November 1 is All Saints’ Day, a “Lesser Festival” in the Christian Year. Its origins go back to pre-Christian Europe, to a pagan New Year’s festival called the Feast of Samhain (since November 1 was considered the first day of a new year). Surplus animals that couldn’t be fed through the coming winter were slaughtered, and people would enjoy a big feast. Also, people believed that the spirits of the dead would return to wander the earth, and they lit fires to scare those spirits away. The Romans had similar festivals at this time of year, Feralia, a feast for honoring the dead, and Pomonia, a feast in honor of the goddess of fruit.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the church sought to adapt and Christianize pagan festivals such as these. November 1 was therefore made “All Saints’ Day” (or “All Hallows’ Day”), a day to honor the saints of the past, as well as all the dead of the Christian community. October 31 thus became “All Hal-lows’ Eve” or “Hallow-e’en”.
During the Reformation, there was an attempt to cut out some of the practices associated with All Saints’ Day, especially that of praying for the dead. Some Protestant churches removed All Saints’ Day from the calendar altogether. However, many of the folk traditions associated with Hallow e’en and All Saints’ Day have survived to the present, including making jack-o’-lanterns and “guizing” (going around in disguise).
For us today, it is worthwhile to remember that, in the New Testament, the word saint (meaning “holy person”) refers not just to people who are unusually virtuous, but to all members of the Christian community, present and past. All Saints’ Day is thus a suitable occasion for remembering, honoring, and giving thanks for the “saints” of the past — the ordinary ones as well as the great ones — and their contribution to the life and ministry of the church.
October 31 is Reformation Day, and October 25 is Reformation Sunday. Reformation Day is one of the so-called “Lesser Festivals” of the Christian Year, and commemorates a significant period in the history of the Christian church. The Reformation (1517-1648) was a time in which people sought to bring about reform in the church, but rather succeeded mainly in creating new “branches” of the church, breaking away from the established Roman Catholic Church. One of those branches is the Reformed tradition, of which the Presbyterian Church is a part. The other major branches created during the Reformation are the Anglican tradition, the Lutheran tradition, and the Anabaptist tradition.
From our perspective as Presbyterians in Canada, the most significant leaders of the Reformation were Martin Luther (who in effect started the Reformation), John Calvin (the founder of the Reformed tradition), and John Knox (who followed John Calvin’s teachings in leading the reform movement in Scotland).
The first meeting of the Homework Group has been postponed a week, to give volunteers time to have their police records checks done. The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, 28 October, at 4:00 p.m., in the classroom, downstairs.
Stewardship Visitation – The elders will be conducting our annual Stewardship Visitation this week. The Stewardship mailing has already been sent out, and hopefully everyone has received it. If you haven’t, please speak to your elder or John Zondag. In connection with this annual emphasis, we are handing out a series of stewardship-themed leaflets on four consecutive Sundays — the past two Sundays, today, and next Sunday. Also, a special lunch will be held following the service next Sunday, the 25th, in place of the usual “Visitation Dinner”. If you’re planning to stay for that lunch, please let your elder know, so that we know how many to plan for
We are starting a Homework Group on October 21, 2015 at 4:00 PM in the Church Hall (basement) of First Presbyterian Church. We plan to have the Group meet every Wednesday until the end of the school term
The purpose of this group is to help the youth in our community to do better in school. If you are looking for help with your homework or simply a quiet space to do it in, you are welcome to come. We have a few volunteers signed up to help in a variety of subjects and we welcome more volunteers.
If you are interested, or have questions, please speak to Keith Kelly (857-5712) or John Zondag.
Refugees – Approximately 20 people from five local churches attended an initial meeting on how we might respond to the current refugee crisis — specifically, by sponsoring one or more refugee families. A number of questions were identified, and various people volunteered to find answers to them in advance of the next meeting. A second meeting will be held on Thursday, 8 October, at 7:30 p.m., at Trinity United Church, in the parlor (downstairs; enter by the green door on the south side of the building). Please speak to John Zondag if you are interested in this issue.