A Look Back on Pentecost Sunday

| May 25th, 2023

Dear beloved community,

Pentecost Sunday in 2015 was our family’s final in Louisville before making the journey across mountains and miles to make our home here with you in Winston-Salem. And in the nearly eight years we’ve shared together, it seems that Pentecost Sunday has brought an almost-annual occasion of transformation to us!

I looked back in my files – Pentecost 2016 seemed rather ordinary, save for the fresh red choir robes and new hymnals and Bibles bringing our Sanctuary and worship to life!

But who could forget Pentecost of 2017, when John Thornton began his ministry with us and the Special Committee on Facilities and Mission announced their proposal to wholly transform our church’s house and grounds by tearing down two of our three buildings, closing our beloved Children’s Center, and reorienting ourselves for sustainable mission and ministry for the future?

Or Pentecost 2018, when we gathered for the final time in Buildings B & C to mark their meaning in our lives with stones and altars, only to find that the air conditioning had broken, prompting us to relocate our worship in the breezeway lest we roast in the 82-degree chapel? 

How about Pentecost 2019, when just two days following our resplendent worship, a decorative piece of 100 year-old plaster fell from the dome ceiling – closing the Sanctuary for our worship for three months and and reminding us (yet again!) that a church is not merely a building, a Sanctuary is not the primary space in which to worship, and God’s Spirit is always about the work of upending and making new?

From our homes, we carried the last year’s learning as we marked a fearful pandemic Pentecost 2020, just days after our country crossed the threshold of 100,000 covid deaths and George Floyd’s murder spurred protests for racial justice that rose up around and within us. We all were changed. 

Pentecost 2021 will forever be seared in my mind and heart, as that Sunday after 14 months of worshiping apart in body if not in spirit, we regathered in person for worship in our church house. With red cloth swathed in the Sanctuary and wind chimes sent home with each person (to encourage our attention to the Spirit’s movement that rustles like the wind), I wept with grief and gratitude for God’s ever-present Comforter that had carried us through. 

These liturgical rhythms were fresh in mind for me on Pentecost 2022, which I observed with Josh on a beach in Hawaii as part of my summer sabbatical instead of robed in the Sanctuary with you! It felt fitting, though, that the tattoo I got there to mark my 40th birthday was full of Spirit imagery: fire, dove, wind, and wave, marking the Spirit whose mark on me is ever-present and true. 

In light of all the rest, Pentecost this year might feel a bit … ordinary?  (Maybe we’re given a sabbath-esque Pentecost once every seven years?!) On Sunday, we’ll slip into the pews, sing the hymns of faith and tell the stories of Jesus, hear Word proclaimed and good news shared. Expected, you might say.

Yet we serve a God who shows up in the midst of the mundane, amidst long-held rhythms and movements of our daily life, with a mighty wind ready to sweep over the face of the deep and reorder it all.  And through the work of God who pours out their Spirit on all flesh, we the church are summoned from all corners of our living into a movement of Love so broad and vast and transformative, it scrambles languages and topples expectations, never leaving a one or a season behind. Extraordinary, you might say.

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily

P.S. Thank you to all who have shared in our Congregational Conversations this spring! These discussions of space, people, and financial resources have only reinforced my gratitude for you, and for past and future friends whose leadership has and will shepherd our beloved community. As we looked over all our church’s designated funds this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but to give such thanks for the departed saints who have gone before us whose names filled those sheets – for folks like Glenn Butner’s passion for mental health, Egbert Davis’s love for children and students, Emily and O. G. Allen’s imagination for music and worship, Lenwood Ammons’ immense trust in and support of the future needs of his church, the Blackwells’, Shouses’, and Tilsons’ interest in student scholarships, Kathleen Emerson’s desire to tend our building, the McCacherns, Greens, Stokeses’, Whitleys, and Rhada Beddingfield’s wholehearted commitment to missions. Their legacy of love is our honor to steward, invest, use, and bless today. I hope you felt as encouraged as I did too! If you missed Sunday’s conversation, you can click here for the PDF of the presentation. 

P.P.S In today’s newsletter, you’ll see an invitation from the Communications & Outreach Ministry Team and pastoral staff to an interest session for our church’s participation in this year’s Pride Festival hosted just a few blocks away on Trade Street on Saturday, June 24. A number of you have expressed a strong desire for our church to take our message of broad welcome and inclusion right to the LGBTQ+ community that has historically felt so marginalized and wounded by the church. If you’d like to learn more and discuss what that might look like, join us for this brief interest session after worship on Sunday, June 4.