Reflection on Pentecost Sunday


The triad of Ascension Day, Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday is a traditional way of observing and celebrating the work of the Trinity. In our age where symbols, emblems and icons are communicated through multiple media, it can be hard for us to imagine what it was like in the centuries before. There was time when even printed materials were not easily available. About the only way to communicate traditions is through colours, observing of special days, special prayers, decorations and iconic images (i.e. stained glasses etc).

Today, we live in a different world, and this is especially true for those living in global cities. We have access to everything, and all the time through “on demand” readings, sermons or videos. Often, these are also “push” to us. Sermons no longer follow the church lectionary (which is also tied to the Church calendar) strictly. There are fewer unique peaks, if any, in our church life. Most people don’t read poems these days or any material which require deeper reading. Our brains have been wired by modern media and we no longer have “trained synapses” which can cope with meditative reading or contemplation.

We can understand why many question the relevance of our church traditions. A church leader came to me and asked me the reason for our reciting the Lord’s prayer every Sunday. Our prayer collects can seem strangely remote.

It will never be easy to explain the place and relevance of some of these traditions in modern life. Church traditions, whether classic or contemporary is enculturated over time. The Sunday Service with its limited time; struggle to fulfil the wide range of purposes or expectations. This is one reason why some churches have diverse Services, keeping the integrity of the whole Service around some key focus instead of a “rojak” approach. When I was in the Cathedral, our slew of 15 Services meeting in halls with different design settings were suited for this approach. In MPCC, I can imagine that one day, we need to have some diversity in our Services and perhaps add one or two more. Some of our church traditions are also best experienced in prayer retreats and that is also another form of spiritual enculturation. Our year-long experience with the daily office broadcast (ceased as of 31st May) was also a way of enriching the daily prayer lives of our lay.

In any case, June and the school holiday month has arrived. I trust that this month will have a different texture in our church life. The Retreat or Camp is normally held on this month. We will have some outreach activities such as the Herbs Seminar and Father’s Day weekend. Many of us will be travelling as well. We will take a break from monthly events like the Church@Prayer.

Meanwhile, we are looking forward to the new Season and a return to a centralised Alpha Course in late July. May we find the space to connect with our friends. We remind ourselves: seeding precedes the harvest.