I’m not a big fan of Halloween, so it’s okay with me that we’re past the end of October. I confess that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t leave work early to hand out candy. I even make a point of eating out that evening, lest I show up at the house just as the teenage stragglers are coming by.
But the next day is a different matter. Halloween is the eve of All Hallows Day, or All Saints Day, an ancient religious day. While All Saints Day is more high church than I’m used to, in some Christian traditions its observance is less about the martyrs of centuries ago and more about the faithful folk of all generations—the cloud of witnesses celebrated in Hebrews 1.
There was a gathering of saints a few weeks ago in Lake Junaluska, N.C. People don’t have to be over 50 to be saints, but by that age they’ve had time to practice being sanctified. They traveled to the lakeside for National Older Adult Conference, which provided fellowship, learning, and inspiration.
It surely was a time “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Hard-hitting presentations, sermons, and Bible studies prompted people to listen and learn. Worship and fellowship knit the group together. “Saints” isn’t a word that Brethren use much. For me it evokes the memory of singing “For All the Saints,” a grand hymn from my Presbyterian childhood. It’s pretty thrilling with a pipe organ.
Today, after years of immersion in the Church of the Brethren, I see that the lyrics are more militaristic than I remember. Why didn’t I notice the warriors before? But here’s a stanza that can humbly hallow all the Brethren saints, both present and past:
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Wendy McFadden is executive director of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.