Welcome to my blog! It's a collection of pictures I've taken and thoughts that have come to me since I began my sabbatical wandering. There's no specific theme other than my desire to experience the spirituality of different cultures and places. I welcome your comments and conversation. It's a wonderful trip for me and I thank you for sharing it.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Prague - the Velvet Revolution

Our tour guide Olga explained that the Czech people are not religious, pointing to the many churches we passed along the way. We noticed that there were lots of concerts advertised in front of these magnificent structures and she told us that’s mainly what they’re used for now. In the context of her tour, there was a logic to it.

Until 1985 what is now the Czech Republic was controlled by the Soviet Union. For two generations any religious observance was ridiculed if not actively put down.

The word “God” was forbidden in media of any kind. Churches became property of the state and used for storage or concerts, but often simply closed. This apparently has had a major impact. Today, the percentage of self-described “non-religious” is close to 75%. This includes people who do not even baptize their children or have church weddings. Olga mentioned that the only time she’s seen a wedding in church, for example, is on American TV or in the movies.

Many of the great churches we saw had been built as Roman Catholic dating before the 1500’s as shrines to saints with wonderful histories. She told us of one story where an early King Wenceslaus (not the good king of Christmas carol fame) suspected his wife of infidelity and forced her confession to the Archbishop, John of Nepomuk. Hearing her confession, the Archbishop refused to divulge the information to the Emperor since all confessions are sacrosanct. The furious Emperor had the Archbishop tortured, and while still resolute in his denial, hung over the side of the Charles Bridge and flung to his death. It was said that as he hit the water five stars appeared around his head. His statue is a common site around Prague and recognized by the brass stars that still surround the many heads of St. John. Olga told the story dutifully, and shrugged.

Despite her clear feelings about religion, I detected a bit of national pride when she later pointed out a statue to Jan Hus, who started the Protestant Reformation almost 100 years before Martin Luther. Hus is historically overshadowed by Luther because of the larger impact of Luther’s work. But Hus was first, Olga said shrugging as though such things mattered, and we walked on. Hus was burned as a heretic by the Roman church but over the next generations 90% of the people adopted his reforms breaking with Rome eventually and the majority became “Hussites.”

The Protestant era ended abruptly when Europe’s 30 year war established Austria’s Hapsburg Emperor over Bohemia and Moravia (now Czech Republic). The Austrians were devout Catholics and as is the sovereign, so are the people. Protestant churches were changed almost immediately to Catholic. Clergy had the choice to emigrate to Protestant Europe or be burned. I suspect the people just shrugged. Never the less, the Rococo style favored by Austrian Catholics became vogue as visible changes to the scenery glossed over sentiments that lay beneath.

It was also during this period that a small statue was donated to the Catholic church that had been in a wealthy, prestigious family for generations. This statue of the infant Jesus has a wonderful story attached to it originating in Seville, Spain. Its travels and healing abilities became the stuff of legend and now known as the Infant of Prague holds a special place in the religious terrain of the world wide Roman Church, and perhaps somewhere in the hearts of the Czech people.

By the time the Soviets came, the Czech people had what appears to be a skeptical religious history of being told what to think and believe. One gets the sense that the shrug hides the true beliefs and beneath the denial is a pride of the heritage and contribution to the world’s religious topography.

People come to faith. They are not pushed or pulled. Compliance does not indicate adherence. Olga used the term “Velvet Revolution” to describe Czech independence from Russia without major bloodshed. As they continue to rebuild their country and identity, who knows what directions their faith and use of churches may take. But one thing is for sure, no one is going to force them.

Ulm and Munich and Prague - O My

After Taize my original plans were to go to Chartres outside of Paris. I had my train and hotel reservations in order and then a strange thing happened. During the silence of the Taize prayer service, that inner voice came to me and said, “I don’t want to go to”. All that day I had worked to make those reservations. The internet wasn’t working right, the machine that provided phone and internet cards was down. When something is right, plans usually fall into place. When each step along the way seems forced, it’s time to reconsider.

Finally, after a couple hours of frustration and forced actions, I had the reservations. It was later in the quiet of the prayer that I listened to what was deeper. I cancelled my reservations in favor of the unknown. I told my new friends in the Taize group this latest development. Then one of them, a German, said, come with me to Germany, I’m driving. It was that simple. I still didn’t know how the schedule would shape up, but it was time to let go of scheduling and see what happens.

