(Apologies about the phone pictures – packing a camera did not make it on the “things to carry to church” list, and we had to improvise!)
Happy Pentecost! This is a record of some of the ways we celebrate Pentecost at Congregation of the Good Shepherd, a record for our life together, and because some people have asked what, exactly, we were doing with 4.5kg of glass pebbles purchased from an aquarium-supplies stall at the Flower Market.
We are a multilingual community. We had a large whiteboard in the foyer, and invited people to write messages of greeting and welcome in a language they know or to draw a picture if writing words wasn’t their thing (preschoolers love whiteboards too!).
We arrived to the Communion Table looking like the picture above (confessions of a ‘4’ on the Enneagram: it didn’t meet my aesthetic hopes, but it worked just fine anyway!).
Some back story: During Lent we have a 7metre long purple cloth that goes from the top of the main aisle to the Table where it finishes under the central candle-holder, which holds six candles. Each week our opening meditation recalls the pain, difficulties and sin of the world, and extinguishes one candle. On the first Sunday in Lent, we draw around some representative feet of congregation members (smallest and largest, longest time worshipping at COGS, a visitor if we have one). We laminate them, and together with the cardboard feet which children decorate, we move them one step closer to the cross/end of the Lenten journey each week.
On Easter Day we transform the purple cloth with white and gold cloth for the liturgical colours of Easter; we turn the feet to race away from the empty tomb, sharing good news. We relight all six candles to celebrate resurrection life. This year we added the rainbow of ribbon to represent different parts of resurrection life. For the remaining Sundays of the Easter Sunday the six central candles are lit, the white cloth is pooled in front of the altar, and the ribbons are cascading over the cloth.
So on Pentecost Sunday we bring to completion our Eastertide celebrations. We rehang the Alleluia banner (we bury the Alleluia at the beginning of Lent, raise it again on Easter Day after decorating it, and today added Holy Spirit doves to it). This year we added birthday present boxes to the ends of the ribbons – each containing a single colour of glass bead/pebble/marble.
We talked about occasions for gifts – and talked about Pentecost as the birthday of the church and the gift of the Holy Spirit for everyone. We then started opening presents – and each one had a Fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) printed inside the box. Most of the children at worship today were readers – so one child would open the box and everyone read out the gift. We then shared the boxes around the congregation – encouraging anyone who needed the Holy Spirit to work to bring a fuller measure of that fruit in their life to take a bead as a reminder. We talked about them as maybe seeds, or that the work of the Holy Spirit was both to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable: maybe some of us need a pebble in our shoe! This seemed to be as popular with the adults as the children – and after worship when all the boxes were together, people came to take extras of qualities from boxes they hadn’t received during worship, and to take phone photos to remind themselves of what they were praying for!
My favourite part of the way we do Pentecost at COGS is during the reading from Acts. After the reader reads the portion that describes how people began speaking in many languages, as the Spirit gave them ability, and in response to the description that “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” we have readers all over the church stand and begin to read two or three verses from anywhere in Scripture that describe to them something of the power of God. This morning we heard Russian, Ukrainian, Japanese, Mandarin, Maori, Fijian and Korean. It is an extraordinary and beautiful sound and many report goosebumps and tears in response to that moment.
The children have been collecting “Change for Change” during the Great Fifty days. We are yet to count it – but, together, with a collection of oil and rice for a migrant school, we seek to focus on some practical ways to share resurrection life with the communities around us.
Worship concludes with each person having a lighted candle (red!) from the Easter candles, as we pray that by the Spirit’s power, we will carry good news into the world around us in the ways we live our lives. The Easter candles and decorations will be put away for another year, but empowered by the Spirit, we seek to be Easter people no matter the time of year!