had bothered them for decades. Pearce and Taylor said they have been misrepresented in the media and have been hesitant to talk since. Instead, they focus on the ministry that began three years ago.

Pearce and Taylor, along with their wives and several others, had been meeting regularly for a prayer meeting when oil began running down the walls of the prayer room in 2015, Taylor said. Around the time of the 2016 election, Taylor said he received a message from God that he would speak to him soon. On the Monday after the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January 2017, the prayer group had a powerful experience with God that lasted hours, Pearce said.

Within a week, Pearce's personal Bible grew saturated with oil, beginning with Psalm 39 and moving toward the book of Revelations. Pearce put the Bible in a bag, then a plastic container, as the oil seeped out of the book, he said. God told him to give the oil away, he said.

"It's just picked up from there," Pearce said. "We're getting a lot of feedback. People are being healed even by being anointed with the Bible. And when I anoint the people with the Bible, Johnny has seen it, the oil will start coming out of it, out of the bottom of the Bible."

Despite the skeptics, the work has become a full-time job for Pearce and Taylor, though the two said there are no defined leaders in the ministry. The people in the band or who serve as ushers are volunteers. They estimate around 80% of the people who come to the regular Dalton services are new visitors. They estimate they handed out around 350,000 free vials of oil from the more than 400 gallons the book has produced.

Every other weekend, the group travels around the country and continent, from Florida to California and north to Edmonton. Donations fund much of the travel. While wary at first, Pearce began flying with the Bible, sealing it in a plastic bag for the journey. The oil does not flow when it is on the road, he said, only when the book is in Dalton. Despite years of being submerged in the oil, there is no visible damage to the book.

They have not taken the Bible overseas, Taylor said. They have not felt God has called them there.

Not yet.

From the reporter

I became a journalist to help people see people as people. But highlighting the human side of every policy decision, and how it is affecting your community, takes time as well as support from readers. If you believe in telling the stories of people in your community, please subscribe to the Times Free Press today. Contact me at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Find me on Twitter at @News4Mass.

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