Volker and I drove with one of the Permanents from Taize whose time had come to a close - ironically for that title. The six hour drive from Taize to Ulm was full of talking about our experiences and companionable silences.

The side trip to Germany allowed me to do two things I had not thought to be able to do. The first was to visit a good friend who moved to Munich from New Jersey about a year ago. The second trip to Prague was a rather last minute decision to join up with some other friends from Massachusetts who were part of a tour going from Prague to Vienna with stops along the way.

My handy Eurail pass allowed me to make these changes in itinerary without any problem. I enjoyed the spontaneity and have become quite enamored of traveling by rail. Flying doesn’t let us see all the subtlety that land changes offer. Houses and towns, fields and lakes roll by from country to country with a character all their own. The distances are not so great that it’s a burden and it’s calm - for the most part.

Crossing the German border into the Czech Republic we were going through a beautiful, dense forest when the train slowed and stopped in a small town with a run down station. Police came on and with no English motioned for us to get off. I remembered to breathe, though also remembered having detoured from my original plan, no one knew where I was. We were loaded onto busses and traveled for about 30 minutes, without explanation. Brought to another train station, we were told to board with another person’s cryptic English. The train was more rustic than the first one, and smelled of stale cigarette smoke. We made it to Prague but I still don’t know what that unscheduled stop was about. I met up with my friends from Massachusetts and was able to tag along on their tour of the city.

The trip is taking some other spontaneous detours as a result and I’m glad. I used to be nervous about making connections - or more to the point missing them. But the trip has been easy when I let it be easy. Self imposed deadlines and schedules get in the way of some really wonderful blessings. Meeting friends and spending time with familiar people in unfamiliar places is a magical treat. Exploring and discovering is part of the spiritual way and over planning can threaten some of it. Travel, like faith is moving ahead confidant in the ability to find the way or be guided, it doesn’t always require a blueprint. In fact the blueprint will likely block the view of subtlety and magic in the uncharted path.

I’ll make it to Chartres, but after the rich experience of Taize I needed a break to process some of it. To go immediately into another very different spiritual setting would have been too much, almost like eating fudge after chocolate. I don’t know exactly where I’m going after Prague, and that’s just fine.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Taize is the name of a small village in the Burgundy region of France. It’s name has taken on a wider significance in church circles since it is also the home of a religious community founded in the late 1940’s by a man known as Brother Roger. Raised in a Reformed Protestant tradition, but heavily influenced by his Roman Catholic grandmother, it became Roger’s dream to be part of a religious community that was ecumenical. As the German forces began their march into what became World War II, his dream included the themes of reconciliation and peace. One day not long after the war he left home riding a bike carrying his dream, faith and a few dollars. He left his Swiss homeland, rode through the hills of France, rested in this village, liked it and stayed to begin his life’s work. Over fifty years later the community has grown and thrived and is known around the world.

Roger was joined by friends who shared his vision and the farm they started became also a haven for displaced Jews and other war refugees. Their hospitality began in a way that included a sensitivity to other cultures, people and languages. They were all people united by prayer and a desire for peace. In the intervening years the ministry grew and pilgrims came from parts of Europe who wanted to experience this idea of ecumenical prayer. What has become for many Christians a familiar word, “ecumenical” was radical, misunderstood and suspect. Yet, the simplicity of the idea and the gentle way in which it was lived on a hillside in France attracted many visitors.

During the 1960’s peace movements and a distrust of the institutional church seem to have increased the popularity of Taize among younger pilgrims. Today, the ministry caters to youth under the age of 30. While “older” people are certainly welcome, there is no doubt that the youth command center stage and attention. Somewhat subject to the academic calendar, the attendance swells from a few hundred in the winter to as many as 8,000 in the summer months. Relatively few cabins are supplemented by as many tents as are needed for such a crowd.

All visitors become part of the community for the duration of their stay. Though not required, it is expected that all will observe the three daily prayer times, attend the “bible orientations”, and be assigned work. The complex systems needed to organize so many people seems to flow simply and young people are the hub. Those who have been on previous visits have more responsible tasks. The young volunteers also organize the “adults”. The adult group meet in a separate facility and are housed at the far end of the community grounds. This dynamic can be seen in different ways - and is discussed from each vantage!

