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E.W. Kenyon was born on April 24, 1867, in Hadley, New York. At age 17, he was converted in a Methodist prayer meeting, but he struggled in the doctrinal foundations of faith and had not received the Holy Spirit. He became a church member in his early twenties and gave his first sermon at a Methodist Church in Amsterdam, New York. Although desiring to be an actor, Kenyon earned a living as a piano and organ salesperson. In an attempt to hone his acting skills, Kenyon attended the Emerson School of Oratory in Boston for one year in 1892.
During this time, Kenyon declared himself an agnostic. Kenyon first married Evva Spurling, who was also an agnostic. The two were married on May 8, 1893. Shortly afterward, Kenyon attended the services of Clarendon Street Church led by pastor Adoniram Judson (A.J.) Gordon. At this service, Kenyon and his wife became Christians.
Later that year, Kenyon joined the Free Will Baptists and became a pastor at a small church in Elmira, New York. In 1898, Kenyon opened Bethel Bible Institute in Spencer, Massachusetts, which remained in operation until 1923. He was its president for twenty-five years. The school later moved to Providence, Rhode Island and became Providence Bible Institute. It later became Barrington College and merged with Gordon College, which was named after one of Kenyon's many mentors, A.J. Gordon.