Sunday, 14 June 2009

Pilgrimage 2009 - Pentecost in Jersusalem

"Pentecost is the festival when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated on the Sunday 50 days after Easter.

Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian church, and the start of the church's mission to the world." BBC Website

We attended the Pentecost service at St Georges Anglican Cathedral - the local write-up is here

I felt a connection to the church on that day because the week before the pilgrimage I'd visited the Coptic Church in Stevenage. Our scheduled speakers, the Revd Andrew Mayes had been unable to attend. The reason,

The Pentecost service was like nothing I'd experienced before. We were given an English service sheet, but were unaware, until the service started, that it would be conducted in (mostly) Arabic and English. The hymns and responses were sung and said by each person in their own language, and it was logistically challenging to start and finish at the same time!

There was a slightly chaotic air to the proceedings, partly because the service started very late, and people kept coming in, walking around, taking photographs (even the robed clergy were out with cameras during the service); one young lady walked up and down the aisle with a video camera, and the cultural context felt very different from our home churches. Yet this is part of the worldwide church, and it's good to experience different styles of worhip :-)

I know that within our pilgrimage group this was experienced very differently; some people found it intrusive, chaotic and disconnecting, others found the singing in different languages represented Pentecost in a very new way, and experienced a sense of joyful unity as a result.

I loved the power of united singing, struggled with the prayers and responses, and hated the intrusive photography; fantasising about physically restraining the people with cameras. I felt alienated by the cameras, and found it impossible to sense worship, so the service became a duty rather than a joy.

Communion was a scrum; none of the decorous queuing found in English churches, and I received my dipped soggy wafer, then was ushered quickly out of the church to get to the toilets and coach - we were running late for our next appointment.

Overall I missed the sense of reverence and awe that I associate with the joyful mystery of Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit, but the 'different languages different cultures' element was demonstrated in a way that I couldn't have imagined, and, despite the mixed feelings during the service, I was very glad to have been there and to have sensed the variety of God's people and the range of worship available, even within the Anglican expression of Christianity.

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