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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

May 2012

~A New Wind Blowing~


“When the day of Pentecost had come,

they were all together in one place.”  Acts 2:1



Members and Friends,

            My father-in-law’s first name is Leslie.  He hates it.  It’s an old family name, but he hates it so much that he never even acknowledges mention of it.  He could show up at the proverbial Pearly Gates, but if St. Peter called him “Leslie,” he would silently turn around and search for the exit.  He goes by his middle name, “Joe,” which suits him far better.  The name Leslie long ago migrated to the female camp.  As did Evelyn, and Robin, and many others.  I’ve even seen the names Brian and Ryan given to girls.  Winds of change blow, and there’s no going back.


            In a similar way, new meanings can attach themselves to old words, sometimes replacing the original meanings altogether.  Of course, the word “gay” is the most immediate example.  But one of my favorites is the word “connive,” which used to mean “to turn a blind eye” at some injustice that one has the duty to oppose.  (I like that meaning because something as universal as conniving needs its own word.)  But now, the word “connive” simply means “to scheme.”  A “translator” used to work with written communication, and an “interpreter” worked with spoken communication.  Nowadays, the two words are used interchangeably.  American children today have more firsthand experience of a computer “mouse” than of its namesake rodent.  I wonder when they’ll begin to believe that the animal was named after the gadget.  There’s nothing wrong with these shifts in meaning.  All living things change and grow, including language.  The winds of change have always blown, altering names and languages, transforming faiths, and ways of thinking, and old institutions.


            One word that I really do regret losing is “Pentecost.”  It’s a word loaded with awkward connotations for modern ears.  But Luke’s description of Pentecost is beautiful: “When the day of Pentecost had come, [the disciples] were all together in one place.”  They were hiding out.  They’d been having extraordinary visions of the risen Christ.  They were bewildered, and happy, and scared.  And one day, in the midst of this confusing time, a strange new wind blew across their spirits.  In that moment, the fearful became bold.  The listless became inspired.  The half-hearted became passionate.  It was a collective spiritual encounter—an ecstatic experience—so real that it’s described in terms of wind, and fire, and rapturous speech.  In that moment of shared inspiration, the church was born.  A new wind was blowing.


            New winds are blowing again in our lives and in our world, in our church and in the Church.  There’s a move afoot for more localized autonomy at most levels of society.  Changes to the Presbyterian constitution grant greater independence to congregations and presbyteries.  “Ministers” are now “teaching elders.”  The church “session” is now the “council.”  Pittsburgh Presbytery still exists and functions, but it is dividing up into four geographic quadrants, which will conduct much presbytery business at the neighborhood level.


            New winds are blowing at Bower Hill Church, too.  On September 5, 2010, after one month as your pastor, I declared our objective to be 130 in average worship attendance, with 20 kids at the children’s sermon.  It seemed ambitious at the time, but since the beginning of 2012, you have exceeded that goal!  Aside from a lively worship service on May 27, what does Pentecost mean for us here at Bower Hill?  New joys always occasion new responsibilities.  We will discover new ways of including people, new ways of reaching out to the world, new ways of being church, all the while remaining faithful to our longstanding identity.  Pentecost, the forgotten holiday, was born out of togetherness.  At this point in our history, it’s time to Think Pentecost!   Let’s reclaim an old word for such a time as this. 


            In Christ’s Peace,