By DON STINE
The Rev. Billy Graham, one of the world’s most famous Christian evangelists, died in his North Carolina home on February 21 at age 99, but his sermons in Ocean Grove will long be remembered.
Graham preached in Ocean Grove three separate times over the years, with the 8,000-seat Great Auditorium being a perfect pulpit for the evangelist.
Ocean Grove historian Ted Bell said he believes Graham’s first sermon in Ocean Grove was around 1950, when his wife, Shirley, was still in high school.
“It was the only time I saw him and I remember it was very crowded. There was a very enthusiastic crowd and it was a typical revival-type religious crusade,” he said.
Bell said Graham preached for about one hour and then people went to a ceremony where they accepted Christ, with subsequent religious counseling.
In 1955, Graham also spoke once at the Great Auditorium when about 12,000 people showed up to hear him speak about a religious renaissance in the world. His sermon was broadcast live on the ABC network.
In August, 1956, Graham gave a series of 10 sermons in the Great Auditorium from Aug. 26 through Sept. 2, in celebration of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association’s 87th anniversary. About 5,000 to 7,000 people attended the series of sermons, with those unable to get inside the Great Auditorium able to hear through speakers placed outside.
In typical Cold War-era fashion, Graham spoke about the fight against the spread of communism, saying “Christianity is the only other alternative to Communism.”
In 2011 his grandson, Will Graham, also preached at the Great Auditorium with a message that reverberated with his grandfather’s influence.