Patheos Watermark

You are running a very outdated version of Internet Explorer. Patheos and most other websites will not display properly on this version. To better enjoy Patheos and your overall web experience, consider upgrading to the current version of Internet Explorer. Find more information HERE.

Religion Library: Holiness and Pentecostal

Sacred Time

Written by: Arlene Sanchez Walsh

Pentecostals do not have a concept of sacred time, nor do they structure their worship life around a calendar that creates a sense of sacredness around particular times of the year, though they do celebrate traditional Christian holidays. Some Pentecostals celebrate the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, but wary of demarcating a specific time for the presence of the Holy Spirit, most Pentecostals have moved away from celebrating that day.   If Pentecostals have a distinct concept of sacred time, it is usually displayed in the realm of everyday life.  Though Pentecostals attend worship services on Sunday, they otherwise continue normal activities on Sundays.  Setting time aside daily for prayer, worship, and Bible reading carves sacred time out of the normalcy of one's daily routine.  There is also a sense that they seek to recover earlier experiences in much the same way as they did when they were first baptized in the Spirit.  

A  historical example of this effort to re-experience powerful moments would be the ongoing focus on Azusa Street as a radical racial and gender egalitarian utopia.  At the 100th anniversary celebrations, which lasted for weeks, prayers for the same sense of unity and togetherness could be heard across Los Angeles, and especially at the Azusa site and the Bonnie Brae house. Followers prayed with such intensity it was as if they were expecting to experience the Holy Spirit much the same way that Seymour's followers had.   

A sense of sacred time is also present in some Pentecostal descriptions of how they feel after they have experienced the Holy Spirit.  Some people have described speaking in tongues, or being "slain in the Spirit" (falling down under the power of the Holy Spirit), or "resting in the Spirit" (lying down after an especially intense experience with the Holy Spirit, sometimes for hours) as experiencing a loss of time.  When researching Pentecostals in the Maya Highlands of Guatemala, anthropologist Felicitas Goodman posited the idea that what Pentecostals were experiencing was a trance state. She believed that Pentecostals were both biologically predisposed to this trance state, out of which they received Spirit baptism, and experienced it as a learned behavior.

Though many others since Goodman (whose research was published in the 1970s) have come forward to dispute the idea that Pentecostal experiences are trance states, what is important is the idea that Pentecostal experience, specifically speaking in tongues, being "slain in the Spirit," "holy dancing," and other supernatural experiences somehow sacralize time by taking people out of the everyday stream of time (chronos) to the time appointed for God to act (kairos).   Specifically, what these activities do is cause a loss of time, intentionally forcing the person to "abide in Christ," slowing down normally very harried people, so that they commune with God on a level not often seen in other Protestant communities.