I grew up in a Baptist church that became increasingly more and more Pentecostal and Charismatic as I grew older. If you know anything about these movements then you know that isolated instances of charismatic worship have popped up in Christianity since the beginning, but took on new energy and fervor in the early 1900s when William Seymour, a black preacher from Louisiana, traveled to Los Angeles where his preaching launched a three-year revival. You heard me right. Not three days, but three years. The so-called Azusa Street Revival centered the movement of the Holy Spirit who Pentecostals believe would empower people to preach, testify, faint, and sing and speak in tongues. People would come from all over to attend these revivals and then carry this religious movement back to their home congregations, where many were ostracized for their new religious beliefs.

I remember growing up feeling as though my church was somehow more special than others because we believed the way we did. Although it wore the guise of humility, there was a spiritual pride in belonging to a church that had somehow gotten it right when it came to what Pentecost was all about – inexplicable and ecstatic spiritual experience.

The, perhaps intentional, fruit of this type of belief was an increasing isolation from the things of the world. I didn’t quite grow up in a house where dancing, music, and movies were forbidden, but I certainly remember feeling as though I was living under a microscope of sorts, like God was watching my every move and taking careful, copious notes. We believed that we were called to be radically different, set apart even, from the world around us. Rather than drawing the world together, it appeared to me that the work of the Holy Spirit was actually doing a lot more work to divide us.

As I have grown older and as I witness the increasing polarization, terrorism, and alienation in our world, I become more and more sure of one thing: division is not of God. Peace is. Christ did not come to give us one more thing to argue about. God knows we have more than enough. He came not only that we might have an example of living a radically compassionate life, but also so that he could destroy once-and-for-all what St. Paul calls “the dividing wall of hostility between us”[1] and invite us into the unity and love of God and the compassionate community that flows from that.

Let me give you an example: a few weeks ago I was teaching a weekend course on systemic oppression at Bishop Kemper School for Ministry in Topeka, Kansas where I serve as a member of the faculty. When I shared with the class that biological race does not actually exist, that I share as much in common biologically with Donald Trump as I do with Barack Obama, they were astounded. But it’s true. Race was made up for all sorts reasons, but especially to give us permission to hate one another. There are no huge, biological differences between human; it is literally all just skin deep; but, for centuries we have piled more and more meaning onto, something that ultimately does not exist. The result it what we see around us: deep skepticism and suspicion, calloused hearts and close hands, debilitating pain, and seemingly intractable suffering.

But into that conversation, which is fraught with many dangers, I hear the call of Christ to remember our vocation as peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he says, “for they shall be called children of God.”[2] Our call is to remember that the ultimate work of dismantling division and estrangement has already been accomplished by Christ on the cross. Our work is to follow in his holy wake; to carry the message of peace, and compassion, and love into the world; to point to the reality that the things that divide us, the things that cause us to fight, the things that break relationships, are not more powerful than the love and the power of God to draw us all together.

That’s what I hear in the Pentecost story: I hear of a God who destroyed the illusion of debilitating difference and invited the whole world – regardless of language, place of origin, and ethnicity –  to share the story of God’s divine love. Here’s the truth: the story of God belongs to none of us because it belongs to all of us. What makes us different ought to not make us enemies. In fact, our differences ought to make us curious friends, searching both for common ground and for growing edges where we might learn.

Walter Brueggemann has a poem that I believe captures this quite eloquently:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
our great redeemer’s name:
To sing beyond ourselves, extravagantly,
with abandonment
beyond all our possibilities
and all our fears,
and all our hopes…
to our redeemer dear, the antidote to our death,
the salve to our wounds,
the resolve of our destructiveness…
A thousand, a million, a trillion tongues,
more than our own,
more than our tradition,
more than our theology,
more than our understanding,
tongues around us,
tongues among us,
tongues from our silenced parts.
Tongues from us to you in freedom and in courage,
finally ceding our lives and our loves to your good care.[3]

I get questions all the time about how I feel about speaking in tongues as an Episcopalian who grew up as a Pentecostal. My answer is this: when it comes to speaking in tongues I am favor of speaking in the kinds of tongues that bring peace, and courage, and understanding, and redemption, and love. Tongues that transcend and transfigure our understanding of human differences and call us deeper into truthful and honest relationship into one another. Those are the tongues I believe God is concerned about, and those are the tongues the Church is called to speak in.

