Bishop Robert: The meaning of Pentecost in the era of Coronavirus


Bishop Robert celebrated the great feast of Pentecost this year in a virtual service with Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels.



Following the Readings for the service (Acts 2: 1-21 and the Gospel According to John 20: 19-23), Bishop Robert preached on the meaning of Pentecost in the era of Coronavirus.  He reflected on the current loss of the physical gathering of the Christian community, and the great emotional risk of loneliness. Bishop Robert focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in overcoming barriers between people:

" ... I want to say that the emotional and the Holy Spiritual way of dealing with Covid-19 has to involve overcoming the barriers between people and combating loneliness. That means keeping in touch with family and friends, phoning the isolated elderly, visiting where possible, and having enriching interaction with people over Zoom where we can. All these things reflect the Spirit’s intentions, because the overcoming of interpersonal barriers and the building of spiritual community is truly the Pentecostal work of God’s Holy Spirit."

The Bishop said Pentecost draws people in and draws people together, but it also sends people out.  "The message proclaimed by these men [in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles] is so well known to us that we very easily miss its revolutionary content ...  it was and is a scandalous message, a message that turns everything upside down. This was good news for the poor, the rejected and the downtrodden in every place and time." He added that we see subsequent movements of the Spirit that included the Celtic Christianity of the 7th and 8th centuries which sent out men like Boniface and Willibrord to Germany and the Netherlands; in the Roman Catholic missionary orders in the middle ages, and the spread of Christianity across Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Bishop Robert suggested that in Pentecost 2020 God might be saying three things to us: Firstly, we have to our surprise, learnt a new esteem for some of those whose occupations are traditionally lowly: the cleaners, the care assistants, those who dispose of our refuse.  Secondly, the Spirit has enabled us to be church in a different key, "because the church is creature of the Holy Spirit it is remarkably resilient. Close down its buildings and it just morphs into another shape."  And thirdly, Bishop Robert said he believes the Spirit is teaching us a new sensitivity to the environment. 

He concluded:

"Thanks be to God for the great Pentecostal movement of the Holy Spirit recorded in the Book of Acts, for its echoes and reverberations down the centuries, and for the surprising, disturbing and yet comforting work of the Holy Spirit in the circumstances and opportunities of today."       

You can view a video of the service readings and Bishop Robert's sermon on our Diocesan YouTube channel.