BY TONY KENDALL
The Church in the Woottons
Like London buses, our bank holidays come in clusters – several close together followed by none for ages. The Christmas cluster was followed by the Easter and May bunch, and with the exception of one in late August there are no more on the national calendar until Christmas Day.
Many of England’s bank holidays have a religious origin. The word ‘holiday’ is a derivation of the original title ‘holy day’, which explains why banks closed for the day – and still do in spite of most stores opening in response to public demand. The recent Spring bank holiday, which until 1971 was a movable feast on the Monday following Whitsun seven weeks after Easter, typifies how the rhythm of the year based on the Christian story has gradually diminished since World War 2.
However, we can still celebrate! The name Whitsun has been replaced by the much more meaningful Pentecost, which this year falls on Sunday 8th June. Stemming from a Jewish festival 50 days after the Passover, it’s the most significant Christian occasion after Christmas and Easter.
Why? Because it marks the birthday of the Church. Soon after Jesus Christ the Son of God had returned to heaven, having lived for 33 years as a man before enduring a cruel death and rising again, God sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost to inspire Jesus’s disciples to continue his work on earth. That same Spirit lives today in the hearts of all who are prepared to serve and love him. Contact your local church to learn more!