When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Pentecost is a day of testimony. Not only testimony, but unity. The experience of the disciples in receiving the Spirit, the preaching of Peter to those gathered, and the conversions and baptisms that followed point to the power and freedom of God. When that power and freedom move through us, we are unbounded and we speak, act and live in testimony to God’s power through Jesus. We come together and we know a holy unity.
Some days, testimony comes easily. We rise and speak to the holiness of our diversity as made in God’s image. On other days the Spirit seems absent and we are left with only our stark humanness – days when we see the very worst that we can be. And we grieve. This past week has held some of those difficult days. The past seven days gave us the statistic of 100,000 deaths due to Covid. The week also gave us the death of a single man – George Floyd - that revealed (again) the sin of racism in America. The former resulted in grief for thousands of people. The latter resulted in grief, outrage, protests and violence, also for thousands.
Some days the flames of Pentecost seem to be extinguished. Physical flames erupt instead, ignited from despair, anger and desperation. The wind we hear is not the wind of the Spirit bringing us to unity, repentance and testimony. Instead of the breath of God falling on believers, we hear the labored breathing of those with Covid and those who suffocate under the force and power of others.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, each of us – as your Conference staff - has struggled with events of this past week through prayer, tears, anger, and more prayer. We look within ourselves and know that our own lives have not been the witness to God’s kingdom that they should be. As we say in one prayer of confession, we recognize “all the things we have done, and those things we have left undone.” As the staff of the Penn Central Conference, we commit ourselves again to the practice of witnessing to the image of God in every person through how we speak and how we act, embracing the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, knowing that our witness is fueled by flames of holy love for all humankind and the knowledge that “there is no longer Jew nor Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
We pray that you, our communities of faith, will join us in continuing to advocate for the powerless, examining carefully your own privilege, and bearing witness to the holy wind that unites and empowers. May each of us be a single flame that brings light, burns away falsehood, and ignites healing for individuals, our churches and our nation.
Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, Transitional Conference Minister
Rev. Nora Foust, Associate Conference Minister for Congregational and Ministerial Excellence
Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola, Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Transitions
Rev. Dr. Ronnette Comfort-Butler, Facilitator for Clergy Care and Care to Clergy Families
Ms. Zoe D’heedene, Coordinator of Camping and Retreats
Mr. C. Paul Keller, Office Manager