The heart of Taize beats in the chapel. All ages, races and nationalities are represented in the visitors as well as the community of brothers. Because of it’s proximity, French is the dominant language although German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian , and English are very evident. The brothers have written their own chants and hymns over the years born out of their experience welcoming such diverse people. Its repetitive, simple melody line allows those who don’t know the language it’s written in to participate. Verses of the hymns are sung by the brothers while everyone else chants the refrain. Even the verses follow different languages so everyone can hear their own tongue at some point. Long periods of silence at each prayer service and Communion at the morning service round out the experience. Benches and chairs are available but the most common seating is on the floor which slopes to the front and a backdrop of sheets of orange fabric against a yellow wall. Icons are arranged throughout the church. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the surge in Eastern Orthodox visitors, onion domes were placed on the front as a welcome sign!

Some years ago when the brothers became aware of the rapid increase among young visitors, they faced the question of limiting the number or expanding their facility, especially the church. Their solution was to knock down the back wall of the church and put up a circus tent. Enough time has passed that the tent has been replaced by a solid structure, but it’s a series of expansive rooms separated by garage door partitions, opened or closed as the number of visitors swells or diminishes. The focal point remains the colorful front wall and the brothers who sit in a rectangular formation in the middle making them both part of the whole, yet still within the ranks of their community.

Taize was born out of the dream and idealistic energy of a young man. That energy is still part of the community and experience. It is a dream that offers hospitality to all people, prays with them in their own language, but also the universal language of love and acceptance. Communities form in small study groups that put together people from different countries and languages who must then find a way to communicate and share their faith. Hundreds of thousands have now come through Taize and it’s believed that the prayer for peace and reconciliation so vivid here has opened doors politically as the young people who visited came of age in leadership positions around the continent. The young have a way of seeing simple solutions to complex issues. At Taize they are supported in that skill and encouraged to bring it outward.

In my study group there were four Russians, three Americans, three Germans and a man from Holland. Fortunately many Europeans are multi-lingual and among the Russians was an English interpreter. The denominations represented were Russian Orthodox, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Moravian, Dutch Reform, Lutheran and one without affiliation who was seeking. The assigned questions from the morning Bible Orientation simply provided a springboard to learning about each other, our faith, traditions, experiences and anything else we could think of. There was lots of laughter and some serious sharing. The man from Holland confessed he had prejudice against Russians that he would have to rethink. It was that kind of breakthrough that makes Taize so important and is a seed of peace and reconciliation. That kind of discovery multiplied hundreds of thousands of times throughout the years, especially among the young is the making of hope.

A couple years ago during a service, while people were chanting, a woman approached Brother Roger and in her deranged state took out a knife and fatally stabbed him. The potential chaos was quelled by the brothers who continued the chanting while some took care of the situation. The community misses Brother Roger but transcends him. The fulfillment of a dream is it’s continuation past the life of the dreamer. The tragedy of Roger’s death underscores the triumph of the dream of a young man that found root in the idealism and energy of so many other young men and women.

“Alleluia” is a word that is the same in all languages. It’s used a lot here. God draws us all together and unites people while preparing them to go into the world committed to peace and reconciliation.

Monday, 27 April 2009


The word “farne” means “island” in some now unspoken language. Lindesfarne is one of a series of small islands off the coast of England just below the Scottish border. In fact, during the many border wars before England and Scotland were united under the rule of King James these islands were alternately owned by both countries. Today they’re considered out of the way, but back in the old shipping days, they were far more traveled and Lindesfarne in particular was on the trade route.

Lindesfarne has an important role in the history of Christianity in England. What we know of this time was written by the Venerable Bede in the early 700’s. Of his history, some is clearly reliable, some is clearly entertaining and much lies vaguely in the middle, unsubstantiated by other sources. He tells us that King Oswald invited the monks from Iona on the west coast of England, where he had been converted and was a student, to send a missionary team to his kingdom on the east coast. The first monk chosen was not successful, but the next one, Aidan, turned out to be uniquely suited for this mission and it thrived. Oswald gave him choice of any land in his kingdom to build a priory and he chose the uninhabited Lindesfarne. The year was 634 AD.

