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Hallo again to all.

Today is Pentecost, once known as Whitsunday. You probably heard (or gave) a sermon about the Holy Spirit, you probably sang a hymn about a festival day, and there was probably a good deal of bright red to be seen. Through the centuries, different parts of the Anglican Communion have evolved different lectionaries, different names for the various Sundays, and different hymnals. But Pentecost is one of the days whose celebration remains somewhat uniform around the world. We shouldn't be at all surprised if a church in the Diocese of Malaita (Solomon Islands) had music and a sermon quite similar to a church in the Diocese of Toronto.

Unusually on this day, we attended a service far from home. We found the church from the listings in Anglicans Online, checked the time of the service, found its location on a map — but with so much talk of schism in the church, we weren't sure what we would find. Did we need to worry about whether this church was 'one of them' or 'one of us', whoever 'us' and 'them' might be?

We shouldn't have worried. The music was outstanding, the sermon excellent, the welcome warm. From the opening Taizé anthem Veni Sanctus Spiritus to the last hymn 'God the Omnipotent! King, who Ordainest', we felt included. We left after the service and coffee hour without knowing or caring about the parish's stand on any of the so-called divisive issues of our time. The only thing out of place was our clothing: we were dressed more formally than anyone else there. But the liturgy, the music, the people, the sermon, and the warm welcome were genuine and universal.

To us Pentecost is a symbol of unity in diversity. People from diverse lands all talking to one another, the apostles all in agreement ('these all continued with one accord'), and 'all the believers were together and had everything in common'. Yes, we have our differences, but we can find it in us to ignore them and focus on our unity.

At this church far from home, we encountered a symbol of unity in the face of differences. Rather than continue the argument about common cup versus intinction and fret about offending one group or the other, this parish had two chalices and two chalice bearers. The first chalice was the common cup and the second chalice was for intinction. Perhaps communion was a little slower, but it solved the problem to everyone's satisfaction.

As we strolled off to lunch in a brisk wind and under a brilliant blue sky, we delighted in the strong and joyful feeling of unity in our beloved — if oftimes cranky and creaky — Anglican Communion. We couldn't help but remember this passage from Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726:

It is computed, that eleven thousand Persons have, at several times, suffered Death, rather than submit to break their Eggs at the smaller End. Many hundred large Volumes have been published upon this Controversy: But the books of the Big-Endians have been long forbidden, and the whole Party rendered incapable by Law of holding Employments.... For the Words are these: That all true Believers shall break their Eggs at the convenient End: and which is the convenient End, seems, in my humble Opinion, to be left to every Man's Conscience, or at least in the power of the Chief Magistrate to determine. Now the Big-Endian Exiles have found so much Credit in the Emperor of Blefuscu's Court, and so much private Assistance and Encouragement from their Party here at home, that a bloody War has been carried on between the two Empires for six and thirty Moons with various Success....

We're thankful that the eucharist is bread and wine, not eggs. The shells would make such a mess at the altar rail.

Come, Holy Spirit!

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 30 May 2004

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