Pentecost is sometimes referred to as “the birthday of the Church,” but the birthday refers not to the institutional church, but rather to our birth into the new life of the Risen Christ, the new creation that comes from the Holy Spirit. Pentecost (this year on May 31) brings the Easter season to an official end, but it also marks the beginning of our new life together. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are guided and supported in our attempts to live out our baptismal promises.
There are significant meanings in the Acts of the Apostles description of Pentecost. The Jewish feast commemorated the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The gift of the Spirit to the Church on this feast fulfills the words of Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). Pentecost also symbolizes the reversal of Babel in Genesis 11. At Babel, confusion, in the form of diverse languages, confound the understanding of the builders. On Pentecost (in Jerusalem), the apostles understood every language being spoken by the crowds (Acts 2:1-4 and John 20:22). At Babel, the human city is scattered. On Pentecost, the City of God is drawn together as 3,000 believers are added to the Church.
After Easter, Pentecost is the most important day of the Church year. Churches typically celebrate it with everyone wearing red (representing the flames of the Holy Spirit), perhaps a dove kite soaring above the congregation in procession, lessons read in various languages, children wearing construction paper flame hats, red balloons tied to pews, and birthday cake at coffee hour. Not this year! But it can still be celebrated at home. Some ideas and links to others:
Social media is beginning to fill up with pictures of adults (young and old) dressed in cap and gown as is typical this time of year. Graduation signs are popping up on front lawns. What is not typical is that these photos are being taken on front porches, around dining room tables, and in Zoom chats. These milestones in a person’s life still need to be marked. What are ways a faith community can lift up graduates (and their families)?
There have been plenty of articles written in the past few weeks about this topic. The Fuller Youth Institute recently posted “Reinventing Graduation: 3 ways to honor milestones in the midst of pandemic” by Hannah Lee Sandoval, offering some interesting ways to connect with graduates after school is out. And in this article from Vox, five soon-to-be graduates share how they are feeling and adapting amidst the grief and loss.
In a previous post, Ideas & Resources for Lament and Thanksgiving, I shared a curated list of prayers (laments and thanksgivings) along with processes to help (youth especially) express their grief in what many have called “being robbed” of a rite of passage due to social distancing and quarantine due to COVID-19.
“We are also beginning to grieve for the passing of a way of life, because however much we want things to go ‘back to normal’, we also recognise at some level that many of them never will. ”
The above quote is from This Too Shall Pass: Mourning Collective Loss in the Time of COVID-19, a document put together by The Collective Psychology Project, a collaborative inquiry into how psychology and politics can be brought together in new, creative ways that help us to become a “Larger Us” instead of a “Them-and-Us.” Within this document they share how to embrace and live out the following eight lessons in fuller detail. In summary, they offer this:
A workshop I was to present in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in early March 2020 was moved to an online webinar using Zoom, of which we are all now so familiar with. Here is a diocese that has been very nimble in taking what would have been their day-long, in-person annual event for Christian formation practitioners called Better Together. They are now calling this “shelter-at-home continuing education,” in which I gave my keynote as a Zoom webinar-styled presentation in the first installment, called Faith Formation in a Changing Church.
I recently offered my two workshops, Children’s Presence in Worship: Full Participation or Brief Appearance and Texting God: The Spirituality of Youth via Zoom meeting for more interaction. Valerie Reinke, Canon Missioner for Faith Formation: 35 & Under and her team recorded them and are making them available for others to view.
At this time of social distancing and the cancellation of many milestones of a young person’s life (graduation from high school or college, prom, senior activities, sports, performances, driver’s licenses, confirmation, etc.) there is a need to acknowledge such loss. The Confirmation Collaborative, a group of Christian formation leaders in The Episcopal Church who come together in person and virtually to live out its mission, recently met via Zoom to talk about the various projects we are working on. We chose instead to focus on creating a source that might assist churches and youth in this time of sadness and grief.
Below are some of the ideas that were generated. It should be noted that these should occur through individual expression and/or online gatherings (zoom, Google classroom, etc.). If at all possible, gather young people together in advance (online) for their input and creation of any liturgy or expression you may choose to construct. Invite them to offer contributions in word, image, music, or any expression they may find unique to their own personality or the group’s identity.
I have always believed that the Season of Easter is a time to plan and look to the future in all manner of things. Depending on where you live in the northern hemisphere, it is a time to think about planting: mapping out your garden, starting seeds, or actually putting plants into the ground. For me it was also about evaluating the past academic year in secular education or the Church.
I’ve written and shared plenty of ideas on how to evaluate your programming and curriculum. I’ll soon be posting new curriculum charts for children, youth, and adult formation. And by popular demand, I offer the Christian Formation Planning Calendar for 2020-2021 (Pentecost 2020 thru August 2021) in two formats for you to adapt to your own context and needs.
Column 2: Sunday Readings appointed for the day (following the Episcopal version of the Revised Common Lectionary). This is not the same as the ’79 BCP lectionary or the standard RCL. Episcopalians like to tweak and amend! Track 1 and Track 2 are offered when applicable.
Old Testament / Hebrew Scripture reading
Psalm or Canticle
New Testament reading
Column 3: Observances
These can be civic (governmental holidays) or ecumenical (shared with other Christians widely)
Space to fill in your own local practice
Column 4: Church Events
For you to fill in with your church’s events or notes for the day
Column 5: Notes
Special days (sacred and secular) that will occur during this week are noted
Space for your notations
Don’t forget to plug-in your teacher trainings and workshops, conference opportunities, seasonal projects for Advent and Lent, pageant and play rehearsals, mission trips, VBS, recognitions and presentations, school vacations and holidays, and social activities. As requested, you can download a pdf version or a Word version.
Stay tuned in the coming days for the updated curriculum charts. A lot has changed in the past year with numerous new resources and a few that have been discontinued. Certainly our lens may have changed a bit in what we choose to use and adapt with new questions to ask: How can I use this resource if/when we cannot meet face-to-face and in person on Sunday (or any other time)? How is this resource adaptable for use at home and online?