Colorful stories abound of Aidan’s pastoral and missionary successes. The priory grew, the Gospel spread to the British people and all should have been well. Two problems emerged however, the first concerned competing kings fighting over land, and the other concerned competing forms of Christianity fighting over followers. Oswald’s successor Oswey , having won and settled the first issue called a council held at Whitby to settle the second. Aidan’s gifts of diplomacy surfaced, but the one who saved the day was Hilda, abbess of Whtiby, recruited by Aidan for that post. Her strength of character brought the sides together and a decision was made. The issue at hand was Roman Christianity vs. Celtic Christianity.

Roman teachings favored Apostles Peter and Paul with an emphasis on original sin and earned redemption. Celtic Christianity favored the Apostle John with an emphasis on the inherent goodness of people and God’s free grace. Rome won the day. Hilda, glad they reached a decision, regretted the decision they reached.

The day Aidan died, Cuthbert was sixteen tending sheep miles away. He had a vision of angels coming to guide the soul of Aidan and understood it to be a call to religious life. He became a monk and went ultimately to Lindesfarne where he too became prior of what had become a thriving monastery. His fame spread, as did Aidan’,s as a spiritual director, healer, pastor and saintly man. Their combined work solidified Christianity in northern England as well as beyond.

There is a causeway now that connects Lindesfarne to the mainland that is subject to the tides. It is covered during high tide and unpasable and only usable during low tide. In older days, the low tide exposed mud flats to the mainland that people could walk. So technically Lindesfarne is only an island twice a day. The island’s reality becomes a spiritual teaching. There are times we need to be connected to the main part of life and times we need to be apart in prayer and solitude.

The land is rich in this history and you can sense Aidan and Cuthbert walking along the beach or on the smaller farne each used for solitude. Ruins mark the priory that honored Aidan remains and many of the buildings date back centuries. The stone work is stark and the angles sharp and precise. Yet in the cracks, yellow flowers have taken root and hold on tenatiously. They witness a soft beauty amid the rough terrain, and a strength of spirit in a harsh environment. A “thin place” is said to be where heaven and earth touch lightly, where we can see a little clearer from one side to the other. They call Lindesfarne “Holy Island” because it is believed to be one such place. I believe it is too.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Feast of St. George

It was the perfect day to arrive on the holy island of Lindesfarne. Overcast and breezy, yet warm enough to enjoy a brisk walk. Unfortunatley the internet service doesn't allow me to post pictures but it's a rugged beauty that holds this island. I arrived in time for noon prayers at The Open Gate, a retreat house run by an ecumenical religious community called by the name of St. Aidan and St.Hilda. Flags of St. George are unfurled all over the village, with it's red cross over a field of white. George is the patron saint of England and is proudly remembered. I proudly remembered the parish which bears his name in Maplewood during evening prayers at St. Mary Church overlooking the North Sea. In the quietof that church I recalled the blessing from noon prayers:
The Three who are above my head;
the Three who provide my bread;
Watch over me wherever I tread.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Bredgar, Canterbury and Rochester - the Church ancient and modern

One of the striking things about church life in England is the number of churches. There are countless villages and each one has it’s own church. They are small and sturdy buildings centuries old, usually with cemeteries surrounding them and an ancient history of ministry to the people and families of those villages. The Church in Bredgar where I celebrated a family Eucharist on April 19 is such a church.

One of five churches under the care of Canon Smith (who preached at St. George’s the same day ) it is also recorded in the Domesday Book. In 1066 William the Conqueror inventoried everything in the country down to the last building, person and animal!

In there Diocese of Rochester alone there are over 400 churches. By comparison the Diocese of Newark has about 110 churches for roughly the same geographic area. As we just celebrated our centennial, it’s hard to imagine a church which has celebrated its millennium! The congregation was very warm and gracious to us - my parents flew over for an extended weekend and a wonderful visit. They were very enthusiastic in their family worship and show a strong team work. Five churches sharing the services of one priest have to be creative and independent, and they are!

