Reflection by Stewart Perry
On Thursday I night a spent some time with our Youth Group. Earlier in the week our Youth Group Leaders Kiarni and Anika had asked me if it was “OK to have a Halloween themed night”. They were aware that talking about Halloween in a church context can be problematic. My response was that I was fine with it but it might be an opportunity to talk about the Christian link and origin of Halloween… the result of which was I was invited to come in and talk about it and answer questions of our young people.
If you weren’t aware, Halloween is always on the 31st of October, the day before All Saints Day. All Saints Day used to be referred to as All Hallows Day, and the day before was All Hallows Eve… hence Halloween. There is also a link between the beliefs of the Ancient Celts and the way the Christian Church used the festivals, rituals and beliefs of the communities they found themselves in to introduce the message of Christian hope.
Of course there is much about modern day Halloween that is inconsistent with the Christian message: the monsters, the commercialisation and the focus on scaring each other. I understand and respect those who chose not to participate or allow their children to participate in Halloween related activities for these reasons. One of the questions was about why they weren’t allowed to talk about Halloween at the school they went to.
The early church which was spreading across the world encountered many cultures, religions and rituals that were not only inconsistent with Christian beliefs and practices but many were repugnant to them. One approach is to ignore them, another is to reject them and speak against them but another approach, often used by the early church, was to use it as an opportunity to suggest an alternative view and to reframe perspective, understanding and practice towards the love of Jesus Christ. They often found that the strength of the message of Jesus accompanied by the loving service of his followers was quick to replace past pagan practices.
I do wonder if this is still possible in our day, even with the rapid commercialisation of a day like Halloween. Christians after all do believe in eternal life – life after death. We do believe in both the physical and the spiritual, we do believe in the battle of good against evil. We do believe that in Jesus and in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, evil and darkness is continuously conquered.
I suspect that in the generations to come there will be more and more opportunities present themselves that have similarities to the early church presenting Christ to a non-Christian world. Perhaps some of the members of our youth group might be at the front line of presenting a Christian perspective in a context that does not seem open or accepting of it. After all the compelling message of Jesus’ love that we have to share is far stronger than anything else the world can dream up or imagine.
I hope you have an opportunity on the days of Halloween, All Saints and All Souls day to reflect on the promise of eternal life, the love experienced and shared by those who have passed away and those who have been a Godly and Saintly example in your life. In that reflection I pray that you also might be able to share your confidence in the power of God’s love.