Pentecost brings people together
Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans and Methodists take part in service at Xavier High School in Appleton
By Joanne Flemming
APPLETON - If a single Scripture had to be chosen to describe northeastern Wisconsin's first ecumenical Pentecost celebration it would have to be: "There is a variety of gifts, but always the same Spirit." (1 Cor 12:4)
The service in the Xavier High School Fine Arts Center brought together the people and leaders of Catholic, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran and United Methodist churches. It also brought together their diverse talents in music, singing, dance, pantomime and dramatic readings - to express the service's theme, "Christ for All People."
Bp. Robert Banks opened the service with a welcome explaining the afternoon's specialness. "This is
itself a Pentecost, a beautiful Pentecost," he said.
As Fox Valley jazz singer Mary Catterton sang the African-American spiritual, "Wade in the Water,"
liturgical dancer Donna Skinner Echols of Chicago helped the audience feel the water drawing her in
and her pleading prayers for salvation.
The litany, led by Bp. Russell Jacobus of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, emphasized the theme
of "all creation for Christ" now and for the future.
The Hands of Christ Signing Choir, directed by Jan Bielinski, signed the hymn, "El Shaddai,"
explaining God's promise in the Old Testament to send a Savior. The choir also taught the congregation
how to sign the recurrent refrain, "Hallelujah."
As the service explained how God fulfilled his promise, Amy Vanden Boogart pantomimed the hymn,
"Watch the Lamb," which expressed Simon of Cyrene's feelings about his part in Christ's journey to
The mood turned back to joy as the St. Thomas the Apostle Life Teen Band from Sugarbush played
"Lord I Lift Your Name on High." Msgr. Jim Vanden Hogan, pastor of St. John Parish in Little Chute,
clapped like many others, but the man seated two pews in front of him broke into dance and shouted
"Wow!" when the hymn ended.
The Oneida Hymn Singers sang three hymns in their Native American language: "Who So Ever May
Come," "Wait on the Lord" and "Music in My Heart."
Bp. Daniel Ramokoka of South Africa, representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church, brought
greetings from his country and led the exchange of peace.
The Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols, head of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, compared
God to the heavy lifters he had seen on TV in strong men competitions. Such lifting requires "strain and sacrifice, commitment and courage," he said.
God is a heavy lifter, he continued, because he lifted humanity from the pit of sin Adam and Eve's rebellion put mankind in, when he forgave our sin and gave us life eternal through Jesus. "The Good News," he said, "is that for 2,000 years, God's love in Jesus Christ has been lifting people to new life. Don't you feel lifted this afternoon by the love of God?"
"Praise God," one person yelled and another shouted "Amen" when Echols invited everyone to share the Good News with people who haven't heard it yet.
The service ended on a note of joy with the Life Teen Choir leading the hymn "Awesome God" while the man in front of Msgr. Vanden Hogan danced.
The priest said he was going home to Little Chute "blessed and inspired" because of the uplifting music and inspiring prayers.
Both he and Dcn. Gib Schmidt of Sacred Heard Church in Appleton expressed disappointment at the small turnout for the service.
Other church leaders involved in the service were Bp. John Beem, ELCA East Central Synod, and Superintendents Hee Soo Jung and Stephen Polster of the Nicolet and Winnebago districts, United Methodist Church.