The Spirit rises in Poland

James reflects on how the Holy Spirit has been a big theme during the Paradise in the City festival.

Pilgrims from around the world huddle for a group shot (Photo: WYM)
Pilgrims from around the world huddle for a group shot (Photo: WYM)

Our first week in Poland is coming to an end, and what a week it’s been!

The Chemin Neuf community has done an impressive job at organising this Paradise in the City festival, in the Polish heartland. It took them a couple of years to prepare, and I think it’s paid off in abundance.

Whether it’s been the praise and worship concerts, the adoration, the workshops, the Masses, the talks, the fun activities, Kawaco or a number of other activities, there’s been no end to the busy daily programme. In particular, I’ve been struck by the beautiful music throughout the week.

A Westminster group have a moment of sharing (Photo: WYM)
A Westminster group have a moment of sharing (Photo: WYM)

For us in Westminster, we have been particularly fortunate to be staying so close to the “Paradise Campus”, being just a few minutes’ walk away. There’s even a big, modern mall opposite the campus, which has been useful for buying items like Polish SIM cards for our phones, hats for the sun, and food, for when the provided food was perhaps not quite our cup of tea!

Whilst my role as communications coordinator hasn’t allowed me the time to attend many of the talks and some other events, I’ve been struck at how moved our pilgrims have been from this week. I’ve seen inhibitions melt away, the opening of hearts and friendships forming.

Pilgrims from Burkina Faso entertain others with their hypnotic drum music (Photo: WYM)
Pilgrims from Burkina Faso entertain others with their hypnotic drum music (Photo: WYM)

And from the events that I have been able to attend, I’ve been inspired by the people of Chemin Neuf, who have not only dedicated so much of their time and energies to organising this week, but who, through the witness to their faith, have been beacons of joy and tranquillity for all of us.

A moment of Adoration at the Westminster Reconciliation service (Photo: WYM)
A moment of Adoration at the Westminster Reconciliation service (Photo: WYM)

A big theme of this Paradise in the City week has been the Holy Spirit, and truly the Spirit has been present here in this city, scarred by tragedy from communism and the Second World War.

Indeed, it was fitting that this event should have happened here. This past week, we have demonstrated that the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than all the darkness in the world, that it cannot be defeated. Nations will rise and fall, ideas will have their time in the sun and then set, but the light of God’s eternal truth will always be present.

Westminster pilgrims chatting (Photo: WYM)
Westminster pilgrims chatting (Photo: WYM)

And not just on the macro level, but the Holy Spirit defeats our own personal darkness. As Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” When we get a taste of the Holy Spirit, through events like Paradise in the City, we awaken or rediscover that innate desire in all of us for the divine, for the infinite, for the Love that created us.

We realise that the only thing that matters in this pit stop on the road to Heaven is God’s will.

A Westminster leader talks to her group (Photo: WYM)
A Westminster leader talks to her group (Photo: WYM)

I’m really quite happy that this is only the halfway point of our pilgrimage, as I feel one week isn’t enough. As we enter the second week – World Youth Day week – I hope that all of us who have been blessed to attend Paradise in the City can spend more time letting the Holy Spirit into our lives.

Praying at the Westminster Reconciliation service (Photo: WYM)
Praying at the Westminster Reconciliation service (Photo: WYM)

I’ll finish with one, very tweetable quote I heard this week: “The question isn’t the existence of God, but the existence of Man.” In our pride and arrogance, we often forget or deny that God, who is Perfection itself, created us with the intention that we should know Him.

God has written into our hearts the mission of our lives and that to meet him, we must learn about His design for us; that by fully knowing ourselves, we truly become our ourselves – we truly become Man.

With this in mind, it’s onwards to World Youth Day!