Did you know that the Episcopal Church has a worship service for Halloween? It’s true! Special readings and prayers are appointed for the Eve of All Hallows—more commonly called the Feast of All Saints—as a way of putting the festivities and frissons of Halloween in Christian context. The liturgy does not reject this holiday as evil or demonic, but rather takes the opportunity to consider the boundary between life and death, both its purpose and its permeability.
The most distinctive part of the liturgy for Halloween is the selection of readings: The Witch of Endor, The Vision of Eliphaz the Temanite, The Valley of Dry Bones, and The War in Heaven. Populated with ghosts, skeletons, dragons, and devils, these stories invite us into the supernatural in ways that The Episcopal Church has historically avoided. We are a church of scientists and historians, teachers and nurses, bakers and businesspeople. For all our love of mystery and candlelight, we generally prefer the practical to the paranormal.
So what are we doing with this crazy prayer service?
We’re reminding ourselves that the hereafter is in fact here and now. In the midst of life is death, and death is not in fact final. Our selves and our souls are not annihilated by death but instead continue as members of the Communion of Saints and Body of Christ. Our loved ones are not lost to us forever, but continue to live on with us in a way we cannot yet fully understand, though we know that they still care about us and pray for us.
The vision of Eliphaz reminds us of the good reasons for observing the boundary between life and death. It is too easy to assume the dead have all the answers or the ability to change our lives. Those powers belong properly to God and chasing after ghosts brings only heartache. Pursuing occult powers is equally futile since every demonic power has been conquered by Jesus Christ and all the Angels. The Episcopal service for Halloween respects the dwellers in the Other World, but it does not venerate them. This is very practical indeed.
So pull together your costume, put on your heaviest black eyeliner, and come to our Halloween service this year, Sunday October 31 at 5pm. Our observance will include Holy Eucharist to reaffirm Jesus’ victory over Sin and Death, and the assurance Resurrection and Eternal Life. That’s something worth celebrating!