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A Quiet Pentecost

A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life
by Dwight H. Judy
Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2013
159 pages
Reviewed by Teresa Di Biase

Two thousand years after that first Pentecost when the disciples of Jesus experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, impelling them to witness and to serve, the divine fire of renewal still burns. In A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life, Dwight H. Judy, a United Methodist pastor, spiritual director, and professor emeritus of spiritual formation at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Illinois, USA, offers the stories of forty contemporary Americans who testify to transforming encounters with Jesus through intentional spiritual practices. These men and woman have discovered that the hunger they experience for an authentic relationship with the Divine is shared by others in their faith communities, and they have learned the power of companionship in the journey into wholeness and love.

“Throughout the history of Christianity,” writes Judy, “new voices have arisen with a fresh understanding of the vision of Christ for their time. These individuals typically brought about renewal by creating a new religious order or a new denomination. The inspired stories gathered in this book suggest an image linking our present renewal of spiritual life with that historic pattern. I imagine each of these persons in the role of an abbess or abbot guiding a small community of people who seek a deeper life in Christ. We witness small communities forming around these individuals who have steeped themselves in spiritual disciplines. This movement is reminiscent of the small communities of early seekers that arose in the desert regions during the first centuries of Christianity. This movement springs from individuals being called one by one to follow Jesus in an earnest way. It’s all about the power of one person to make a difference” (116).

In eight chapters brimming with ideas, the reader learns ways to invite the Spirit into a variety of congregational ministries and activities, including worship, mission discernment, age-level ministries, prayer groups, and spiritual life ministries. Although the focus is Christian formation, spiritual directors of other faith traditions who work in group settings will find much that is relevant. Many of the tools will be familiar to seasoned spiritual directors: lectio divina, centering prayer, the labyrinth, contemplative art. Yet I found fresh inspiration in the application to new circumstances. For example, a college campus group prepares a room for a twenty-four-hour-a-day prayer ministry, and the walls are soon inscribed with prayers from the heart: laments, praises, confessions, global concerns. The leadership team of a declining congregation discovers the voice of the Divine through lectio divina, and a new urban ministry is conceived. Though few are dramatic, these stories collectively give evidence to a quiet working of the Spirit, which Judy sees as a “new Pentecost.”

A Quiet Pentecost is a feast of both the familiar and the new. Each “dish” provides a taste, but not a full meal. For times when the reader desires more—which was often the case for me—there are ample notes and resources at the end of each chapter. The concluding chapter gives guidance on how to use the book as a springboard to conversation among a congregation’s leaders and includes helpful questions to consider in a group setting. Echoing the words of Jesus, Judy invites us to “come and see” what the Spirit can do to infuse new life into a faith community. Spiritual directors who read this book will not be disappointed.

Teresa Di Biase is a spiritual director, historian, and university librarian. She teaches spiritual practices in parish and retreat sessions and is an oblate of Tanglewood Monastery, Freeland, Washington, USA.

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