Faithful Halloween

Fall and Faith HalloweenOn Wednesday evenings we are engaged in a series called “Around the Table,” where we share brief teachings to spark inter-generational conversations.  Here are notes on Halloween and Faith.

All Hallow’s Eve:

Halloween gets a bad rap in the church.  There are those who try to redeem it by celebrating “Hallelujah Night” or even having haunted houses to make people realize how bad hell might be.  Pastor Lauren and I have never been in this Anti-Halloween camp.  We both have fond Halloween memories. We also remember being pleased to learn about the origins of this day. This word “Halloween” is a contraction of the phrase “All Hallows Eve.”   In other words, Halloween is simply the eve of “All Hallows Day” or “All Saints Day.”  Historically, this is the day when the church has remembered those who have died and given thanks to God’s gift of new life through Jesus Christ.  We will celebrate All Saints Day this Sunday.

It is easy to see how our modern-day Halloween developed.  On the eve of this high and holy day, people would dress up in costumes to hide from, laugh at, and scare away evil spirits. They would gather sweets in anticipation of the memorial reunions with departed loved one.  Many stories evolved about the spirit world and they were told around bonfires.  Through the lens of faith, it can all be seen in a positive light.  It can also be corrupted. But why pick on Halloween in this regard?  Christmas, for example, can also be corrupted and lead us into greed, gluttony, selfishness, and envy.  It is a matter of perspective.  Jesus reminds us that the evil we need to focus on is the evil that comes from within (See Mark 7:21-23). Every day, we are invited to let God transform us from the inside out.

Around the Tables:

  • What were (are) your family traditions around Halloween?
  • Do you have positive memories?
  • What are some positive lessons that have come (or can come) from participating in Halloween together?

Imagination and Faith

At a retreat, while a leader was trying to engage the group in an activity, one person said, “I don’t like to play.”  This led to a discussion on the importance of play – even for adults. A major theme of Halloween is “pretending” and “role playing” and imagining possibilities.  It is important for our development and growth – even as adults.  As people of faith we are called to develop to expand our vision, to live into what is possible, and to develop the gift of imagination even, or especially, in the midst of heartache and hardship.  Paul had to use his imagination (to image or picture what is possible) through many trials and personal struggles.  To guide us into our next time of table conversation,  hear these words (Read Ephesians 3:14-21).

Around the Tables:

  • What is positive about “dressing up?” pretending?
  • How can imagination be used to help us learn what we can be?
  • How can Halloween be seen in this light?
  • What has been a favorite costume?

Facing our Fears

We live in a spiritual world, with so much that we don’t understand. There are “powers and principalities” that threaten us and those that inspire us.  In this reality, God gives us a “spirit of power and of love to overcome a “spirit of fear.” (See 2 Tim 1:7; Rom 8:15; Isaiah 41:10).  This spirit of power and love helps us to face our fears, even of death itself, knowing that victory has come through Christ. Through this lens, Halloween can help us.  Before we think some about how to face our fear in a positive way, we invite you to put it in perspective with an important passage.  We read: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:35-39).

Around your tables…

  • When was a time when you had fun being scared?
  • Why is it helpful to face our fears in a fun and safe environment?
  • How might Halloween be seen in this light?

On Halloween night, those who participate do so by turning on a light.  Those who choose not to participate leave the lights out.  It is an irony worth pondering.  Happy Halloween. And let us enjoy the day in the light of Christ’s eternal love for all.

Author: Michael Roberts

I am the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Conway, Arkansas. I love this work! Playing guitar, reading/writing, and theological conversation are among my favorite pastimes. My wife, Deidre is also an ordained United Methodist minister, and we have three wonderful children, all adults, and two grandchildren. I hold degrees from the University of Central Arkansas (BA), Duke University Divinity School (M.Div), and Southern Methodist University (D.min).

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