Sunday, June 12, 2011 was Pentecost. Fr. Lance. the priest at All Saints Anglican, arranged a grand celebration. For nine days we prayed and then on Sunday we wore red and had our heads anointed with oil.
13 years ago all I understood about Pentecost was that it appeared on church bulletins. There was the First Sunday after Pentecost, the Second Sunday after Pentecost and so on. Despite my ignorance I put it on the preliminary worship calendar of Foxboro Universalist Church. At a seminar for worship chairs at the Sharon Unitarian Universalist Church we were told to put every secular and religious holiday on a preliminary worship schedule. So I added Pentecost to the worship calendar and sent it to Rev. Glessner, our minister, for his review. I assumed he would modify it and send it back to me. Instead he banded together with two other parishioners and sent a letter to the entire congregation accusing me of wanting to move the church towards Christian orthodoxy. He used as evidence my listing Pentecost and Trinity Sunday on the worship calendar. What he didn’t tell them, was other holidays from other faiths were also listed and that whoever was doing the service for a particular Sunday could choose to ignore a particular holiday if they wanted to.
After receiving Rev. Glessner’s letter I looked up Pentecost. I learned it was part of the Jewish harvest festival, Shavuot. For Christians it symbolized the Holy Spirit or as I understood it then, the spirit of God. Why would Rev. Glessner, a congregational minister, be alarmed by its inclusion on a proposed worship calendar? Was he purposely manipulating parishioners’ ignorance and fear of Christianity in order to maintain his power and control? Or was he frightened by the Holy Spirit? Why couldn’t a Unitarian Universalist minister or lay leader create a service explaining what Unitarian Universalists believed about the Holy Spirit? On Christmas and Easter they reinterpret Christ’s birth and resurrection. Why not reinterpret Pentecost, also? Why were UUs afraid of that?
I will never know Rev. Glessner’s motivations. After I was pushed out of Foxboro I joined a Lutheran Church. There during a Bible study on Acts, I learned that on the Jewish Pentecost, the Apostles were visited by the Holy Spirit in the upper room where they were hiding. I also learned to wear red on Pentecost Sunday. Red being my favorite color I was happy to conform even though I didn’t understand why.
This year during Bible study, Sunday Gospel readings and Fr. Lance’s sermons I learned that Jesus promised not to leave His apostles orphaned. He would send the Holy Spirit to them. Pentecost is a celebration of the fulfillment of that promise.
In Not of My Making I recount at least two instances where the Holy Spirit moved and comforted me. I don’t identify it as such but given my new understanding of Pentecost, I believe it was the Holy Spirit who let me know there truly was a God and during my morning prayers and meditation guided my recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I am comforted knowing God promised not to abandon those who had accepted Christ. I am His by adoption and, unlike my fickle church friends, He would never abandon me. I take shelter in the shadow of God’s wings. Amen.