Thursday, October 27, 2005

Coming home from exile, Part 2

Fast-forward to August 2005 when I received an e-mail from Dr. Paul Alexander, a professor at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, inviting me to the first annual Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship (PCPF) retreat.

I checked out the on-line brochure and saw that six of the ten speakers were African-American. This has got to be the Holy Spirit at work, I thought.

The modern Pentecostal movement began when the Holy Spirit fell on an integrated congregation on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906 but the Pentecostal movement soon succumbed to the racism that is part of the fabric of our country and divided into black and white denominations.

Being at the retreat was a sheer joy for me. I discovered a group of Pentecostals and Charismatics who were reconnecting with their own Pentecostal pacifist roots. The early Pentecostal leaders were clear in their call to loving enemies and refusing to fight in wars. Most Pentecostals have lost touch with their pacifist roots.

Dr. David Hall of the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination that has not lost its pacifist roots, gave the key note address on Friday evening. Setting the tone for the retreat, at the beginning of his presentation he invited the audience to critique his ideas. That led to a half an hour of great conversation with Dr. Hall following his speech as he and the audience sought to explore the implications of being Pentecostals and pacifists.

My brain still carries lots of snapshots from the weekend. Dr. Paul Alexander, founder of PCPF, made my bed for me when I arrived--now that servant leadership! Sitting at lunch one day I listened to Church of God (Cleveland, TN) seminary professor and missionary Rick Waldrop tell the story of being kidnapped by Guatemalan guerillas.

Ah, the music. Sam Martinez played the keyboard at each worship and invited us to worship our incredible God. I was deeply touched when on Sunday morning Yvonne Williams, a member of Bible Way Church Worldwide, Washington, DC, led us in the spiritual, “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More”.

Another snapshots stored in my brain. Eric Gabourel, Associate Pastor of the Hot Dog church in San Francisco that serves an area of the city prone to gang violence, gave me a pamphlet he had created called, Have you considered nonviolence? The pamphlet urges people to consider Jesus’ way of peace as an alternative to violence. “We hand them out like tracts in our neighborhood,” Eric said.

Diana Aubourg, acting director of Save Africa’s Children, told a powerful story of African children, orphaned by Aids, trusting the Lord to provide when they had no food and then leading the young woman who was caring for them to the Lord.

By Sunday morning of the retreat I was deeply reconnected to my Pentecostal roots.

“In five years,” Dr. Hall said at a meal, “I think this will have grown greatly and when we look back, those of us who are here this weekend will say, ‘I was at the first one.’”

As the retreat came to an end I told Paul Alexander, “I juggle a lot of balls but I want to add Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship to the balls that I juggle. Envisioning is one of my gifts as is writing and I’m a blogger. I write for the sheer joy of it. Let me know how I can help.”

“You can write up your reflections on the retreat,” Paul said.

We serve an amazing God. As I sit at my keyboard I am filled with awe and gratitude to our God who has been so faithful to me during my on exile from the Pentecostal church, who gave me a new people among the Mennonites, and now has reconnected me with my Pentecostal pacifist roots.


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