Pneumatological Nostalgia

By David Ramos

Last Sunday I ministered at a Spanish Eastern District Hispanic Assemblies of God Church in West New York, New Jersey. The pastor of the church, the Rev. Eleazer Garcia was a dear old friend of mine who watched me grow up, not only on my block as a youth, but also as a minister throughout the years. I recounted how the neighbors would witness me get home in the morning from clubbing while they were already washing their cars. Eleazer was one of those neighbors who witnessed this but also my transformation into a Christian youth leader, an AG sectional leader, and move up the ranks until now, an ordained minister.

The worship service was ablaze with music, praise, dramas, etc. I ran into people I had not seen for over a decade and even strangers I did not know came to tell me that they remembered me from years ago. God moved that evening in a special way as both young and old cried on the altar and gave their hearts to the Lord. I felt a nostalgia for my people, for my culture, for my movement, for a time gone by, and remembered the mighty acts of God throughout that time period.

After the service I was told an interesting comment, that I supposedly still ministered, “con la uncion.” What they meant was that I was still “anointed.” Their concern was that after all the years, and after attending the classical anointing killer—seminary—that I still apparently “had it.” I understood their concerns having witnessed many friends somehow “lose faith” throughout their academic process. While I knew this comment was meant as a compliment, nevertheless, I was amazed how the age old dichotomy of head and heart, order and ardor, reason and pathos still remains entrenched within the psyche and understanding of so many. Why is it that so many years later some hold the litmus test for high octane Christianity to be speaking in tongues while for others it is the memorization of certain parts of the Westminster Catechisms? Why must we do violence to a more fully-orbed humanity seeking to bring harmony to various elements of our soul?

As young Latinos increasingly become more educated, upwardly mobile, and analytical, how will the “old guard” negotiate the newer generation’s natural thirst for new fountains of knowledge and its effortless and often unconscious accelerated hybridity? Will the younger generation make the effort to honor traditions, and make the effort at intergenerational dialogue, or will they just jettison the past for an apparent “new upgrade in software?” With the increased popularity of post-modernist, post-colonialist, and even post-Christian dialogues, are new generation thinkers merely “afterburners” defining itself over and against the past?  I find the emergent movement’s deliberate effort of melding both ancient and contemporary forms of Christianity refreshing and hopeful when conducted responsibly; its effort at authentic community is also to be commended in an age when corporate entrepreneurial models for church reign supreme. Yet even in the emergent movement it seems that we produce a cognitive elite with shamans around the campfire while others remain outside the tee-pee.

What about issues of race and class? Where are the people of color in the emergent movement? Is Pentecostalism brutally egalitarian and hence one of the reasons for its wildfire spread and success throughout the two-thirds world? What I think we are witnessing and what is so desperately needed is a Christianity that transcends race, class, sex, social location, and ethnicity—a new advent of the Spirit. I can hear my academic colleagues’ scorn mixed with laughter saying, “all theology is contextual! What you ask for does not exist, you cannot separate folk from their social location or their epochal moment.” Yet I find a wonderful model of Kingdom transcendence in the second chapter of Acts. Perhaps we can move forward (in spiritual/theological breakthroughs) by going backwards (by acknowledging, affirming and practicing historical contributions and import). Perhaps what we need is an accordion effect, a movement that goes forward and backward if we are ever going to get this right.

As technology pushes our cognitive abilities by providing us new templates for processing greater data at faster speeds, what we need are more fluid, organic, interdisciplinary and creative models of community, church and communication not more brittle, limiting, and/or hierarchal ones. Life and meaning are crafted in communities and we must be willing to move and experiment with our church models factoring social, cultural and spiritual shifts if we are to remain relevant.

As I wiped my sweat off my brow while I prayed for people in that church and they prayed for me, I realized that I was not seeking the elixir of mere intellectual ascent, but the humbling and filling of the presence of God. I long for a balance of head and heart, I long for spaces that celebrate my mind and my passion, I long for theological communities that allow you to struggle and contribute. I find moments of this with close friends but these moments are erratic, episodic and at times chaotic. Like a good cup of coffee with the Sunday Times I savor these moments while I remember with fondness what was and long for what can be.


  1. oye hermano, this post is so powerful, I’m going to have to come back and read it again just to comment. you wrote both my mind and heart…

  2. Dave, I totally feel this post yet I think it is complicated. These longings lead to other questions such as what selves do we need to be in order to see such a community come to fruitition? I have lots more to say but I hearing a crazy report on the TV right now and have to go watch…but I’ll be ba-ck!

  3. Thanks Jose & Liz, I’m looking forward to your comments.

  4. Brother David,
    It is good to think deeply about these things. Head and heart are kept in tension and yet both must be absolutely surrendered to God. It’s a both and proposition and not just an either or. It seems like so many in the church, the Latino church not excluded, opt for either an either/or as oppossed to a both/and dichotomy. You make a valid point about elitism and individuals vowing for some type of shamanistic prestige. This should be a caveat for us to keep in mind. The call still is to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily and follow Him. The question is how willing are we. Shalom!

  5. Thank you David for your comments, this is all the reason why it is important to have communities of accountability, where truth telling in love helps us to become who we can be and reach our highest aspirations. May we find these blessed friends, brothers and sisters in our soul journey.

