Presbyterians Today

OCT 2018

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OCTOBER Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay GOD MOMENTS | Donna Frischknecht Jackson Letting your Christ light shine We all have a passion to share D usk descended onto the little village, but the sleepy stillness that usually followed was nowhere to be found. It was Halloween in Salem — upstate New York, that is, not the one in Massachusetts known for its late 17th century witch trials. As a new pastor, I'd been informed by my congregation that this night was not to be missed. "Wait till you see the crowds of children that come into the village," said an excited elderly woman, who offered to sit with me outside the church to hand out Halloween candy to the children who walked by. Successful business people know that location is everything, and the location of the church's candy table was not ideal. The table was by the chapel door, which was some distance from the main thoroughfare, the sidewalk. For a pastor, nothing is more humbling than to be waving desperately, shouting, "Come to us! We have candy!" Some children would take the long walk over to us. Others would wave as they continued walking on the sidewalk. I couldn't blame them. The path they were on led to the Methodist church, which had been offering apple cider and hot dogs on Halloween night for many years. They had excelled at Evangelism to Kids 101 — meet the children where they were and give them what they needed. In this case, it was food for their bellies. When I realized what was happening, I coaxed the woman sitting with me to move the candy table closer to the sidewalk. It took some doing. There was a nip in the air, and she wanted to be closer to the kitchen to refresh her mug of hot tea. Even with the move to a better location, though, the children kept passing by on their way to the cider and hot dogs. It was a beloved community tradition, and no amount of candy from the Presbyterians — who never had a presence in the village on Halloween night — would change that. Until the fol- lowing year. Days before Halloween, on one of the many rural backroads I drove, I spotted a weathered farmhouse whose sagging front porch over'owed with carved jack- o'-lanterns. There must have been more than 30 designs, ranging from the traditional triangle eyes and one- tooth grin to artistic renderings of animals. I've always loved carving pumpkins. It was a childhood tradition that I carried into adulthood, and even when I couldn't persuade friends — or spouse — to join me in the fun, I'd do it by myself. I pulled the car over to admire the "pumpkinpalooza" in front of me. I realized then that this road didn't get much traf•c, so this person wasn't doing this for others. He or she did this out of the simple joy it gave them. And still, the carved pumpkins touched someone. Me. That's when the idea came. I didn't need to carve my one, lonely pumpkin anymore. I could share my passion with others in my congregation. And rather than carving faces on the pumpkins, we could carve out an inspira- tional message. And rather than keep the message for ourselves, we could place the pumpkins on the front lawn of the church so that on Halloween night, when hundreds of children came trick-or-treating, they would see God's word lit up. Halloween came. The pumpkins were carved and lined up in front of the church. As the sky grew darker, the message grew brighter: Let God's light shine. Ninjas, Darth Vaders and princesses didn't walk by. They stopped and stared. Parents stopped, too, and took their children's picture in front of the pumpkins. Little children who couldn't read would ask what the pumpkins said. I would tell them and then hand them CALL TO ACTION An easy way to get an inspirational message carved out of pumpkins for your church is to invite the congrega- tion• church school or youth group to come up with a message• After deciding on a message• put each letter of the message on a piece of construction paper and hang it up where all can see it• A few Sundays before Halloween• invite people to take a "letter" to carve into a medium to large pumpkin• Invite carvers to drop o€ the pumpkins at a designated time• A word of advice‚ Don't use candles to light the pumpkins• Even though the flickering light is dramatic• wind can blow candles out• If you have access to an outdoor outlet• it's best to string white Christmas lights through the row of pumpkins• Or use battery-oper- ated luminary candles•

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