 

[1] Ephesians 2:14

[2] Matthew 5:9

[3] Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, 9.

REOPENING of Saint Paul's Church 27 June at 10:00am - click for details

Dear Saint Paul’s faith community members and friends,

God’s peace be with you! Rejoice! Rejoice! Given the decrease in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and the increase in the number of people who have been vaccinated, we are excited to announce the re- opening of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church building on Lake of the Isles on Sunday, 27 June at 10:00AM. We will have a beautiful and joyful worship with Eucharist, and coffee hour to follow. For those of you who are unable to come to the church building, a live Zoom stream will be available. Look for the Zoom link in the E-pistle.

Saint Paul’s COVID-19 Response Team Members (Mark Anderson, Steve Riendl, Angie Paulson, Jacob Manier, Rev. Janet MacNally, and Rev. Ramona Scarpace) have put together guidelines for worshiping together in-person. These guidelines are based on information from the Centers for Disease Control, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. The team asks that, in the spirit of loving God and neighbor, everyone follow the guidelines as listed below. If you have any questions or concerns about these guidelines, please contact Junior Warden and COVID Response Team Chair Steve Riendl at sriendl@stpaulsmpls.org.

IN-PERSON WORSHIP GUIDELINES: Attendance

  • No pre-registration for worship is required

Your Health

  • If you aren’t feeling well for any reason, please take care of yourself at home. You may join the service via Zoom.
  • If you have any personal health questions or concerns about attending in-person worship services, please speak with your medical provider.

Creating a Welcoming and Safer Environment

  • Greeters and ushers will be on-hand to assist you with seating, service bulletins, questions
  • The church and restrooms will be cleaned before and after each Sunday worship service
  • Hand sanitizer and masks will be available
  • All books will be removed from the pews. Worship bulletins will be available in paper and electronic format.

Masks and Social Distancing

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask or socially distance. You may wear a mask and socially distance for your own comfort level.
  • If you are not vaccinated, please wear a mask and socially distance.
  • If someone is wearing a mask, please keep socially distant from them.

Seating

  • Saint Paul’s Church seats approximately 250 people. Given our regular Sunday attendance numbers, there is plenty of room to spread out.
  • We recommend that family groups sit together.
  • Fully vaccinated people may sit with other fully vaccinated people.
  • If someone is wearing a mask, please socially distance from them when selecting a seat

Singing

  • Congregational singing is permitted.

The Peace

  • Please remain in your seats for the Peace. Use a wave, a nod, a smile, etc.

The Eucharist

  • Clergy and those assisting at the altar will sanitize their hands in view of the congregation.
  • Communion will be of bread only. We will use gluten-free wafers for all. Receive the bread in your hands.
  • The common cup of wine will not be used at this time.
  • You may receive at the altar rail kneeling or standing. If you are unable to or do not wish to come up to the altar rail, please notify an usher, and the bread will be brought to you.
  • Note: Rev. Ramona, and Rev. Janet are fully vaccinated.

Coffee Hour

  • To be held at the back of the church
  • Coffee and lemonade only, served in disposable cups
  • A limited number of people will set up refreshments and pour
  • No foods at this time

Nursery

  • The nursery will be available and staffed.
  • The nursery will be cleaned before and after each Sunday.
  • Parents must give contact information (name and phone number)

COVID-19 Tracing

  • If Saint Paul’s becomes aware of a situation where someone who attended the service receives information that they have contacted COVID, Saint Paul’s will notify people of the occurrence via the E-pistle.

We give thanks for the gift of coming together in-person to worship God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life. We give thanks for all who worked so diligently to create and distribute vaccines. We give thanks for those who put themselves at risk to keep others safe. We remember those who have died and hold their families in our prayers.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday, 27 June!

Blessings,
Mark Anderson, Senior Warden
Steve Riendl, Junior Warden
Rev. Ramona Scarpace, Priest-in-Charge

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