For the fourth year running people of varying denominations, countries and ages were warmly invited to English Martyrs Church, Strood, Kent, on Saturday May 22 to celebrate the feast of Pentecost – the gift of the God’s Holy Spirit to the Church.
Fr Bill Keogh, parish priest, welcomed everybody to Mass and explained how Pentecost marked the beginning of the Catholic Church, a Church that is inclusive, not exclusive.
He also said he welcomed the opportunity to share the altar with his assistant priests, organiser Fr Victor Darlington from Nigeria, and Fr Antony Vijayan from India, as well as deacons Tony Canavina from Italy and John Letley from Strood. Fr Keogh thanked Fr Darlington for leading the preparations to make a joyous occasion.
In his homily, Fr Keogh spoke about the difference between how atheists and Christians view life. Atheists, he said, believe we as human beings are “accidents” whereas, as Christians, we believe we are unique individuals created by God. But who wants to consider themselves to be an accident?
Fr Keogh also spoke about Pope John XXIII, who had a short reign as Pope (from October 23 1958 to June 3 1963). Far from being a “stop-gap” pope, Pope John called an ecumenical council. From the Second Vatican Council came changes that reshaped the face of Catholicism: a comprehensively revised liturgy, a stronger emphasis on ecumenism and a new approach to the world.
The evening itself was awash with colour, combining music, dance and prayer to worship God in more colourful and enthusiastic ways than we are used to in the western Church.
Many weeks of practice and preparation take place with members of different churches taking part and contributing to the planning. Hymns and prayers in English, French, Filipino, Hindi, Italian, Nigerian and Polish were sung and read and even those members of the congregation that do not speak these languages were able to join in through the sheer spontaneity and infectiousness of the worship.
It was a truly inclusive evening where young and old, rich and poor, well and infirm joined together to express their belief in the Risen Lord. Towards the end of Mass, each nation represented brought their flag to the altar, dancing in procession. Following the service, a multicultural feast was held in the hall.