The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, initiating a major cultural and political shift. Although hippies also gathered in major cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe, San Francisco remained the epicenter of the social earthquake which would come to be known as the Hippie Revolution. As the hippie counterculture movement came farther and farther forward into public awareness, the activities centered therein became a defining moment of the 1960’s, causing numerous ordinary citizens’ to begin questioning everything and anything about them and their environment as a result.
The hippies were sometimes called flower people and were an eclectic group. Many of them were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values, and generally opposed the Vietnam War. Others were uninterested in political affairs and preferred to spend their time involved in partying with sex, drugs and music.
The prelude to the Summer of Love was the Human Be-In at the Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967 where 30,000 like-minded people gathering together in unity made this to be the first event that confirmed there was a viable hippie scene.
The mainstream media’s coverage of hippie life in the Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America. The media’s fascination with the “counterculture” continued with the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where approximately 30,000 people gathered for the first day of the music festival, with the number swelling to 60,000 on the final day. In addition, media coverage of the Monterey Pop Festival facilitated the Summer of Love even further as large numbers of fledgling hippies headed to San Francisco to hear their favorite bands such as The Who, Grateful Dead, the Animals, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, The Byrds, and Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.
A spirit of revolution was in the air but another revolution was being birthed as well. And this was a revolution of righteousness. One young bay area couple, Ted and Liz Wise, then in their mid-twenties, were feeling a spiritual impulse, but each for a different reason. They were feeling disillusioned with what they were seeing in the counterculture movement and wanted a different high. They started seeking and searching for God and they found Him in a big way.
Soon they rented a rambling farmhouse in Novato, California in North Marin County of San Francisco where they opened a communal living space shared with three other Christian couples and their children. They formed what is considered the first community of the fledgling Jesus Movement, The House of Acts. The Wises and the other couples from the House of Acts Community provided the leadership for opening the first Jesus Coffeehouse in the Haight, The Living Room.
It was during this period of time when they would go into the Haight District and evangelize the youth that their paths met divine destiny. They encountered Lonnie Frisbee, a young hippie who recently came to San Francisco from Orange County, California. Lonnie had had a radical encounter with Jesus when he was on an LSD trip in the mountains near Palm Springs.
Lonnie went up to Tahquitz Canyon and dropped LSD and cried out to God, “God if your real….reveal yourself to me!”. All of a sudden the atmosphere of the canyon started to change and Lonnie had a vision of the Pacific Ocean. But instead of being filled with water it was filled with people in darkness who had lost their way. Jesus appeared to Lonnie and told him that God was putting a light on him to reach lost people.
Lonnie had a scholarship up to San Francisco to study at the famous San Francisco Art Academy. In the meantime, he would go into the Haight district and evangelize. But Lonnie did not know the bible and he would often preach that Jesus was coming back in a space ship.
It was divine fate when God caused the paths of Ted Wise to meet Lonnie Frisbee one day while in the heart of the Haight District. The rest is history when Ted invited Lonnie to come and move into the “House of Acts”. It was during that time that Lonnie started learning the ways of the spirit of the Lord. Lonnie would often go to serve at The Living Room coffeehouse and help out. One day he encountered another radical person who would later become famous. Lonnie tried to share Jesus with this man but he wanted none of it. His name was Charles Manson.
There was something being birthed in the San Francisco area that would spread across the country. The Living Room Ministry, like the house of Acts, became a greenhouse of fertile Christian ideas and growth to the community and both inspired and served as models for similar ministries across the United States.
(next blog will be on the Jesus Movement erupting in Southern California)