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We Bring the Holy Ghost
By Lucian Thompson and Debbie Porter

Over the years, Halloween has become an eagerly anticipated annual event for children and adults alike, particularly in North America. October has become the season for dressing up as witches, goblins and ghosts, as well as celebrating the macabre and horrifying. However, more and more Christians are now asking the question, "Should we be encouraging our children to participate in this way?"

The Church is now responding to that question by seeking to offer alternatives that will provide positive role models for the next generation.

But before we explore the alternatives, let's take a look at the origins of the Halloween tradition and as we do, let's consider whether it is just an innocent bit of fun, or whether it may actually be offensive to God.

The name Halloween came from a Druid holiday called "The Vigil of Saman." In ancient Britain, this was called Samhain, pronounced So-wein. Innocently enough, this only means "summerís end". However, there was also a very strong spiritual connection with this holiday. According to the Halloween Trivia page at Essortment.com, this was also "a time for communicating with the dead and receiving wisdom from past ancestors."

It was at this time of year that the Celtic druids gave gifts to the spirit world as a payment insuring that the next yearís crop would be a good one. It was believed that if the "treat" was not acceptable, then the spirits would "trick" them by making the crop fail and causing other misfortunes to take place.

Some attempt to adapt these rituals was made by the early Christians in an effort to make Christianity more acceptable to the Pagans. To do this, November 1st became "All Saints Day", which was instituted to honor all those who were in heaven, and October 31st became "All Hallows Eve", as the night for remembering the dead.

For Christian parents, the challenge is there every October 31st Ė should they allow their children to participate in this socially acceptable activity, or do they look for other options?

The Bible exhorts us in Proverbs 22:6, to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (KJV)

From this scripture we can see that truth should always come first. This is so that our children will be equipped to understand and interpret any explanation of the worldís viewpoint from Godís perspective on the matter. Trying to ingrain truth after a fallacy has been sown into the mind of an impressionable child, is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Coming from that angle is much more like "training down", rather than "training up".

As Christians, we need to lead by example and always go with fact before fiction. As the Church, we need to provide good, solid teaching and use October 31st as a tool for Godís glory.

With that in mind, here are some Halloween alternatives that your Congregation could implement this year:
  • Using Halloween as an opportunity to reach out into the Community is probably one of the best alternatives any congregation could become a part of. The Halloween Outreach Organization has a vision to make the last night of October the largest, one-night, nationwide evangelistic effort in the history of America. In their words, "Evangelize your neighborhood this year Ė it's as simple as turning your light on." http://www.halloweenoutreach.com/

  • Consider having a Costume Progressive Dinner for members of the church family and their friends. Instead of going door to door for trick-or-treating, you go door to door for fellowship, food and fun. Every home on the "dinner trail" could have little packages of treats for the children to collect.

  • The Church Business website gives some excellent alternatives for congregations to look into. Author, RaeAnn Slaybaugh, gives six creative options, from a very simple "Trunk-or-Treat" day, to a full scale youth outreach. http://www.churchbusiness.com/articles/381cover1.html

  • The Amazing Mom's Website has some great ideas, including plain, old-fashioned alternatives that any church group could easily organize for Fall Family Fun! http://www.amazingmoms.com/htm/harvest_party.htm

  • Be givers, not receivers! The Trinity Christian Fellowship in Virginia Beach will be turning the tables this year, by going door to door throughout their neighborhood, giving away hand-made crafts and other small gifts, together with treats and Christian brochures. It will be less "trick-or-treating" and more "bless-and-giving". The church will be inviting their neighbors to come and worship with them, where the only "ghost" they will encounter is the Holy Ghost. The goal is to make that invitation in a very light-hearted, warm and non-confrontational way.
These are just a few of the ways that a congregation can respond to the candy and horror overload of October 31st. Once you start thinking "out of the box" for Halloween, the possibilities are endless. Also keep in mind that your church could be providing a safe environment for families in your community. With "stranger danger" and the potential risk of a child receiving contaminated candy, a lot of parents are understandably cautious about letting their children roam freely from door to door and are looking for other options.

For many congregations, providing a Halloween alternative is a learning experience. But as they trust God to lead them in the proper way to handle the misinformation and pagan customs of the past, they are producing good fruit that will last a life time.

This October 31st, letís keep Proverbs 22:6 very much in our thoughts and pray that the Lord will help us to hear what He is saying to the church today concerning our children and our responsibilities to them. Our children are little "clones" of our beliefs and actions, which is never more evident than that moment of truth when we all find ourselves saying, usually in shocked disbelief, "Oh no! Iíve become my mother!" Or father, for that matter.

So this Halloween, letís put fact before fiction and do what we can as a church to break the cycle Ö before the cycle breaks us. After all, when it comes to Halloween, we alone are able to bring the Holy Ghost!
Lucian Thompson is the Associate Pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His expertise is in the area of Eschatology and he is an avid writer of Bible Study and devotional materials for his church. A former Chief of Police who uses his life experiences to counsel others in the pitfalls of life. E-Mail: revthompson@cox.net Web Site: www.trinitychristianfellowship.net
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