On Sunday night, the night before Halloween, we were invited to participate in a Halloween experience different than any other we had encountered. Younger stepson was a part of an orchestra for an event that took place the two weekends before Halloween. We were told that this was the 18th year since its inception. It was the Annual Halloween Extravaganza of the local BareBones Productions.
So we set out for a park near the Mississippi River, eventually becoming one of a long line of cars on our way to this experience. When we got there, it was dark and cold and a young woman was orienting us to the story. It had something to do with the Book of the Dead, and death taking a holiday. There was humor and pathos. There was music, acrobats, puppets, people walking on stilts, choreography, lights. There were some elaborate sets. There most moving moment for me was when a line of people entered the outdoor stage, singing the chorus of Laurie Lewis' song, "Here Today." "We're here today/and then we're gone/Our lives are short/Just like a song." There was a story, but I confess that I didn't quite get it.
As we were walking back to our car in the darkness, I couldn't help considering the implications for the church (yes, I think there are some.)
1. We possibly put way too much emphasis on "understanding." Don't get me wrong, I'm all about 'faith seeking understanding; I'm not giving up on knowing what and why I believe for a kind of fuzzy-mindedness. But there's also a place for mystery, which I think we sometimes flatten out. Whether it's our attempts to make Christianity "practical", or figure out once and for all what Jesus actually said, sometimes all we end up doing is reinforcing the idea that God is less than the sum of our ideas. Leave room for mystery.
2. The theme was an adult one: Simply, as much as I could get, it was "The meaning of life, and the reality of death." Yet, people brought their children. Possibly, this was because you could dress up in costumes. I don't know. What it means to me is that people are interested in grappling with hard, theological questions. The church tends to hook adults through their children. What if we hooked children through their parents?
Leave room for questions.
3. People will invest a lot of time, energy and creativity in something they are passionate about. There were a lot of people (many of them young people) who gave hundreds of volunteer hours to make this happen. From Notre Dame to the St. John's Bible, from storytelling to poetry, from gregorian chant to Amazing Grace, creative endeavors are a powerful vehicle for truth. Leave room for creativity.
4. And don't minimize the appeal of standing outside in the dark, wearing costumes, and not knowing exactly what will happen next. Especially wearing costumes. There's something about wearing costumes that appeals to people. There's something about being someone else, whether that someone else is a monster or a queen, someone beautiful or scary, Superman or a bum. Maybe it's as simple as considering what it means to "put on Christ." Leave room for playing Christ.
5. People are hungry for mystery. They want to ask, and wrestle with the big questions. The question is: will we leave room?