Dates for assembly

21st May 2004 at 01:00
For Christians, this Sunday marks the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. It is better known in Britain as Whitsun

Outline script for assembly leader

Jesus was put to death for being a possible rebel leader. On Easter Day, his followers became convinced he was alive again.

Seven weeks later, they met in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. As they were praying, they heard a sound like "the rush of a mighty wind". They saw what looked like tongues of fire on their heads but were unharmed.

They deduced that Christ's promise that he would send them (and all Christians) his Holy Spirit as a source of strength and comfort had come true.

They rushed into the streets to preach and to seek converts for the first time. Some of the crowds who heard them thought they were drunk (even though it was early morning).

But it is said that 3,000 people became Christians that day. For this reason, the day is sometimes called the birthday of the Church.

In most countries (and now also in churches in Britain), the festival is called Pentecost, because it occurs 50 days after Easter, "pente" being derived from the Greek for 50.

The traditional English name is Whitsun, derived from "White Sunday", a day when Christians were baptised - for which event they wore white clothes.

Pentecost is commemorated in the mitre (or flame-shaped head-dress) worn by bishops, the successors of the original apostles. In some churches, the festival used to be marked by the release of a white dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Since Easter is a movable feast, so too is Whitsun. Consequently the Whit week holiday could occur in late May or early June. In the late 1960s, a law was passed to fix what is now called the Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday of May so the holiday weekend does not always coincide with the Christian festival. This year it does.

Follow-up

The story of Pentecost is in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2. List other words derived from "pente".

In art, create posters to illustrate aspects of the festival. Doves can be cut from heavy white paper, with words from the Bible written on each wing.

The wings may be stapled together (as if the dove were in flight) and the birds hung by red ribbons from a suitable spot.

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