Last week was Halloween. In the past, our church (The Cambridge Vineyard) has offered an 'alternative' evening for the families of our congregation. Many Christians do not wish to take part in Halloween..
Last year our church partnered with the Allison Neighbourhood Community Association to create an outreach event called 'Light Up The Night'.
This year the event was planned to be larger and held on the church's front property. We distributed over 400 flyers throughout the community. We packaged hundreds of treat bags. We watched the weather forecast: rainy with a chance of more and more rain.
Thursday morning the clouds opened up and the rain started and didn't cease all day. But we pressed on. We modified the layout, changed the games the kids would play, we put up the tents to guard from the rain, we strung up hundreds of Christmas lights and flood lights, construction lights, everything we could do to be a light in our community.
We really had no idea if anyone would show up. We decided it was better to go through all the work to be where we said we would be than to cancel it and disappoint anyone who did show up.
Six o'clock came and after countless technical issues we were finally 'Lit Up'. Coffee was brewed, apple cider and hot chocolate were ready at the first station and the stream of people poured in as constant as the rain that soaked us. But there wasn't a face that wasn't just as brightly lit as our tents. There was a joy that night that was palpable despite the weather. We met close to 200 of our neighbours-what other night of the year would we have the opportunity to do that?
For some, the evening was controversial. Christians 'doing' Halloween? There are many who believe we shouldn't have anything to do with it at all.
Are we called to take our light and shine it only with other people who already have the light? Are we called to hide from the darkness with fear and trembling or face it, shining our light into it?
Did Jesus hang out with only those who believed he was the Messiah or did he go to those people and those places where people needed him.
The other question is did we preach the word? Did we talk about Jesus?
No we didn't.
Because sometimes you need to build a relationship with someone before they trust you enough to listen to what you have to say. There are people in our neighbourhood who think our church is a cult. There are kids who've heard an age old tale that if you go over the wall you never get out again. There are people who think we make wine.
This was an opportunity for people to meet us, the church (which of course isn't a building but the people who make up the body) to see that we are kind, happy and friendly people. The kids in the neighbourhood got to play games, get balloons, hear kids music and they were able to leave the property again-myth dispelled.
We did not serve any wine.
So, the next time we see some of the neighbours we are now a face they recognize, we can start a conversation and perhaps invite them to a service, to coffee or even into a relationship with Jesus, if that's where it looks like God is leading them.
Do I believe you can lead a perfect stranger to Jesus. Yes. But I also believe there's more than one way to skin a cat….so to speak….and that we are called to take any and all opportunities to light up the dark places so they can see the saviour we are talking about.