My name is Rob Rose. I am a pastor and relatively new at my job as the Bishop’s Assistant for Administration. One of my responsibilities is making sure Synod Assembly happens in the best possible way. Last week was my first in-person assembly. All the volunteers and the incredible Bishop’s staff make assemblies work and happen, but I really wanted my first one to be as good as possible.
When we were setting up Friday morning, there was this incredibly loud drum set booming from the room beside us. I texted our contact at the hotel and asked that the drums be turned down, and they were. On Friday night and Saturday, I noticed a lot of singing and cheering could be heard echoing through the wall that separated our Synod Assembly from the group next door. Sheesh, they were loud.
I discovered on Saturday morning the group next door was a Latina women’s Pentecostal retreat. Realizing I had been quick to judge, I made it a point to stop by after our session on Saturday. I stood in the hallway and explained who we were and told one of the leaders of the women’s group that even though their style of worship was more “energized” than the Lutherans, we supported how the Spirit moved through them. I also said if they got any complaints to just continue to worship God as they were being called.
The leader thanked me dearly and asked if I wanted to come and see it for myself. I didn’t want to be a distraction, but she insisted. We went inside and she explained these women were from all over the USA and the world. The theme of this event was “My Secret Place” – a place these women can go and talk to God, open their souls, share anything, and be loved.
As I looked across the room, 600 women had their hands raised as they prayed. Some of the women had their hands on the wall that separated the Lutherans and the Pentecostals. Everything that was going on was in Spanish and, sadly, I only speak English. But, the energy of their prayers, the power of God, and the intensity of the faith filled the room.
My host asked if she could interpret for me and I said, “Yes, please.” She listened for a moment and then looked at me and said, “They are praying for you. They are praying that God would bless everyone in your group. That God will bless your pastors and all that you do. They are praying for the blessings of the Holy Spirit to shower down on you.”
Tears began to fall from my eyes as I realized what was happening. I was humbled by their passion and care for folks they did not know. I was moved as they lifted up prayers on our behalf and I repented of my judgement of noise level. The worship of God can be both a solemn event and a passion-filled event.
The leader of the entire group saw me at the side of the room. As the only Anglo, man, person dressed in clerics, and standing 6’3”, I really did stand out. She called me to the stage and I knew in my heart there was no denying her. I went up the stage, tears still flowing, and she gave me a big, bear hug. I quietly thanked her. She smiled at me and put the microphone in my hand and asked me to greet the women.
As I looked out at all these individuals, again, the Spirit humbled me. I said to them, “The Bible tells us that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. I say there is no Latin or Anglo, Lutheran or Pentecostal in Christ. Baptized into the family of God, we are made children of God by the water and Holy Spirit. We are all called to change the world for the better as children of God.” The women cried out in joy, and I handed the mic back to their leader, gave her another hug, and wiping my eyes, left the room with a Spirit-filled heart.
Sunday morning, I brought Bishop over to see and meet everyone. Bishop spoke Spanish to the attendees and some of the organizers. They were thrilled to meet him, and he was just as joyful. Bishop had to go get dressed for closing worship and I asked him if I could invite their leader to come greet our assembly. “Absolutely,” he replied.
When we got the Eucharist, the solemn moment was beautiful and dignified. Pr. Anne Harman did an amazing job presiding, and the Bishop, Pr. Khader, and the others looked amazing. As Anne lifted the bread and said, “This is my body given for you,” the women next door could be heard cheering. When Anne lifted the chalice and said, “This is my blood given to you and to all for the forgiveness of sin,” again the women next door cheered. To me it is sounded like the angels in heaven rejoicing for the world-changing gift of grace, the body and the blood of our Lord and Savior.
Towards the end of our service, their leader, Neycha Gomez, came over. She and Bishop had an exchange in Spanish and then she greeted the Assembly. She spoke in Spanish but had an interpreter. She told us that God had placed on her heart that she should pray for the believers on the other side of the wall. She said she also prayed it would be well received and that they would know the love the ladies had for us. And, she said as soon as she prayed this – at this moment she stopped talking to the assembly and turned and pointed at me and said – “God confirmed it all when this man showed up.” More tears.
As she left and walked down the isle the Assembly spontaneously started singing “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah.”
On Pentecost, we Lutherans were blessed by the Pentecostals. It is a Pentecost I will never forget. It is amazing how God will use us if only we are friendly to our neighbors and celebrate our differences. May you be blessed by the Holy Spirit.