  6. devo,
    what you discuss in your hopes for the church is prophetically imagined. aint nothing wrong with that brutha. this is a hope that i believe is a real possibility for the church, but can be a challenge if churches are entrenched in institutional culture. it’s interesting that much of what you’re speaking about is the discussion of a new kind of church. But what you don’t hear too much (but somewhat recently) in the emergent circles is that pentecostal experience of Spirit. Man, imagine a church that has the organic features you mentioned, but was not devoid of intellect (love God with all your mind) and reflection. What if we could have both the passionate Latino experience of Spirit, coupled with scholasticism? where are those that are willing to experiment?

  7. Great post! (But for some reason there are no spaces between paragraphs in my browser which makes it difficult to read. Not sure how to correct that.) I’m so feeling this right now, especially after the weekend I had.
    I went to Toronto to experience for myself the renewal that’s gone on at Toronto Airport Fellowship for the last 12 years. I came back feeling that for all the peculiarities of the manifestations of the spirit (their words), what I experienced there was remarkably similar (in substance, not style) to what I’m beginning to experience with the Emergent Church conversation. Except TACF has the heart and the EC types have the head.
    This is oversimplified, I know, but I’m still gathering my thoughts for a longer post in the next couple of weeks. Just know, there are more of us out here praying for “a balance of head and heart, … spaces that celebrate mind and passion, … theological communities that allow us to struggle and contribute.” These moments, I pray, will soon become less “erratic, episodic and at times chaotic.”

  8. Jose,
    You are right about “entrenched institutional cultures” they become barriers to the new waves of opportunities. There is a group of Pentecostal/Wesleyian Scholars and their emerging academic contributions. Yet, what I hear from your spirit is access to these realities by the body/laity. When these streams of communicaton become more developed we will witness a strengthened and more informed “laity/body ministry” and its subsequent blessings–something to work for indeed.
    Thanks for the feedback, I’ll try to rectify the document on my end.
    Several months ago Rudy and I were talking about hosting an emergent discussion in New York. Perhaps we are nearing the time for this. Let’s discuss.

  9. Another perspective… What other Christian leaders say about the “emerging church” movement:
    Dr. Gary E. Gilley
    • The Emerging Church — From and To Where?
    Does cultural change require the Church to redefine and reshape itself — emerging as fresh and sundry expressions of worship? And is the style of our worship more important than the substance of our worship? If the seeker-sensitive church epitomizes modernity, then the emergent church is created in the image of postmodernity. This seminar will examine the key players, philosophy, and theology of the “emerging church,” along with its history, future and threat to evangelical Christianity.
    Gary Gilley has been pastoring at Southern View Chapel in Springfield, Ill., for over 30 years. He is author of three books, ‘‘I Just Wanted More Land,’’ – Jabez, This Little Church Went to Market, and the soon-to-be-published This Little Church Stayed Home. He also writes the monthly study paper, Think on These Things which examines important contemporary theological issues, and is a contributing author for PFO’s The Quarterly Journal.

  10. Arnaldo,
    This sounds like a great conference. When and where will this be held? It would be great if a number of us can attend both the upcoming Emergent conference at Yale Divinity School on February 6–8th and this one as well. We could compare and contrast information, theological perspectives and/or even conduct an open post-discussion somewhere in NYC.

  11. Arnaldo Mejias
    April 27-29, 2006
    Saint Louis Conference on Biblical Discernment
    Registration Information:
    Pre-Registrations (through April 1, 2006)
    Individual Pre-Registration $65.00
    Husband & Wife Pre-Registration $110.00
    Student/Faculty or Minister Pre-Registration* $50.00
    Conference Daily Rate Pre-Registration (Thursday or Saturday) $20.00
    Conference Daily Rate Pre-Registration (Friday) $35.00
    Standard Registrations (April 2 through On-Site)
    Individual Standard Registration $80.00
    Husband & Wife Standard Registration $135.00
    Student/Faculty or Minister Standard Registration* $60.00
    Conference Daily Rate Pre-Registration (Thursday or Saturday) $25.00
    Conference Daily Rate Pre-Registration (Friday) $40.00
    Conference Banquet (Thursday, April 27, 6:00 p.m.)
    Conference Banquet Reservations† $15.00
    *Active full-time high school, college, or seminary students/faculty and ministers on a local church staff.
    (Please provide copy of school ID for students; church publication with name listed or business card for ministers.)
    †Register early for conference banquet. Reservations are limited and accepted on a first-come, first-sold basis.
    Click here for a printable Conference Registration Form
    Click here for a printable Conference Flyer with Registration Form
    Make checks payable to:
    PFO Saint Louis Conference
    and mail to:
    Personal Freedom Outreach
    P.O. Box 26062
    Saint Louis, MO 63136-0062
    (314) 921-9800
    Hosted at:
    Parker Road Baptist Church
    2675 Parker Road
    Florissant, Missouri 63033
    Conference Location: Parker Road Baptist Church is located at 2675 Parker Road in Florissant, MO. The church is 2½ miles north of I-270 and New Florissant Road (Exit 27). Go 1.7 miles north on New Florissant Road, then .8 mile east on Parker Road. It is just 9 miles from the Saint Louis International Airport and minutes from motels and a wide variety of restaurants. Please call PFO at (314) 921-9800 for additional information.

  12. Arnaldo,
    Will they be recording the conference in any format?

  13. Arnaldo Mejias

    Apparently, the conference is recorded… I found tapes for sale from the 2004 conference:

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