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VOLUME 1, NUMBER 11, OCTOBER 31, 2010Halloween, All Saints and All Souls
Last year, when I was making a pastoral call at a local rehab place one of the employees looked at the way I was dressed and asked if I was wearing a costume. I would think it was rare, but I suppose someone might think it was fun to dress as a priest for Halloween, so the question didn't seem too strange. "No. I'm a priest," I said. And the employee got a relieved look on her face and said, "Good. Halloween isn't something Christians should celebrate. It's the devil's day." That attitude isn't as unusual as it might seem. Saint Matthew's in Bogalusa offered a Trunk-or-Treat—an event at which a few of us decorated the church grounds and parishioners decorated their cars (especially their trunks) for Halloween in the church parking lot, filling their trunks with candy so that kids could come and trick-or-treat in a safe environment. We, along with the local Roman Catholic parish, were the only two congregations to do anything Halloween related. The other churches in town ignored Halloween at best or, at worst, actively campaigned against it as an explicitly pagan festival.
To be fair, they weren't all wrong. While in the Eastern Church, the Sunday after Pentecost has always been celebrated as the Sunday of All Saints—a recognition of the goal of lives transformed by the Holy Spirit—in the West All Saints has been celebrated on two different dates, each related to pagan festivals. The first, on May 13, was established early in the seventh century when Pope Boniface consecrated the Pantheon to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs, the same day as the pagan Feast of the Lemures—a festival in which the dark spirits of the dead were given offerings to appease them. The second, on November 1, was established in the mid-eighth century by Pope Gregory III, who called for a feast for All Saints—also called All Hallows or Hallowmas, on a date corresponding to the Celtic feast of Samhain—a harvest festival that also had features related to the spirits of the departed reaching back to take the plants and animals that died as the weather turned to cold. The Western Church continues to celebrate All Saints and the night before All Saints or All Hallows may be celebrated with a Vigil Mass called the Mass of All Hallows Eve or ‘Halloween.' In both cases (May 13 and November 1) the Church ‘baptized' the pagan idea that the boundary between the living and the dead became thinner during those festivals in order to emphasize the very Christian belief in the real and ongoing communion between the living and the dead in Christ.
In the West, an additional day to commemorate the faithful departed who were not yet purified (those in purgatory—that is, all of the dead who were not yet Saints in the capital "S" sense, but were on their way) began to be observed at the end of the tenth century and the beginning of the eleventh. This feast, now called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (or All Souls' Day) was suppressed in Anglican circles at the time of the Reformation, but was restored in many places as a result of the Catholic revival in the 19th century and as a pastoral response to the heavy loss of life in World War I addressing a need for a day to acknowledge peoples' connection with those they'd lost in the war.
This feast is in our Book of Common Prayer, though it is probably best not understood as a feast celebrating those not yet purified so much as a day to remember especially those saints from our own congregations and our own families who have gone before us to be with Christ and our continuing connection to them. This Wednesday's Mass (9:15) will be a celebration of this feast and we will read our parish necrology (list of the dead) on that day. For those who still want to receive anointing and laying on of hands the sacrament of Unction will be offered in the chapel immediately following the Mass. Whether or not you are able to celebrate with us Wednesday, please share the names of your dead loved ones that we might remember and pray for them this Wednesday.
SUNDAY MORNING ADULT CHRISTIAN FORMATION... The Adult Forum will continue today after the 10am Mass. This week and next week, just in time for Hallowen and All Saints, the Rector will offer a two part series on the theology of death, communion of and with the saints, and the Burial Rite of The Book of Common Prayer.
COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED... Forms are in the basket in the narthex for submitting names to be remembered at the altar on Wednesday, November 3rd. Names must be submitted Sunday, October 31.
CELEBRATING LIFE AS MINISTRY... Tools for All God’s People, is a conference on Lay Ministry sponsored by the Diocese of Newark on Saturday, November 6th, 8:45 am - 3:15 pm at Grace Church, Madison. Featured keynote speaker will be The Honorable Byron Rushing. Workshop topics include Faith and the Workplace, Ministry of Children, Seeking Justice, and Spiritual Direction. For more information and to register go to www.dioceseofnewark.org or contact the church office.
PLEASE SUPPORT FOOD FOR FRIENDS THIS PROGRAM YEAR... The fall season provides a timely opportunity for dedicating or rededicating ourselves to support the Food for Friends ministry. St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation Food Pantry in Paterson, which receives our contributions, especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats. Otherwise, their wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's Community Development Corporation and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul’s at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501.Thank you.
YOUTH GROUP... The joint Zion Lutheran and Grace Church Youth Group will meet at Zion, 12 Noon - 3 pm on Sundays November 7 & 21, & December 5. All young people are welcome!
DINNER AND WINE TASTING
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