Some churches (lower case c) celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church (capital C).
Our church throws a birthday party for Jesus in January, but some churches throw birthday parties in May or June, with red-frosted cakes and extra candles, and red balloons and streamers and confetti. Red is the color of Pentecost, the color of flames and the Holy Spirit, a fiery new beginning being born from ashes. Red is also the color of ordination, like the beautiful red dress that I bought before I even knew this church existed, the dress that I hoped to wear when I made my vows. When I was formally installed as the pastor here, I threw a red-themed dinner party for the friends who came to celebrate with me. I served beets, and a tomato-barley salad, and a casserole topped with crushed red goldfish crackers, and a red fruit salad, and obviously a red velvet cake.
Birthday parties look a bit different lately, of course, and since I live by myself, I’m a bit reluctant to make a church birthday Pentecost cake. Microwave mug cakes are a thing that I make from time to time, but I’m not sure that they have quite the feel of a celebratory birthday cake, you know? If I end up making one, I’ll share a picture on the church Instagram (shameless plug: follow Peoples Presbyterian Church on Instagram!)–stay tuned.
For my first Pentecost here, Carolyn cut out dozens of beautiful paper doves and painstakingly tied them to helium balloons that we released to dance over our heads. That year, to really focus on the theme of the flames of the Holy Spirit, we had a fire drill after the benediction, evacuating to the parking lot before Skip gave a demonstration of how to use a fire extinguisher in Fellowship Hall. Last year, I spent hours practicing the pronunciations of Scripture in Greek and Hebrew–I studied how to read them, not how to speak them, and even though we don’t have any Greek or Hebrew speakers in our church family, I wanted to do justice to the passages.
The first Sunday that I ever served a church in any kind of official capacity was also Pentecost, the day that I started my internship at my church in Washington, DC, which I had been attending for two years at that point. I remember that the only red clothing I’d packed for the summer was a tank top, which I probably wore under my denim jacket in the air conditioned sanctuary with my hair wrapped up in a red headscarf. At the time, I thought it was neat to be starting my internship on a high holy day, with communion spread out on top of the cloth that I had helped embroider two summers before. In retrospect, it seems like Pentecost was an especially appropriate day to begin my work in ministry, as the Holy Spirit danced, laughing, over my head as she begin to push me towards things I never thought I would do and places I never thought I would go.
Pentecost will look different this year, because everything has looked different for the past three months, but the Holy Spirit still continues to descend and the Church still continues to be born, with or without birthday cake.