Acts 2:8

‘And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?’

We, the Presidents of the World Council of Churches, send you joyful greetings for the feast of Pentecost, for a day when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. It is our deepest hope and prayer that, wherever you are, whatever your confession or tradition, your circumstances or your mother tongue, you will know profound spiritual blessings and feel the presence of God’s Spirit with you.

The Christian faith does not have a holy language, but from that day of Pentecost in Jerusalem recorded in the book of Acts, Christians have celebrated that the Gospel can be heard in many different local languages, in the languages we learn from our parents and within the communities that form us. Christian faith is best lived, spoken and proclaimed in the language of our hearts, in which we first grow into speech.

In that very multi-cultural crowd that gathered to hear the sounds of the disciples’ excitement and joy, were people from many parts of the world as St Luke knew it. Sometimes people think this story is one in which people from many places suddenly all understood the same language. But the story is that they each heard the Gospel in their own native language. It’s the same, one Gospel, but they heard it in their different, local, languages. That’s the miracle.

Today, the Church worldwide, has many local languages, different voices in which prayers are spoken, and such varied contexts in which justice and peace are longed for. The Church’s linguistic diversity, and its diversity in so many other ways, is broad. AND, at the same time, the Church’s unity is deep, rooted in the one Holy Spirit. The miracle is that rich diversity and loving unity can hold hands. This is a gift of the Spirit. And it is one that our divided world so badly needs. The Spirit of God speaks in gloriously different voices, in our own languages, but creates from us all a harmony of profound unity. Diversity is a gift of the Spirit, in the service of unity.

This Pentecost, let’s celebrate the diversity of the Church, of the world and of all creation, and also celebrate the holiness of the Spirit that makes us one.


The Presidents of the World Council of Churches

Most Rev. Dr Rufus Okikiola OSITELU, Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide

Rev. Dr Henriette HUTABARAT-LEBANG, Gereja Toraja                          

Rt Rev. Philip WRIGHT, Church in the Province of the West Indies

Rev. Dr Susan DURBER, United Reformed Church

Rev. Dr Angélique WALKER-SMITH, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.

Rev. François PIHAATAE, Église protestante Maohi

H.H. Catholicos ARAM I, Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia)