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A statement from the Moderator on Pentecost Sunday

Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland Rev Dr David Pitman
Last weekend the Moderator of the Queensland Synod Rev Dr David Pitman participated in various church and community-related activities as part of the Festival of the Wind, organised by Tourism Chaplain, the Rev Terry Ayling, in the Whitsunday’s.  These events related to both the Christian celebration of Pentecost as well as remembering that Captain Cook named the Whitsunday Passage and Pentecost Island on the 27th May 1770.   He shared this statement about Pentecost on that occasion.

The story of the first Pentecost in Acts 2, uses the metaphors of wind and fire to describe the nature and activity of the Holy Spirit. Both of these words relate to themes that can be traced through both the Old Testament and the New. The power of the wind and the purifying effect of fire change everything they touch in order that the will and purpose of God might be revealed through the transformation of both individuals and communities.

That is what happened in Jerusalem long ago. People who had been living in fear began to boldly bear witness to the Gospel. They gathered into communities of faith and care. They shared what they had to ensure that everyone was looked after and had what they needed for daily life. They were generous and hospitable in opening their homes to one another. It was publicly acknowledged, even by their enemies, that their love for one another was the most significant quality of their life together.

The Pentecost story can be understood as a testimony to the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to enable people to listen and to understand. There is a miracle of hearing in this story. In spite of all the potential barriers of language, culture, class and race, people heard the gospel and responded.

This year, Pentecost coincides with the 40th Anniversary of the referendum to include Indigenous people in the national census and empower the Commonwealth Government to enact laws on their behalf. 90% of Australians voted “yes”. There was a deep hope at the time that the prejudice and discrimination experienced by the majority of Indigenous people until then could be addressed and rectified. 40 years on the life situation of so many Indigenous people continues to be reason only for shame and distress. Standards of health, education and housing are appalling. Unemployment is rife. Life expectancy is 17 years lower than for other Australians.

So we pray:  Come Holy Spirit, come as wind and fire, and awaken both our individual and national conscience in relation to the plight of Indigenous people, to strengthen our resolve to stand with them in their struggle, and to demand of our Governments that they partner with them in implementing constructive, strenuous and ongoing efforts to enhance their quality of life.

As we celebrate Pentecost, a massive new Detention Centre is under construction on Christmas Island, a component of our Australian Government’s plan to process applications by refugees and asylum seekers “off-shore”. A video in circulation reveals the equivalent of a top-security prison, surrounded by a very high fence complete with razor wire. This is our Government’s way of dealing with people already traumatised, and put even more at risk if forced to return to their own countries.

So we pray:   Come Holy Spirit, come as wind and fire, and confront our fear and anxiety about those who have fled to our country to escape war, persecution or starvation. Help us to be open-hearted and generous in our welcome and hospitality. As they have no voice of their own and their rights according to international law are often disregarded, give us the courage to speak and act on their behalf.

In the week leading up to Pentecost, a well-known former politician has announced her intention to stand at the next election for a seat in the Senate. She used the opportunity to launch an attack upon Muslim people in Australia. The rhetoric was very familiar. The incitement to fear and prejudice was blatant. The reaction from people in the street was mixed, but some supported her.

So we pray: Come Holy Spirit, come as wind and fire, and remind us that you created the whole human race and see every person as someone you love. Break down the barriers that separate us from each other. Help us to see those who differ from us in any way as members of the human family, to be accorded the same respect, understanding and acceptance that we desire for ourselves.

The Spirit moves in every age, and continues to come upon the church in new and fresh ways in every generation. That reality will always be disturbing, for new movements of the Spirit inevitably bring challenge and change. The way to which Christ calls us, and for which the Spirit empowers us, is the way of listening, of trying to understand, of continuing dialogue, of covenant and reconciliation. We are never free from that obligation while we name Jesus as Lord.

Photo : Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland Rev Dr David Pitman