Inside the Church on Pentecost Sunday

In western Christian churches, red is the color of Pentecost Sunday. Churches decorate altars with red burning candles, red banners, and a red altar cloth. Clergy vestments are red. In some churches parishioners wear red clothing to celebrate the Holy Spirit. Red symbolizes joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Often red flowers decorate the church altar. Like poinsettia at Christmas and white lilies at Easter, plants are often “sponsored” by congregates. The primary red flower is the geranium. At times, red fans and/or red handkerchiefs are distributed to congregates. They are waved during a procession into the church sanctuary, or at a point in the service, such as when Acts 2:2-4, is read. Other congregations use red balloons, signifying the "Birthday of the Church.” Balloons can be held by congregants or decorate the sanctuary.

Generally, the music minister selects hymns associated with the Holy Spirit such as “Come, Holy Spirit, God” (Martin Luther) and “Lord, Spirit of Faith Come Down” (Charles Wesley). Trumpeters or brass ensembles may provide special music at Pentecost services, recalling the sound of the mighty wind at the first Pentecost.

Despite all the pageantry, and, yes, even the fun of a birthday party, Pentecost Sunday is a serious day in the church. For Catholics and some Protestants, the 10 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday are times of prayer and fasting in honor of the disciples and a vigil for the Holy Spirit. From early times, western Christian churches set aside Pentecost Day or Sunday for baptisms. Often, Ordinations were celebrated on Pentecost Sunday. Above all, Pentecost Sunday is a day for youth. Youth are confirmed on Pentecost Sunday after they have been through education programs to learn the basic tenets of the faith. Now, they are official members of the church and able to receive the Eucharist.

All the Sundays from Pentecost Sunday through Advent are designated as the second, third, etc., Sunday after Pentecost. In some Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, in which the liturgical year receives less emphasis, Pentecost Sunday is the greatest celebrations in the year. The day is both the birthday of the Christian church and it signifies the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection: Are you aware that you are living in the season of Pentecost, the season and activities of the Holy Spirit in the Christian church?