Astronauts, a cowgirl, superheroes, a princess in pink sneakers, and so many others joined together around pumpkins, candy, and laughter. It was a joyous time on Sunday morning as the little ones, donning their various costumes, went from class to class around the church for some treats. And it was beautiful to see the classes open their doors and take a few minutes to welcome our children and celebrate the fun of this holiday.
I don’t know about you, but for me this time of year is filled with memories. Memories of dressing up and going to visit our neighbors, of pulling siblings along in a wagon, of sorting candy at the end of the night as siblings would make strategic candy trades. Visits to pumpkin patches, carving pumpkins, roasting the seeds, all of the things that we associate with this changing of seasons and the joy of time outdoors and with loved ones.
And, as Halloween rolls into November 1, I remember the reading of names in the church where I grew up, the chiming of the bell after each name. I remember the solemnness of that worship service. And I remember the deep gratitude I could feel in the adults around me. Gratitude for the lives of so many who poured out their life and who allowed Christ’s love to shine through them. So many who have shaped and molded each of us. Sorrow, gratitude, pain, comfort, questions, certainty, all intermixed.
Just as it feels as though there is a sharp juxtaposition between the cultural celebration of Halloween and the somberness of All Saints, our world right now feels as though we are sitting in this constant mixture of emotions. We have the joy of children and the laughter that comes with the simple act of dressing up. We have the deep pain and sorrow as we read about our siblings living in places of violence. We have the beauty of Baptisms yesterday. We have the grief of funerals of beloved church members these past weeks. And, in the midst of it all, we know and trust in the hope and love poured out in Jesus.
In the Presbyterian tradition our focus is less on the lives of formalized Saints and more on the Communion of saints. We give thanks for the ways God has worked through those in our midst – in ordinary and extraordinary ways. Looking at materials around All Saints Day we came across this explanation, and I cannot help but share it as it was a beautiful reminder to me.
“To rejoice with all the faithful of every generation expands our awareness of a great company of witnesses above and around us like a cloud (Hebrews 12:1). It lifts us out of a preoccupation with our own immediate situation and the discouragements of the present. In the knowledge that others have persevered, we are encouraged to endure against all odds (Hebrews 12:1-2). Reminded that God was with the faithful of the past, we are reassured that God is with us today, moving us and all creation toward God’s end in time. In this context, it is appropriate for a congregation on All Saints’ Day to commemorate the lives of those who died during the previous year.”
– PCUSA Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003, 150-151)
So, in a year where we have lost many, near and far, we invite you to join us. Join us for All Saints’ Sunday on November 5 as we read the names of those in our congregation who have died this year year and at 5 pm that day for a concert. And join us at noon on November 1, All Saints’ Day, as we try something new and have a simple service of remembrance in the Columbarium. Whether you have lost a loved one recently or years ago, whether your loved one is in the Columbarium here or not, no matter where you sit in that mix of sorrow, gratitude, pain, comfort, questions, or certainty, we invite you to come.