I can hardly believe that we have just celebrated the feast of Pentecost. When the lockdown started we were in the middle of Lent (the last service at St. Albright’s was back in March) so we have had Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and now Pentecost – many of the major events and festivals of the church year. All have been commemorated virtually with services streamed on Facebook from people’s homes (and latterly from church) with a dispersed worshipping community. It seems so strange to go through this most important time in the life of the church with so little face to face contact with anyone.
However, if the message of Pentecost means anything it is that the church has an essential unity even if we are not physically together in one place. The Holy Spirit unites us, he brings us together and we are “One in the Spirit” (Col. 3.14). The prayer of spiritual communion which we have been saying at our eucharistic services reminds us of this. I was very moved on Sunday when several people from St. Albright’s who speak a language other than English got together to say the Lord’s Prayer, each person saying a line in English and then in another language. There was an immense variety from Cantonese to Swedish, from Tamil to Ibo, from Akan to French and more besides. The church family saying the church family prayer, but in different places and in languages from all over the world, so it reminded me of the extraordinary variety as well as our unity.
We are reminded today of the world-wide scope of the church as the 3rd June commemorates the martyrs of Uganda. In 1886 a large number of Christian boys and young men were murdered by the local ruler because they refused out of Christian principle to do his bidding. Less than a hundred years after that event another ruler of Uganda, Idi Amin, put many Christian leaders to death in a persecution reminiscent of imperial Rome. Many more were driven into exile, such as our current Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.
The Holy Spirit is with us always – there to guide, there to teach, there to give us comfort, there to give us courage. Those Ugandan martyrs could not have done what they did without the power of the Holy Spirit in them and, while we may not be called to such extreme sacrifice, he is nonetheless there for all of us, wherever we are, whatever we do.
It will probably be some time before we can all gather together in St. Albright’s but in the meantime let us remember and hold fast to that important fact that we are all one, bound together by the Holy Spirit.
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation
the way of life eternal:
open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Common Worship Post Communion Prayer for Pentecost)