“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with endurance the race set before us…” Hebrews 12:1
The author of Hebrews pictures a cloud of witnesses, those who have come before us, encircling us and cheering us on as we follow in the Jesus Path. November 1st is “All Saints Day,” a day celebrated in Western churches to honor martyrs and saints, as one tradition says “both named and obscure.” The evening before this hallowed day is known “hallowed eve,” or, of course, Halloween.
The earliest origins of Halloween are a bit obscure, but many cultures recognize a time when, as is said on the Isle of Iona, “the veil between this world and the next is thin.” It is as if those clouds of witnesses have a particularly good view as they surround us with their encouragement.
This Sunday our annual Service of Memory and Hope falls on October 31st. We are remembering those members and friends of this congregation who have passed away this year. They have become a part of that cloud of witnesses, the community of the saints eternal. As we name them and light a candle in their memory, we also remember others who have died, who have shaped our lives and shaped our faith.
Following our worship service, we are also celebrating Halloween with a “trunk or treat” and costume party in our parking lot off 16th Street. The children of our church are invited to dress up and go from car to car to receive treats and affirmations.
This Sunday’s celebrations reflect the life of our congregation right now. We are in a season of naming our sorrows and embracing our joys; of recognizing what we must let go of and finding new ways to connect; of hello and goodbye. Last week we celebrated the installation of Rev. Steve Jerbi, who has been serving and leading us for nine months. What a day of joy that was. In three weeks, on November 20th, we will celebrate the ministry of Rev. Dr. Catherine Foote, and then, on November 30th, her ministry of twenty years with us will come to an end. We are in a season of change.
Over the last nineteen months, as our opportunities to gather face-to face came to an end, we began these weekly pastoral letters. We knew with all the change around us we needed new ways for us to offer encouragement, to stay connected, to share resources, and to provide gospel perspectives on events of the day. In this year and a half, it has been good to stay in touch in this way, and we intend to continue this practice for as long as it is helpful. As we let go of old ways of doing things and take up new ways, as we explore all we have learned about the place of this spiritual community in our lives, as we emerge into whatever God is calling us to become in this season, we recognize that others have made these journeys before us. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and we are witnesses as well to the way God is at work through us, and the ways God is present with us.
Here is how to reach us:
Amy, (206) 605-6893, email@example.com
Catherine, (206) 321-7604, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve, (414) 238-7030, email@example.com