I’m not a big Halloween fan. It has become a huge money maker for candy companies to provide for the trick-or-treaters. The observance’s derivation is dubious, but it evidently comes from the misty Celtic history which believe that once a year the spirits of malignant persons rose from their graves to make mischief, and this dubious observance came to take place on the eve of the church’s All Saints/All Hallowed celebration, which was on November 1st. But now very few even recognize All Saints Day, …but most know about Charlie Brown waiting in the pumpkin patch for the appearance of the Great Pumpkin, rather than trick-or-treating with his friends.

In my passage of living in New Orleans, with it famous cemeteries and strong Roman Catholic influence, All Saints Day is a postal holiday when the vendors go to the cemeteries to sell flowers and food to all the folks who come with camp chairs to sit by the graves of their departed family members.

My own observance each year is to remember and write down the names of those Christian folks/friends who have been a significant and transforming blessing to me in my Christian pilgrimage. The list changes and grows from year to year. I commend it to you. We did not get here on our own, but by the faithful persons whom God has used in my life. From this late life perspective, I realize how wonderfully they came into my life at key moments. Here are a few:

  1. My Christian parents, Mildred and Virgil Henderson, who led me and my brothers to Christ and also modelled it for us with grace and humility, and gave us a love for scriptures.
  2. Mary Harden Vaught was an episode. She was evidently from a prosperous family in the 1920s, who lost everything in the Great Depression. Mary Harden had aspired to be an actress, but somehow with turn of events became a Christian, went to a Bible College, and Christian education training school, and wound up as Christian educator in my home church. Her clothing and hair style were right out of the 1920s, … but she was so authentic, and her passion for Jesus so contagious that our youth group was hugely influenced by her. I last saw her years later as she was working in a rescue mission in Manhattan (New York), living on a minimum stipend, and full of joy.
  3. Betty Colburn, a Kansas girl whom I met on a hillside at a Bible conference in the Adirondack Mountains, who became my wife, my prayer partner, my encourager, the mother of my children, my wisdom and co-laborer for 58 years.
  4. John Stephen Brown who came as pastor to the campus church out of which I was working as Presbyterian campus minister at North Carolina State University. On a first meeting he bluntly announced that we were going to preach through scripture since that is what John Calvin did, and that I was to preach once a month on te next passage in the series (known as lectio continuum), I watched that congregation come alive. That became a formative principle for the rest of my pastoral career.
  5. Pete Hammond, an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship staff, whom I did not even like when I first met him, but who saw gifts in me that I had never recognized, and along with my wife became one of the two most formative influences in my adult life, because he would never allow me to deny my gifts.

  There are so many more, and on this coming Friday I will give God all praise for these saints, who are so much a part of my life. I commend this practice to you. “For all the saints …”

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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