That afternoon I preached at Rochester Cathedral. Created in 604AD on land given by king Ethelbert and rebuilt in the 14th century it is the second oldest Cathedral in England. Walking around history is wonderful. The music was absolutely beautiful and the Cathedral staff was also very welcoming. It was a thrill to preach to a congregation of regular attendees and pilgrims as they settled in the large choir stalls.

Rochester and Canterbury are very different in some ways architecturally and with different histories and influences. But each is also a contemporary Cathedral. These are not museums or crypts although they have elements of them. In Canterbury and Rochester priority is given to the worship. Sections of them are closed to tourists during worship by a set of uniformed ushers that are rather formidable. Pictures are not allowed during the services - though I did manage a couple video clips I’ll try to post! They are work sites since all bildings are in constant need of repair and upgrade. Scaffolding and the sounds of hammers, drill and saw fill the air as an earthly counterpoint to the angelic choirs inside!

In Canterbury the nave also housed the Archbishop’s lectures, and concerts during Holy Week. The many chapels are used for daily prayers and Eucharist. The day after the glorious Easter celebrations the chairs in the nave were removed and stacked while preparations got underway to receive hundreds of Diocesan youth for an event that included rock concerts, talks and break out groups in the chapels. I saw the Archbishop change hats (figuratively) from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Bishop of Canterbury overseeing the arrangements and getting ready to greet the youth.

I learned that the Cathedral in Rochester is used similarly. In fact as my parents and I were leaving after Evensong, a saxophone concert was starting in the nave. If we didn’t have to get to the airport we would have stayed!

It was both a surprise and yet obvious that these buildings are still living into their ministry. Although they contain shrines, they are not shrines to the past. They are living, breathing places of worship and ministry. Contemporary and ancient expressions exist side by side as they always have. What was a modern update in the 14th century is still as ancient as pilgrims will consider 21st century updates in another few hundred years.

Cathedrals use height, light, darkness and detail to point to God. The soaring pillars and archways draw our eyes and attention heavenward in awe. Light emanates from huge windows illuminating the sculpted and illustrated word of God, thereby illuminating the spirits of God’s people. Shadows and darkness draw our quiet selves into contemplation and prayer. There is no detail too extravagant or unimportant. Just as God created the world in its infinite, unique variety, so the cathedrals reflect the joy in small wonders of perfection seen and unseen by human eye.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

What is Anglicanism??

It’s a difficult question. The Church of England brought its churches around the world as its empire grew. Primarily brought to minister to the English subjects who went to these foreign lands, a missionary zeal grew as well, thereby planting not only Christian communities in these places, but the Church of England in its ceremony, polity and theology. Within the strict confines of the British communities, the forms of the Church of England remained intact, but over time, the indigenous influences came to bear on the communities outside the British subjects. Music and rhythms, colors, local traditions and even indigenous religions impacted on the shape the Church of England was to take in these other places.

The world is both large and small. In its largeness the diversity of traditions has stretched the understanding of Anglicanism beyond its original lines to where it is nearly unfamiliar among its varied outposts. However, even in today’s world of independent nations and independent church provinces, there remains a tantalizing similarity even though there is no judicial connection anymore. So what does it mean to be Anglican?

The Reformers of the 16th century rebelled against the political and financial corruption and abuses of the Roman Church, but more significantly shifted a theological understanding of salvation as a free gift of God, not one that is earned by good works. The reformers were also committed to the accessibility of scriptures to all people, not only those educated in Latin, therefore translating them into secular languages. Sacraments were seen as a hold the clergy had over lay people and not necessary beyond Baptism which anyone can administer and a symbolic re-enactment of the Eucharist.

The Church of England emerged as a blend of traditional faith and significant reform. Scriptures and worship were translated and written in English., yet the sacraments and hierarchical forms remained. The big difference there was to negate the authority of the Pope in favor of the English Sovereign and elevate the importance of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the symbolic head of the English Church with far reaching authority. To this day the King or Queen appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury who technically has authority over the other Bishops in the country. In the days of the Empire, that authority was very far reaching. Today, it’s become a relationship of respect rather than authority since political independence of former British colonies has brought ecclesiastical independence as well.

