Today is the auspicious coming together of many different parts of church life. It is the day of Pentecost, one of the most festive days of the church year, as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ original disciples and followers. Pentecost is often known as the birthday of the Church (with a capital C).

It is also St. Dunstan’s Day on the Church calendar, the day we remember our patron saint, who more than 1,000 years ago was the Archbishop of Canterbury, a leader in reform of the Church of England, as well as an expert craftsman, which also makes him the patron saint of blacksmiths.

It is also the day we celebrate the 60th anniversary of this church, which we all love so much.

And finally, it is the day we celebrate the baptism of Merritt, the granddaughter of Maggie and Tom, another tie to that first Pentecost when many were baptized.

All of these special things coming together make this a day to celebrate and reflect on the past, present, and future of this place.

Pentecost is a time of launching forth into new life, first for the men and women, followers of Jesus, who were gathered together on that first Pentecost. In the past weeks their lives have been changed dramatically by the forces of sin and evil — the forces that crucified their leader, and put their own lives in jeopardy.

The anguish they felt at the crucifixion changed to amazement and joy at the resurrection. For 40 days, the risen Christ appeared to his friends, bringing them joy and hope.

But now Jesus has ascended into heaven, and once again his followers are alone and bereft. They are gathered together in a hidden room, trying to make sense of Jesus’ parting words that the Holy Spirit would bring them power, wondering what the future held, praying for God’s guidance. 

Then the wind starts to blow. The doors burst open, tongues like fire appear over their heads. The disciples, filled with the Spirit, are propelled from the room into the world. and begin to speak. A crowd of people visiting Jerusalem from many nations gather to look on. And each hears in their own native language what the disciples are saying.

When it is over, scripture says they looked at each other in amazement and asked, “What can this mean?”

What it meant is that the power of God filled that room and transformed the lives of the men and women there. Nothing would be the same for them again.

On that day alone, 3,000 people were baptized. Ultimately the Holy Spirit empowered those men and women to spread the gospel throughout the world.

On that first Pentecost, the gospel of Jesus went global. We learned that day that the Holy Spirit cannot be limited by barriers of language or geography, or by political or religious differences.

And on that first Pentecost something new was born. That something was the church.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of that first Pentecost. We do so knowing that Pentecost is not a one-time event; that the same Holy Spirit that pushed the disciples out of that room is still active in our world today.

Surely the Holy Spirit was at work 60 years ago, when a small group of parishioners from St. Anne’s felt compelled to leave the safety and comfort of a church they loved to begin a new congregation.

Like the first followers of Jesus, those modern-day disciples were not sure where the Spirit would leave them. But they trusted that God would guide them to where they were needed.

For six years they were itinerant pilgrims, worshipping God in a barn on Mt. Paran Road, at Tuxedo School on Northside Drive, and in space at Holy Spirit Catholic and St. John’s Methodist churches.

The first chalice they used was a dog show trophy; the first ciborium, or bread box, a silver cigarette case.

Even as they came to realize that to be a viable parish they needed a space of their own, they also knew that buildings could be as much an encumbrance as an asset. So simplicity and an eye to the natural beauty of the land were key to the design of the parish’s permanent home.

And from the very beginning, reaching out to help people beyond the parish walls was just as important as building those walls.

Today we give thanks for the courage, faithfulness and adventuresome spirit of our founders and celebrate the fruits that were begun by their labors 60 years ago.

We do so knowing that just as Pentecost was not a one-time event, so the founding of a church is a continuous process.

A healthy church is always in motion. The wind of Pentecost is always blowing bringing newness and life.

The Spirit transforms the lives of people and communities in both dramatic and subtle ways. In my 20 years here I have seen much evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in St. Dunstan’s.

I’ve seen the Spirit sweep through vestry meetings, emboldening members to take risks that they believed would bring new life and growth to this community, even in times of difficulty, like a recession or a global pandemic.

I’ve seen the Spirit empower us to reach out into the world in new ways — to open our doors to provide a home for families who have none; to erase crushing medical debt for the poorest in our city; to care for the medical needs of people a world away in Tanzania; to help families in bleak times have joy at Christmas.

I’ve seen the Spirit push us to provide and furnish homes for refugees from Hurricane Katrina, and from Africa and Myanmar. When communities throughout the country announced Muslim refugees from Syrian were now welcomed, I’ve seen this congregation say yes, they are, and raise the money to sponsor and care for them.

During the pandemic I’ve seen the people of this church bring mountains of food to our doors each week to be delivered to local food pantries. I’ve seen you bring hundreds of pairs of socks to help those who live on the streets, and stacks and stacks of school supplies to take to a school where those things are in short supply.

I’ve seen the Spirit bring new people into our community, broadening our diversity and enriching our common life.

I’ve seen her inspire us to examine the moral issues of our day and work to be a prophetic voice for the kingdom of God. 

I’ve seen the Spirit give individuals in this parish the courage to face death without fear, to confront problems that seen insurmountable, to form new friendships, to take risks in their work, and to grow in faith.

I have seen, and felt, the Spirit alive in the care we give one another in times of sickness, death and grief.

This Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is blowing through St. Dunstan’s, bringing transformation and new life.

Today we celebrate the mysterious movement of God in our own midst and throughout the world. 

The truth of Pentecost is that God is not done with us yet. God blows the divine breath over creation in our time just as God has done, and continues to do, in every time.

Thanks be to our founders and to all the people of St. Dunstan’s through the years who have brought us to this day.

Thanks be to God!


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