by Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
Yesterday–Pentecost–started out appropriately enough with some surprises. The sanctuary air conditioning didn’t work. This is Texas in the summer–you want the A/C to work! While a crackerjack team of retired General Dynamics engineers worked to solve the problem, folks at the 8:30 service sat faithfully through a very, very warm service. I kidded that the heat reminded us of the Tongues of Fire and the breeze blowing through the open doors reminded us of the Wind of the Spirit, both of which came upon the city of Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost 2000 years ago. I don’t know if anybody thought I was funny….!
At both the 8:30 and the 11:00 services, we did a couple of things differently to dramatize the meaning of Pentecost. Three lay readers presented the Pentecost story in Acts 2 in English, Spanish, German, and Korean. On Pentecost Day nearly 2000 years ago, Jews and Jewish converts from around the world had gathered at the Temple for the Festival of the First Fruits, when harvest offerings were made to God. When the Holy Spirit descended, it enabled people from countries around the world to understand one another and to understand the Gospel as Peter preached it, transcending language barriers. In our dramatic reading, we tried to convey the holy chaos as well as the incredible power of that moment.
Children helped us out. We gave them red and white “celebration streamers” and told them to wave them around, symbolizing the descending fire and rushing wind of the Spirit. It was especially wonderful to do this at the 8:30 service, which is smaller than the 11:00 and takes place in our sanctuary’s west transept. While we’ve always had a good crowd of kids at the 11:00 service, there’s been recently a large influx of families with younger children at the 8:30 as well. This is the first time we’ve acknowledged that for the early service. Ten or so kids came forward with streamers.
Our brilliant engineers had the A/C working again by the 11:00 service. We often don’t notice such behind-the-scenes activities, but they are critical to the success of any church. And our readers were outstanding–Mary Jane Harbison speaking German, Annette Lopez speaking Spanish, and our seminarian, J.C. Kang, speaking Korean. J.C. also helped out with communion.
God has blessed St. Stephen with a diverse group of talented, wonderful folks–engineers and musicians, children and adults, people representing a plethora of ethnicities, nationalities, and interests. The Holy Spirit’s Pentecost promise is alive and well at St. Stephen!