England’s stormy history has shifted the Church of England widely between Roman and Protestant Churches depending on the conviction of the monarch. As a result, part of the DNA of the church is to embrace a wide expression with tolerance of diversity. This has become it’s strength and part of it’s defining character. What we call “high Church” and “low Church”, charismatic, evangelical, catholic (small c!), and protestant has all fit under the umbrella of Anglican. There has been no central ruling to determine one shape of the doctrine or expression. A phrase coined during the reign of Elizabeth I was “via media” - the middle way. Sometimes seen as intended ambiguity, it has the character of valuing the richness each form has to offer and ultimately embraces one of the Protestant pillars that each person finds their own way. God calls us and we have a responsibility to answer from our heart, not the dictates of another.

Canterbury is the iconic seat of Anglicanism. It represents the history and character of the Church of England as well as it’s former subjects and now, hopefully, friends in faith. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a fulcrum on which balance the seemingly opposite ends of an ideological spectrum. It has always been this way and continues.

I’ve attended three lectures given in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. In the presence of memorials to his many predecessors, he taught us about prayer. He is a natural and gifted teacher with a sharp intellect and command of history even as he makes complicated ideas accessible. He can be whimsical and comic, understated and profound. He makes historical characters like Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton and Simone Weil real and even intimate. His commitment to prayer is moving. His commitment to prayer being the solution to the Church’s struggles is clear and unwavering. He says that prayer doesn’t change the problem, but it changes people and allows God to speak through them to each other.

People look to him to take sides and be decisive. It occurred to me during Holy Week that people asked the same of Jesus. Archbishop Rowan is a student of Jesus as well as a disciple. He will create and enforce the environment for people to find God in each other and allow the love to flow into the love of God. It is not according to timetables or desired shapes. Expanding on a verse of scripture the Archbishop said we are to “Knock at the door”. It will be opened as promised, but we don’t know what is on the other side even though we think we do. The same for seeking and asking. God’s promise is to respond, though not as we command.

A definition of Anglicanism is still elusive. But I think a compelling definition is embodied in Archbishop Williams. It is a faith that seeks God to be revealed. It allows the multi-faceted prism of faith to shine not wanting to limit God by one definition. It is not threatened or manipulated. It is not hurried. It seeks, knocks, and asks. Quantum physics teaches that at some point parallel lines come together. Anglicanism might very well be that point.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Out of Africa

Who can resist a title like that? I arrived in England without incident after a long flight. It was sad to leave behind new friends, but since I’m discovering the world is such a small place, I have no doubt we’ll meet again.

England is a world away. Africa is so vast that from whoever you travel you can see miles that must stretch into the hundreds. Hills and mountains fade into the distance and the night sky pulsates with stars. By contrast England is compact and tightly organized. Deplaning in London I found the trains to Sittingbourne from which I taxied to Bredgar, a small village south east of London. The trip was roughly an hour and a half. Canon John and Rosemary Smith have a wonderful ministry among five small churches in the area as well as John’s work as the Diocesan Education officer for the Rochester Diocese.

Though not ordained, Rosemary is every bit as active in the parish life as John is and they are a wonderful team and delightful hosts. Their son Joe, daughter-in-law Gina and grandson Jack are members of St. George’s which is how we became acquainted in the first place.

The Vicarage of Bredgar is a stunning 18th century home and as long as I remember to duck I’ll have no problems with the ceiling beams or doorways. It’s a quiet setting with gardens beginning to come to life, pastures behind the house on acres of farm land all around. The neighborhood pub is just around the corner and perfect for lunch!

I’ll be covering the services on the Sunday after Easter for John while he and Rosie will be at St. George’s visiting their family. I’ll also be covering for John and preaching at Evensong at Rochester Cathedral.

I arrived on Wednesday and Friday I went into London to walk around and take in the city. Victoria Station, Westminster Abby, walking the Victoria Embankment along the Thames, and an obligatory stop at Cheshire Cheese made a good sightseeing day. From Isibindi to Big Ben within a week’s time again made me realize how fortunate I am to making this trip and experiencing the wide ranges in land and people.

As I write this I hear the Cathedral Choirs rehearsing for a concert tonight of Stainer’s “Crucifixion” and Faure’s “Requiem”. Last week I heard and swayed to African drums. Although it’s Holy Week, it has a ring of Pentecost - each praising God in their own way, singing and speaking in their own languages.