As someone raised in the 1970s by Dutch immigrant parents living in small-town Ontario, I grew up at a time when smoking was encouraged, dancing was forbidden, and at the top of the list of things to fear were The Supernatural and Charismatic Church People.
Given the above, I guess it’s not that surprising that as a kid the Pentecost story freaked me out. To 10-year-old me, the whole scene sounded like something straight from a horror movie: a group of people are waiting together inside a room; suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind fills the space; flames of fire appear on each person’s head, and everyone begins speaking in tongues. When we prayed to receive the Holy Spirit, I crossed my fingers.
Recently, over Zoom coffee with colleagues, each of whom grew up in a different decade, I asked about their childhood memories of Pentecost. Their recollections included being afraid that tongues of fire would also land on their heads, having to glue bits of flame-coloured tissue to Pentecost crafts at their Christian school, hearing very serious sermons on the Holy Spirit, and experiencing a different kind of Pentecost horror—arriving at church and discovering that, unlike everyone else, their family had forgotten to dress in red for worship that day.
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