These are strange and uncertain times, not unlike the experiences of the disciples as they locked themselves away in the Upper Room, for fear of the Jews.
They knew that to venture outside meant risking death, and therefore they followed Jesus’ instructions to remain in isolation until the descent of the Holy Ghost amongst them. Their discipline was rewarded, and the Church of God prevailed.
Today, instead of churches filled with thunderous praise and spirit-filled worship, we gather for this Pentecost 2020 in our own rooms, in our own spaces, not unmindful of the threat of COVID-19, but more convicted by the power of God and His promise to His children, that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil.
Today, more than ever perhaps, the Church is being called upon to witness to God’s truth in many different modalities. One of the effects of Pentecost was the ability of the disciples to speak in such a manner that those who were listening, though of different personal circumstances, from different territories and speaking dissimilar languages, were still able to understand the Word of God proclaimed by Peter and his brother disciples.
As it was then, so it is for the Church in this modern world. We are currently using different communication modalities, and yet, persons from different backgrounds, persons who are unaccustomed to hearing the Word of God preached in this way, persons who are accustomed to having hands laid upon them to feel the presence of the Spirit, are still hearing God’s Word, are still being convicted by the Spirit, and are still growing in faith.
But what will the new normal bring for Church and country? Will our young people who feel under-represented in all spheres of life continue to argue that no-one is speaking their language?
Will underdeveloped communities continue to hear words of appeasement to quell their protests, followed by the accustomed inaction of those entrusted with the responsibility to act? Will our minority groups continue to express frustration over their perceived exclusion from the national discourse?
The big question for us is this: how does the Church in Trinidad and Tobago now speak to its membership and the national community in a language that they will all understand?
There is only one language that satisfies that hunger, the language of love. The current emptiness of our churches must not silence the language of love the Church is called upon to speak.
Despite the isolation caused by social-distancing measures, the Church must continue to be a field hospital for those injured by bigotry, hatred, exclusion, and xenophobia that prevent them from hearing the Word of God preached to them.
Similarly, the Church must challenge other stakeholders to speak in languages that encourage participation rather than exclude, that build bridges rather than barriers, and that lift the fallen rather than trample them underfoot in the name of progress.
As we celebrate the Church’s birthday today, let us accept the tremendous responsibility entrusted to us by God, to speak the language of love, always.