[Episcopal News Service] The celebration of Pentecost – a feast marking the birth of the Christian church and spiritual renewal – rippled across The Episcopal Church in music and worship during the “One in the Spirit: Pentecost Way of Love Revival Weekend” from May 21 to 23. As many churches resumed in-person worship after a year of loss and hardship, the virtual revival gathered Episcopalians together online for inspiration and celebration, while also offering space for grief.
On Pentecost Sunday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached during Washington National Cathedral’s morning Eucharist, his first time preaching live at a Sunday service since the start of the pandemic. Curry said the unifying spirit of Pentecost isn’t always obvious, but it is revolutionary – drawing on Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
“Pentecost is about a revolution. It is not about mere moral reform. It is not about tinkering at the edges. It is about transforming an old order into a new order, but do not despair. I know the evidence is not in yet; it looks like the old order is still around, but do not despair,” Curry said.
The weekend began with Washington National Cathedral’s Vigil of Hope, a more somber and subdued liturgy that offered an opportunity “to acknowledge the sorrow of this past year and to turn our collective gaze toward the hope rooted deeply in our faith.”
The vigil gave attendees the chance to pause and reflect on the devastation caused by COVID-19 and racist violence over the past year, through music, prayer and readings, including an excerpt from “If the Trees Can Keep Dancing, So Can I,” a crowdsourced poem written by National Public Radio listeners in the early days of the pandemic.
The weekend continued with the Concert for the Human Family on May 22, the first in a series sponsored by The Episcopal Church, bringing together musicians from different backgrounds and genres with the theme of connecting across difference. Kory Caudill, a pianist from Nashville, Tennessee, who has partnered with The Episcopal Church to design the series, performed with featured artist Wordsmith, a rapper from Baltimore, Maryland, in a concert filmed in April at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.
About 700 people watched the concert stream, and it will be broadcast again on The Episcopal Church’s Facebook page at 8:30 p.m. EDT on May 27. In addition to the music, the performers started off with a conversation based on the church’s From Many, One project that fosters communication across differences through a series of discussion prompts. After the concert, Curry invited attendees to have their own conversations on Zoom.
Curry also preached during the virtual Pentecost Way of Love Revival worship service on May 23, which featured the testimonies, songs and voices of Episcopalians in cathedrals and communities across the church, including St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Washington; Indigenous churches in Navajoland and South Dakota; Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral; Washington National Cathedral; and Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri. In keeping with the spirit of Pentecost, the service was multilingual and the New Testament account of the apostles preaching to crowds in many languages simultaneously was read in English, Spanish, Lakota, Dinka, Hindi, Tamil, Gujarat, Kannada, Telugu and Hmong.
Expounding on the theme of diversity in his sermon, Curry told listeners that the Way of Love the apostles spoke of on Pentecost transcends all societal boundaries and unifies people across cultures.
“This Way of Love, this is not the province of any religion in particular,” he said. “There’s no copyright on love. Love is completely ecumenical. Love is completely interfaith. Love is bipartisan. Love is diverse. Love is multiethnic.”
Noting the intense polarization in the United States and other nations, Curry urged listeners to take Pentecost as an opportunity to start rebuilding trusting, loving relationships.
“Unless we work to heal the relationships between us, both in this country and around the world, catastrophe will continue to be upon us,” Curry said. “[The] way of unselfish, sacrificial love is the way to heal our land and to heal our world.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.