From the Pastor of Germond Presbyterian, New City, New York

Pastor Abbie Huff, who grew up at Grace Baptist, writes in her church’s October Newsletter


October is the month I start thinking about spooky things.  Like any kid around Halloween, I used to love to get that goose-bumps feeling when I thought about the ghosts that walked after dark in my own haunts and neighborhood.  My friends and I would tell ghost stories and go to scary places, but to tell you the truth, the thought of ghosts just wasn’t that frightening to me.

I grew up going to a Quaker grade school, where underneath the creaking boards of the old meeting house was a trap door with a secret cellar.  This was where the community of faith in that day had harbored runaway slaves as they journeyed farther north to freedom.  In spite of the pain that all of those souls had experienced, there still lingered in that place a deep sense of conviction and compassion and a spirit of love that defied injustice.

That same grade school was also surrounded by fields and fields of cemetery.  Every field day we would have to trek through the more “recent” head-stones (you know – recent, like the 1800’s) to get to the Lower Fields.  Our everyday playground was built on top of the older graveyard (think 1600-1700’s), and so occasionally tag and red-light-green-light required that you hurdle a tombstone along the way.  In 4th grade we headed out to do “graveyard math” where we had to subtract the years that John Wallings lived from the number of years that Sarah Harding lived and divide it by the year that Grant Burkin died, etc…

Perhaps this sounds morbid to you, but it was normal to me.  The dead and the living coexisted lovingly and playfully, and I can’t think of a better gift to lay over a person’s grave than children’s laughter.  We were all part of one community, the communion of saints.

And so, stories of haunted cemeteries and specters in the dark were not as scary as they should have been.  Even when my youth group friends and I tried to scare each other as we played sardines in the darkened sanctuary and hallways of the church, it was difficult to feel afraid.  To think of the dead in that place was to call to mind faithful people like Carol Broadbent and Elmer Simpson, beloved church members, who were a part of my childhood, my upbringing and a part of me.  Instead, the thought of ghosts there in the dark of the church was comforting.  They were the spirits of a community of faith that made the place feel friendly and safe.  If their spirits were walking the halls, then they were walking it with care and affection (Elmer probably continuing his job as church custodian), making it a place where I felt loved, even by those who had passed on.

As Halloween approaches, this is an interesting line of thought to ponder.  You don’t have to believe in ghosts to see that our culture is obsessed with the thrill of “being scared” and fascinated with the supernatural.   As we raise our children in the Trick or Treat tradition, and they become increasingly exposed to ghost stories and horror flicks, why not help them find a peace with the dead and a way to think about this strange topic differently?  After all, in life and death, we all belong to God.

~Pastor Abbie Huff



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