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‘It Scared Me’—Denzel Washington Describes Being ‘Filled With the Holy Ghost’ for the First Time, Feeling Frightened

Denzel Washington revealed in a conversation with megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard that the first time he “gave it up” spiritually, he found himself “filled with the Holy Ghost” and frightened by the experience.

Washington had the experience nearly 40 years ago at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, led by Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. Blake is presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Inc., a Pentecostal Christian denomination that counts about 12,000 churches and more than six million people among its membership. 

The iconic “Malcolm X” actor told Bernard, leader of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, that during his visit to the Los Angeles megachurch he “was filled with the Holy Ghost and it scared (him).”

“I said, wait a minute, I didn’t want to do this deep. I still want to party, you know,” Washington said of the experience. “In fact, (it was) in Bishop Blake’s church, West Angeles Church of God in Christ, in 1981 or ‘82. Robert Townsend took me. Yeah, I went to church with Robert Townsend.”

“And when it came time to come down to the altar, I said, ‘You know, this time, I’m just gonna go down there and give it up and see what happens.’ And I went in the prayer room and gave it up and let go and experienced something I’ve never experienced in my life,” the award-winning actor told Bernard during their Instagram Live session.

AR Bernard Denzel Washington
The Rev. A.R. Bernard actor Denzel Washington talked via Instagram Live on June 24, 2020.

After the profound experience, Washington called his mother and told her that “it felt like I was going up in the air, and my cheeks were filled.”

Bernard laughed as the actor recalled how his mother responded, “Oh no, that’s a devil, you’re purging.”

“But it was a supernatural, if not once in a lifetime experience, once in this lifetime experience, that I couldn’t completely understand at the time,” the 65-year-old New York native said.

Washington, whose father was “a man of God (who) was saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost,” revealed that his son, actor John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”), also has had a similar spiritual experience.

Despite his initial encounter with God, Washington explained that he actually has given his life to Christ “a couple of three times.” Although the Holy Ghost experience kept him “grounded,” Washington said he just “wasn’t ready to live it” at the time.

Acknowledging that prayers—especially from his mother and wife, fellow actor Pauletta Washington—helped protect him throughout his career, Washington left no doubt that he believes he’ll be spending eternity with God.

“I just want to be in that number. When the saints go marching in. That’s what I want,” Washington told Bernard at the end of their conversation. “I don’t care where I am in that line. I didn’t say I want to be first, last, in the middle. I know I won’t be alone, but I want more than anything else in my life to be in that number.”

Washington and Bernard’s live discussion lasted about 33 minutes. In addition to talking at length about the actor’s spiritual experiences, they also comment on a woman who prophesied over Washington’s life after he was kicked out of college, his low-key philanthropy work, marriage, and more.

Bernard and Washington have been friends for years, with “The Equalizer” star endorsing Bernard’s 2017 bestselling book, Four Things Women Want from a Man.

“A.R. Bernard has been a major influence in our lives…[helping us reach] a higher level in our relationship and spiritual growth,” Washington said at the time.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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