Why this Baptist Pastor loves Halloween
Is it wicked for Christians to have fun on Halloween?
If so, then count me guilty as charged. We all know that “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” is foundational to the evangelical church (1 Cor 9:22). It is because of this crucial evangelistic mindset that many churches are lead to endure the blandness of craft ministries to reach older people (it works but it sure can be dull for the pastors involved). So if we are willing to embrace the boredom of knitting groups, you’d think we would care enough about young people to connect with them over Halloween.
I know what you are thinking? But doesn’t Halloween have pagan roots? – yes but so does Christmas, Easter and even New Year’s Eve but we celebrate all of those don’t we. The difference for all of those other celebrations is that Halloween actually pushes people to engage with their neighbours in a distinctive way. Generally, Christmas is reserved for close relatives, Easter for camping and NYE is a time with close friends but Halloween is a unique celebration. The gist of Halloween is that you get to enjoy dress-ups and then move out into your neighbourhood and talk with people you may walk straight past every other day of the year.
I live in a highly community focussed suburb in Adelaide called Colonel Light Gardens, this area has a significant reputation for celebrating both Christmas and Halloween with lots of decorations. Although it was my first year as lead pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in the heart of Colonel Light Gardens, I was ready and raring to engage with my local community.
I informed my church board of my ideas and they helped re-shape my initial idea of dressing up as the grim reaper (using a black graduation gown and garden sickle) into a friendly pirate. I brought it to the congregation for the two preceding Sundays and invited them to pray for us. There were some doubters that acknowledged that they didn’t like Halloween (‘un-Australian’ and ‘pagan’) but they understood what we were doing and why. On the Sunday before Halloween I sent everyone home with a small wrapped chocolate from the stash we had ready to give out but told the congregation that they could not eat it until they prayed for us on the day of Halloween.
We bought nearly 20kg of bargain slightly out of date chocolate from Foodbank and set up out the front of the church with a fire brazier and marshmallows for toasting. It was so important to have helpers join in, a couple of young people dressed as a Jedi and “Where’s Wally”. We had probably about 500 kids and adults come past that we connected with to varying degrees over a 3 hour period. Some of the families hung around and toasted marshmallows so we could tell them about kids club or youth group, others had pre-schoolers who we invited to playgroup.
We even gave out invitations for the service after Halloween which was a light-hearted gospel message entitled “God’s thoughts on zombies” from Eph 2:1 – 10. A number of people remarked that they were really surprise that a “Baptist church” would be doing something like this. We responded that we love chocolate, dress ups and connecting with the community as much, if not more, than the next person.
Surely, if we are called to be salt and light in the world, then we wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity when so many of residents surrounding our church building are walking the neighbourhood at Halloween. My question to you is, what could you do to engage with your local community at this unique time? The battle is over Australia, Halloween is here to stay. We can be grumpy that culture isn’t playing out in the way we would like, or we can sieze the opportunity to engage our neighbours that has fallen in our laps.
By Scott Berry, Trinity Baptist Church SA