Have Faith: Pentecost Sunday

The spirit can fill you no matter where you worship.


When I first started writing this column, I thought about how awesome it would be to learn more about other religions as I wrote it. I still have a lot to learn about other traditions — Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Indigenous religions and others — and I’d love to hear back from people who know about these religions. I’d like to learn more about them. There may be people locally who can help me better write about and understand them.

Like most people I’m surrounded by I’m familiar with Christianity, but I lack a strong understanding of other religions. And even though I think I have a good grasp on Christianity and the various denominations within it, there are still the nuances between the Federated churches, the Congregational churches, Seventh-day Adventists, Mormonism and more. It’s a big world out there and it would be really great to learn more about it.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Grace Church are planning another joint service at the Tabernacle on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, at 5 pm. I loved the Easter service, so I’m planning to go on that Sunday as well. The idea of Pentecost brought back memories for me.

When I was in elementary school, one of my friends belonged to the Pentecost church in our town. Her dad was the pastor of the church and they had a very active youth group. They had their own buses to take the kids all over the place. My family had stopped going to church when I was around 12, but I had always loved the mystery and the prayers of the Catholic church. I asked my parents if I could go with my friend’s youth group one Wednesday night and they said yes. (Even though we didn’t go to church as a family, they were generally open to us kids visiting other churches.)

I got on the bus, which was filled with kids my age that I knew from school and some from other schools. They were rowdy and happy and they sang Christian songs all through the bus ride. Now, I can’t remember a thing about where we went spiritually but I do remember the trip included a stop at McDonald’s. And I remember the singing and the liveliness of that bus ride. Compared to the quiet and the smell of incense that I was familiar with, this church was a whole new experience. In the end, I went on a couple of more outings with the youth group and went to church there a couple of times, but it just didn’t stick with me. You can take the girl away from the incense but you can’t take the incense away from the girl I guess.

My biggest takeaway from that church experience was that they “talked in tongues.” That’s a pretty heavy concept for a junior high school kid. I had no idea what that meant. All I knew is that all of a sudden during prayers, some people began waving their arms with their eyes closed and then sort of babbling words I didn’t understand. I never realized that “Pentecost” came from a particular event in the Christian church.

Over the years I confess (no pun intended) that I never took a deeper look at Pentecost. I knew it was a Sunday that falls after Easter, and that the Bible readings that day were always about how Jesus returned (from the dead) to visit his apostles and that the Holy Spirit fell upon them when he visited. All of a sudden after the Holy Spirit entered each of them they could speak in foreign tongues. When you’re a child, that’s just weird. Why would that even happen? Well, Jesus gave the apostles a job to do: Go out into the world and tell the people about him. They would need to be able to communicate with people in foreign lands. Now it makes more sense to me.

The Holy Spirit is still mysterious to me though, but the idea that God is essentially part of everything and everyone is what I get from Pentecost now. It’s why churches teach that we should love each other, take care of each other. Matthew says in the Gospels, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.”

I think that’s what we’re supposed to do, be as much like Jesus as we can. Other religions may not use the Bible as Christians do; they have other prophets and other books but many of the principles are the same: love one another, help one another, and be kind to one another. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

That bus ride with the kids and the trip to McDonald’s was very different from what I was used to, but I did see kids being kind to each other, laughing and singing together. That event wasn’t so strange now that I look back on it.

If you have news for Have Faith, or if you’d like to discuss your own tradition, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at connie@mvtimes.com.