In late spring and early summer, we experience a lot of endings—and new beginnings.
The months of May and June include numerous celebrations, ceremonies, and rituals that mark a changing of life seasons. For us whose schools break for the summer, we celebrate the end of another school year. For my church community, we also end a program year; we thank our formation volunteers and celebrate all we’ve learned together before slipping into a slower summer schedule. Perhaps you are celebrating a graduate who is ending one phase of their education.
During these months, we also celebrate new beginnings. Although graduations mark the end of one academic season, they also mark a new beginning as the graduate prepares for whatever comes next. Perhaps your household moves into a slower summer—one that leaves behind the busyness of a school year and welcomes rest, vacation, and rejuvenation. Or perhaps your congregation is like mine, adjusting your worship and formation activities to make space for a Sabbath rest. Regardless of what the new beginning looks like, May and June are months when we shift the rhythm of our lives, even if it’s only for a little bit.
The feast of Pentecost is also a transitional time. It comes with celebration at the end of one liturgical season and ushers us into a new pace for the remainder of the church year. We celebrate after ending Eastertide, the festal season when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Pentecost marks an ending, but it also brings us to a new beginning. As the fifty days of Easter end, we remember and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, which marks a new beginning for the Church. The advocate promised by Jesus arrives and Jesus’ followers begin a new chapter in their life together. Then, we transition into Ordinary Time—even the pace of the liturgical calendar changes as we enter the longest season of the church year.
Transitional times can be exciting, but they are also scary. I always wonder how those gathered on Pentecost felt when the Holy Spirit arrived. Did they know what was happening? Were they excited, or scared, or both? Did they know what would happen next? The story in Acts 2 doesn’t really tell us; all we read is that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:4, NRSV) Regardless of how they felt, Jesus’ followers received the Holy Spirit and launched themselves into the next thing with hope and a guide.
This week, as we mark another change in liturgical seasons, I wonder how we can all transition into a new beginning with hope and confidence. I love using seasonal changes to engage in times of deeper reflection, and shifting into summer is a great time to do this. Here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself, the people in your home, or even your congregation:
- How do we help our households and communities honor endings and look forward to what comes next?
- What might we find, or make, or give ourselves that reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s presence as an advocate and guide?
- What new beginnings come during the summer? How do these beginnings make you feel? What’s most exciting about these new beginnings, and what is scary?
As we mark endings and move into new beginnings, may we always remember that we are loved and we are not alone.