For many years, people have come to church for key festive days of celebration. You may know the old saying about people who are “C-and-E Christians”—that is, they come to church at Christmas and Easter. And churches welcome this influx of irregular visitors—it is good to celebrate the key moments of our faith with those who choose to join in on those days.
In more recent years, a third festive day has emerged as a time when churches are filled with people joining in the celebrations. The Day of Pentecost is taking its place alongside Christmas and Easter as a key festive day in the church’s calendar. Pentecost, of course, is fifty days after Easter (the name itself signals that fifty-day marker). This year, it took place on Sunday, 28 May.
Pentecost offers a wonderful opportunity for celebrating what is best about our faith. Remembering the coming of the Holy Sprit amongst the early followers of Jesus means that we can celebrate the openness to change, the joy of new developments, that we see around us in the church today. As the Spirit swooped with power amongst those early followers, so too the Spirit is energising the church today to new ways of serving.
Red is the colour for the day, signalling the flames of fire by which the Holy Spirit rested on each of the believers who were gathered in the story told by Luke. At Tuggeranong Uniting Church, Pentecost Sunday has become one of the days when the Tuggeranong 15th Girls Brigade shares in leadership of the service. Girls Brigade Captain Elizabeth Moglia and a crew of enthusiastic helpers decorated the church with striking red-orange-yellow streamers and banners; the scene was set for a fine time of worship!
As the Rev. Elizabeth Raine gathered the congregation with an Acknowledgement of Country, members of the Girls Brigade led in prayer and presented a dramatic “radio news” account of the day of Pentecost. The regular group of five musicians led the congregation for the singing of joyful Pentecost songs, and one member of the congregation offered the Prayers of the People, praying for people in need locally and around the world.
The church was set up for people to sit at table groups, and as the service progressed, each person present was invited to draw their face and pin that face, along with some fiery flames and doves, onto the side wall under a sign inviting “Come, Holy Spirit”. This symbolised the empowering of each member of the congregation for mission in their lives.
Present for this worship service was a strong contingent of younger members who brought energy and enthusiasm to the worship, inspiring all to join in enthusiastically. There was even a line of “cheer squad leaders” waving bright red-orange-and-yellow streamers during the joyful songs.
Elizabeth invited the congregation to consider: “does the Spirit still sweep through the church today, in the same way she did on that first Pentecost”? People responded by saying together an affirmation of the Spirit: “We believe in the spirit. She is extraordinary and wonderful; unknown and mysterious. She is always whirling, always animated; powerful and intense. She is magnificent and amazing; the fantastic, happy, joyful, golden, expression of God” (affirmation from Spill the Beans).
And, because it was the birthday of the church, there was a birthday cake to share at morning tea (and some smaller cupcakes for those with lactose or gluten intolerances); and a box with “gifts of the Spirit” for the young people present—gifts of joy, love, patience, courage, compassion, and more
What a wonderful celebration! What a fine way to remember a central aspect of our Christian faith! What a great way to be motivated to live our neighbour, share our compassion, and serve those in need in our communities!
John Squires is the Editor of With Love to the World.