LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Acts 2:1, which says, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place,” was the basis of Claudio Carvalhaes’ sermon at the Racial Ethnic and Immigrants Convocation and National Multicultural Church Conference Joint Worship Celebration and Luncheon held Aug. 2.
The worship and celebration was held in conjunction with the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Big Tent event, held Aug. 1-3.
Carvalhaes, who describes himself as a theologian, liturgist, performer, writer and activist, is the associate professor of Worship and Liturgy at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Pa.
“There was a reason for all these people to be together,” said Carvalhaes, referring to those mentioned in the Scripture. They were together for the celebration of the spring grain harvest, he said, “but at that special day, something happened; and a harmless feast of grains was stirred into a harvesting of lives by the Holy Spirit.”
Carvalhaes said that the people were filled by the Holy Spirit; that it “took hold of people without asking permission … something happened to the people and on that day something changed their lives forever and changed the life of the world.”
“It is that same ‘something else’ that keeps us singing,” he said. “All of us here today, we look at each other and we are bringing ‘something else’ to this church … We – the minorities – we are sent by God to reinvigorate this church and to bring to people some fire so we can reclaim the name Pentecostals. No more frozen chosen. This is our gift to the church, to rekindle the church.”
“We are not here for a little something. We are here for something a little different,” he said. “We must carry this gift back to our communities … We go home and make things on fire there also.”
Calling the PCUSA a church of mixed togetherness, Carvalhaes said that he grew up singing Scottish hymns and praying Scottish prayers.
But, now, he said “this faith is yours, so do what you want … You and your people know what is good and what is not. This is our faith now, and we need to keep telling each other that no one owns this tradition, not me or you, not any ethnic group, but we all belong to the same thing.”
“From the margins we will speak, and we will make this church change,” Carvalhaes said, “because we are now a mixed community that is Pentecostal. We are together, and we sing things we aren’t supposed to sing … we do local theologies instead of universal theologies. We will tell the Bible stories from our own perspectives and communities, and we do believe this church can become a beloved community.”
He spoke of racism, saying that, “every time I talk about Jesus and I talk about God, I will talk about Travyon Martin …. that is the only way I can do theology, is if I remember Travyon as I remember Martin Luther King Jr.”
He said that all ethnic groups must call out each other for their own racism. “It starts here,” he said. “It starts at home and then we go out … this is our work in the name of Jesus, because we are each other’s keepers.”
Mentioning the Congressional cuts to Food Stamps, Carvalhaes said that “we cannot accept that 2 percent of the people have more money than 98 percent of our country.”
“If we are to be the beloved community and break down the systems of injustice,” he said that the PCUSA must do something to even out pastor’s salaries.
Mentioning the “royal priesthood of all believers,” he asked why his seminary students who serve a congregation struggle with making only $10,000 a year, while some pastors make $100,000 to $200,000 a year.
“We have to be equal,” in salaries he said, whether in a “rural church or a tall steeple church.” A pastor should go to a church because “it is a call, not a big package.”
“So how do we sing harmony in this church?” he asked.