Sunday, October 31, 1999

Some opt for anti-Halloween activities

Churches provide alternative fun

The Cincinnati Enquirer

halloween logo
        To folks who see Sunday as a day for worshipping God, witches, ghouls and monsters don't exactly fit. Yet thousands of children will swarm sidewalks tonight dressed in scary costumes for an observancesome think promotes evil.

        That leaves some Christian families wondering what to do: celebrate the day by trick-or-treating and miss Sunday night services, or go to church and deny the kids a fun evening?

        “It seems a little bit ironic that it would fall right on a Sunday because it seems the origins of Halloween and Sunday don't mix,” said Mary Padgett, preschool ministries director at Liberty Heights Church in West Chester. “It has raised a few eyebrows as far as how we want to handle that day.”

  Several area churches are sponsoring Halloween alternative celebrations today. Here is a sampling:
  White Oak Christian Church, 3675 Blue Rock Road, Groesbeck, Family Fun Fest 6-8 p.m. Call 385-0425.
  New Hope Family Worship Center, 571 Elberon, Price Hill, Harvest Festival 3-5 p.m. Call 471-4547.
  Liberty Heights Church, U.S. 42 and West Chester Road, West Chester, Harvest Day 6-8 p.m. Call 777-6812.
  Word of Deliverance Ministries of the World, 11331 Southland Road in Forest Park, youth service 11 a.m., followed by youth dinner and activities. Evening services start at 7 p.m. Call 742-2701.
  Kenwood Baptist Church, 8341 Kenwood Road. Celebration 6:30 to 9 p.m. Call 791-0355.
  First Baptist Church of Dent, 6384 Harrison Ave. Harvest Celebration 5 to 7 p.m. Call 574-6411.
        Some Tristate communities made the decision easy, scheduling trick-or-treat for Saturday.

        “People did not want it on Sunday because of church,” said Mona Games, administrative assistant for Batavia. “We received calls even before the board made the decision.”

        And some churches are taking advantage of the calendar coincidence by having alternative celebrations that focus more on autumn's bounty and less on spooky stuff.

        Liberty Heights Church will hold a fall harvest festival tonight with laser tag, a moonwalk, hay rides, and a contest for best Biblical costume. The 2-year-old festival has become an annual event.

        Word of Deliverance Ministries of the World in Forest Park dedicated the entire weekend to youths. Friday evening, children ages 3 to 10 attended “Hallelujah Night” dressed as their favorite Bible character. Saturday, teen-agers attended a sexual abstinence seminar. Today's activities include a youth dinner and evening youth church service.

        “Halloween is definitely not a Christian holiday, and a lot of devious things happen during that time,” said Karen Hite, Word of Deliverance's marketing director. “We want to keep our children as safe as possible, and the only way to do that is to plan some things so they won't be interested in going out and doing those other things.”

        While some Christians prefer to ignore Halloween, others try to reclaim the holiday's religious roots.

        Jeff Johnson, associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Greenhills, uses trick-or-treat as an opportunity to teach his kids about Halloween's Catholic origin as a celebration of the night before All Saints Day.

        “What we try to do is make something positive out of it,” he said. “It really was a Christian holiday to start off with.“

        Common belief holds that Halloween's ghoulish bent began several centuries ago with the Celts, who celebrated their new year Oct. 31. The Celts believed that the laws of space and time were suspended for one night when the dead could mingle freely with the living.

        For many, Halloween has evolved into a secular observance that glorifies demons, terror and prank-playing — exactly the sort of thing to which Tamara Robinson doesn't want her children exposed.

        The West Chester mother of three hasn't allowed her children to trick-or-treat for 10 years. They hand out spiritual tracts along with candy to trick-or-treaters who visit their home.

        “To us, Halloween is like Satan's holiday,” Mrs. Robinson said.

        Her children, now 18, 14 and 12, will spend Halloween this year at Liberty Heights Church's harvest festival with others who believe that spooky celebrations just aren't compatible with a day of worship.

        “The kids will be getting candy,” Mrs. Robinson said, “but they'll be getting a Christian alternative message about Jesus Christ versus the other negative messages about Halloween.”


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