I went to the Fellowship of St. Paul meeting last night, not knowing exactly what to expect. I suppose my initial expectation was that it would be a little like the Life in the Spirit seminar that I attended at St. A’s and OLGC earlier in the year, especially since this month’s meeting included a panel that would be speaking on the gift of tongues and indicated that there would be an opportunity for people to be prayed over who wanted the gift.
After Life in the Spirit, everyone focused on the gift of tongues. “Did you get it? Did you speak in tongues?” It was all anyone asked about. They had made sure to say that there were many gifts of the Spirit and that not everyone received the same gifts. I concluded that perhaps I just wasn’t one of the people to receive the gift of tongues.
I made a few friends upon arriving at the Seminary and saw several other friends there, which helped me feel more welcome and comfortable. We started off with praise and worship (singing), which was quite like Steve and Lynn’s Fisherman’s Net prayer group, so it felt familiar and I liked it. The fact that they sung songs which I knew was helpful, too. Luckily, I sat next to a man who thought that I had a decent singing voice. 🙂
Next, we had a panel of people speak about the gift of tongues. Dr. Williamson gave an introduction to the gift of tongues, including describing three uses of the gift: as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, to build up the Church when used in conjunction with the gift of prophecy, and as a gift for personal prayer. Carol shared with us some personal experiences, especially healings, related to her gift of tongues and praying in the Spirit. The priest from England, Fr. Gerard I believe, was quite funny and had some good analogies like relating this gift to laughter and how it wells up from within you but how you have control over it to an extent and can choose when to start laughing and when to stop. He also related the experience of being in a community of people praying in the Spirit to being at a football (soccer) game, where people would be cheering and chanting and making noise — and how many people go to the games more for that atmosphere, rather than for the game itself (of this, I am so guilty!).
We then spent some time in prayer, led by Fr. Gerard on guitar.
We broke in to small groups, and I joined Dr. Williamson’s group, as he said that he would offer Q&A for people who still had some questions. I wanted to listen to the various questions and answers, but didn’t particularly have any of my own. I ended up getting busted for not asking anything, which was a little surprising as I wasn’t aware that I had a reputation for being particularly garrulous. One of the guys in the small group asked the question about people receiving different gifts, and maybe not everyone would receive this particular gift. The answer given was one that really makes me think. He said that while people are given various gifts, it is suggested in Scripture that the gifts of tongues and of prophesy seem to be general gifts given to all. The problem with many people is not that they do not have the gift, but that they do not use it and nurture it.
Well, if I have been given a gift by God, don’t I then have a responsibility to use that gift? It sounds like I have another area of spiritual growth to explore.
This meeting has also helped me related to our separated brethren, in particular communities like the Pentecostals, where it seems like everyone in the congregation speaks in tongues. It has always been a mystery to me that — if everyone is given different gifts of the Holy Spirit — how can you have a congregation where everyone has the same gift? The idea that it is a general gift given to all…well, that explains it quite nicely. 🙂