Halloween...are you part of our community?
By Bill Egan, Director of Church Planting
Every year when Halloween comes around Christians face the difficult decision of whether or not to participate in the goolish festivities. For self-preservation, I won’t attempt to answer this question but will leave it for each individual's conscious to make that determination. What I will do though is share from my experience of living cross-culturally in India for many years.
Upon arriving in our new city we were overwhelmed by the vast cultural differences. It seemed like there was not a holiday season per se, but more of a constant festival that occurred monthly, or even weekly. At the onset of each festival a solicitor would knock on each door asking for a financial contribution. These funds were to be used for a variety of entertainment for our local community a.k.a. apartment complex. We always declined, as one component was the puja or worship of some deity, which in good conscience we could not participate.
As we settled into our new life overseas we began forming deep relationships with our neighbors. The elderly lady directly across the hall from us was affectionately known as “dangerous Aunty” by all the local residence. She received this nickname due to her shrewdness in dealing…scaring any unofficial person looking to take advantage of her neighbors. Its always nice befriending someone like this.
One day she approached us about an upcoming festival. She told us that she completely understood our position in not participating in worshipping other gods, but went on to explain to us that by not participating in any of the festivities, it placed us outside our local community. She continued explaining that we could tell the person collecting funds that we would like to give to the community festivities, but not to the special puja, as we were Christians.
This was a great cross-cultural learning experience for us. We enjoyed a ridiculous amount of fireworks, food, and fellowship with our neighbors while not having to be involved in a religious event. Most of all, we began to be viewed as part of this deeply connected community. As I think back to this event I can’t escape how similar Halloween is for many of us. The challenge we face is allowing our light to shine brightly while not compromising our convictions. We seek to be churches engaging the lost in our local settings, are we viewed as insiders or outsiders by our neighbors, our communities? Sometimes it takes slipping into your “missionary” role to think through how you can best impact your local community with the gospel.