Silence permeated the room.
The request from the podium after the plenary speaker finished came out again as almost a plea.
“Are there any questions?”
Well over 400 delegates to the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunal’s fourth international conference — held in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago — waited for someone to move.
It wasn’t as if no one had anything to say.
The lawyers, professors, adjudicators and similarly learned folk in attendance in that downtown hotel ballroom room, normally are not noted for their reticence in giving an opinion or making a statement.
Still rising to your feet in front of a room full of strangers can be daunting at any time, let alone in a hall crammed with folk that, for the most part, had multiple initials after their names.
This coming Sunday is Pentecost or Whitsunday. It marks the 50th day after Easter.
Like many Christian feasts it appropriated the day from the Jewish culture.
As noted in The Catholic Encyclopedia: “Originally, this was the second feast in rank of the Jews, the celebration of the harvest and the ending of Passover time.”
Pentecost recalls an event of nearly 20 centuries ago when the followers of the executed Jesus of Nazareth “were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”
The story recounted in the Acts of the Apostles continues with tongues of fire coming to rest on each of them.
Emboldened, they went out and began “speaking about God’s deeds of power” to crowds in the very cosmopolitan Jerusalem of the day.
The fear of persecution by civil and religious authorities or the recrimination of neighbours left them.
They began saying what needed to be said.
Often we just can’t get up the gumption to say what needs to be said. It takes not only effort and preparation but also the courage to be willing to take a stand.
In our secular, individualistic age, it can be doubly difficult to speak out from a faith perspective.
Charles Taylor, professor emeritus at McGill University and recent recipient of the $1.5-million Templeton Prize of Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, wrote on the question of spiritual thinking in the 21st Century (http://www.templetonprize.org/ct_spiritual_thinking.html).
“A peaceful world order, if we are fortunate enough to achieve this, will inevitably be very focused on the procedures and structures of government, of adjudication; it will be concerned with economic prosperity and equality within the narrow limits of toleration of our damaged planet; it will be concerned with the control of violence.
“We will in many ways be living lives under even greater discipline than today. One thing we have learned from our development in the West is the ease with which such (necessary) social disciplines can eclipse the needs and aspirations of the spirit.
“We are going to need more than ever trail-blazers, who will open new or retrieve forgotten modes of prayer, meditation, friendship, solidarity and compassionate action.”
Professor Taylor has long argued that the core beliefs of morality and spirituality shouldn’t be regarded as “simply quaint anachronisms in the age of reason.”
This distorted sociological view of modernity denies “the full account of how and why humans strive for meaning which, in turn, makes it impossible to solve the world’s most intractable problems ranging from mob violence to racism to war.”
We can only hope that new Pentecost will embolden us to speak out from our core beliefs, to say what needs to be said in this time and place.
The Yukon Development Education Centre — whose mission is to engage Yukoners in the promotion of global social, economic, political and environmental justice — is holding its annual general meeting at the Whitehorse Public Library on Tuesday, May 29th at 7 p.m. All are welcome.