31st October 2010 – HALLOWEEN


(Hallowe’en) is an annual holiday observed on October 31, primarily in the USA, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain (derived from Old Irish roughly meaning “summer’s end”) and the Christian holiday All Saint’s Day, but is today largely a secular celebration.

The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. The name ‘Halloween’ and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era.

Origin of name

The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Up through the early 20th century, the spelling “Hallowe’en” was frequently used, eliding the “v” and shortening the word. All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.


Christian attitudes towards Halloween are quite diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions of All Saints’ Day.

Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular holiday devoted to celebrating “imaginary spooks” and handing out candy. Other Christians feel concerned about Halloween, and reject the holiday because they feel it trivializes – or celebrates – paganism, the occult, or other practices and cultural phenomena deemed incompatible with their beliefs. Some consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith because of its origin as a pagan ” Festival of the Dead”.


A lovely Christian friend sent this little reflection on one of the symbols of the festival.

“Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin. God picks you from the patch and washes all the dirt off of you. He cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate and greed. He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for the entire world to see.” This was passed to me by another pumpkin. Now it’s your turn to pass on to the pumpkins in your patch.

Many Blessings

Rev Shan

Reflection – 24th October 2010 – Saints and Heroes of Our Faith.

I was preparing to speak at the Thursday Eucharist at Lota House this week and reading about the witness of a young man, drafted into the RAF, and sharing military barracks with 30 other men.

He had to make a decision. He had always knelt to say his prayers at night. Should he continue to kneel now that he was in military service? He squirmed a little bit and then said to himself: “why should I change just because people are watching? Am I going to begin my life away from home by letting other people dictate what I should and should not do?” He decided to kneel!

Everyone else was aware of his actions… he was the only obvious Christian in the barracks… and the only Catholic! He said later that those ten minutes on his knees often lead to long discussions. On the last day at boot camp, someone said to him “You are the finest Christian I’ve ever met.” He replied, “Well I might be the most public Christian you’ve ever met, but I don’t think I’m the finest, but thank you.”

Earlier this week our news programs were full of the Canonization of “Mary of the Cross”, or Mary MacKillop as we have known of her. There was much discussion in many circles about Mary’s elevation to sainthood.

Now, I am convinced that she was an extraordinary woman, with a great faith and a tenacious spirit. In fact, in 1994 or 5 I was even invited to attend an outdoor mass in Sydney, for her beatification, and found myself caught up and moved by the “hype”. But, I am not so sure that I could be in a position to measure the relative merits of the goodness of any human being, living or dead. Who really confers “sainthood” anyway?

For a young man to kneel in a barracks full of young men (and strangers at that) seems to me to be a brave witness… and could have been a very costly exercise.

My 3rd grade teacher (who was also my Sunday School teacher) was married to an alcoholic, who was more often drunk than not. She raised 2 children, taught full time and devoted herself to sharing the gospel. She didn’t speak ill of her husband and always held her head up. In a small country town life must have been difficult. As an adult, I recognise her as a hero for the faith. She is unsung but, it has been obvious at our school reunions, that her life and faith touched many.

Perhaps you have your own faith heroes? People who may not have lived their lives in the public eye but whose words and actions offered light in the darker moments of life? I believe that there are unsung heroes and Saints of faith even within our own congregations and I give thanks to God who knows each and everyone of you!

Love and Blessings

Rev Shan

Reflection – Sunday 17th of October, Prayer – Corporate and Solitary

Reflection – Sunday 17th of October

Prayer – Corporate and Solitary

I love to pray! More specifically, I love to come into the presence of God and spend quality time there. It’s pretty much like setting aside time to have coffee/tea with a friend. It’s important to set aside time and space away from interruptions… to give my whole attention to the one I am visiting with.

In private prayer, I am not one to use a lot of words. Sometimes I come to God with specific needs, or the prayer requests of parishioners, family and friends but otherwise, I am happy to sit in silence, just waiting on God.

I actually need times of silence to feel refreshed and energized, which is why, sometimes you will see me sitting quietly before a service.  I know that there are others in our congregations who have the same need.

In silence I find peace. On the other hand, I realize that I have been missing something very special since my arrival at St Paul’s. I have been missing the corporate prayer shared with my colleagues and a few parishioners, as we gathered to say Morning Prayer each day.

In particular, I miss reading the scriptures together, and sharing thoughts on the readings. Sometimes the Word of God, set for the day, is so pertinent to a particular situation that it is wonderful to be able to talk about the way in which the readings touch our lives today! At other times, simply praying together and sharing silent contemplation of the readings is also valuable.

I wondered if any member of our congregations might like to share in regular prayer? If so, please join me for Morning Prayer at St Paul’s, Monday to Thursday, at 8:30am. I would love to share the journey with you.

Many Blessings

Rev Shan

Reflection 10th October 2010 – The Gift of Grandparents

The following thoughts are not originally mine but came to me via two of our parishioners who have just returned from a time away. Most of the following is lifted directly from the pew bulletin of Zion Lutheran Church at Gawler.

They seemed pertinent to us for two reasons… the first being that we are currently exploring some of Paul’s encouragement and advice written to Timothy, who was much influenced by his Grandmother.

Second, the majority of our parishioners are grandparents … for whom a word of encouragement can never go astray. Especially as, being a grandparent often coincides with “slowing down” and, perhaps for some, feeling less useful than in our earlier years.

Timothy’s grandmother Lois was a person of living faith who had passed on her beliefs to her daughter and grandson (2 Timothy1: 5) Grandparents can play a very special part in communicating faith and values to their grandchildren. In their calling as “elders in faith’ they have wonderful gifts to offer.

  1. Self Worth – Children feel great when their grandparents give them positive recognition and unconditional love.
  2. Heritage – Whether they are close by or far away, grandparents give their children a sense of their identity and belonging.
  3. Acceptance – children need to know that the adults who are important to them accept their enthusiasms, ideas and activities. Such acceptance by grandparents is hugely affirming for children.
  4. Love – The gift of “I will be there for you at all times, no matter what” – whether spoken aloud, written in a letter, or shown by actions – will always be the most treasured and remembered gift of all.

It must have heartened Lois to know that Timothy grew to be a man of faith who served our Lord. We don’t always know the fruit of our prayers, faith or actions.

So… grandparents, remember that you have much still to give in the nurture of faith. And parents… perhaps a word of thanks to your children’s grandparents would help them to know their own worth. They have a special, God given calling!

Many, many blessings

Rev Shan

3rd October 2010 – Forgiveness

Over the past week I have had a number of discussions with people about forgiveness. I guess its something we all hope to receive … but sometimes find it hard to offer to others.

Forgiveness is very easy to talk or even to write about, but we need the power of the Holy Spirit to actually forgive. For the Christian, forgiveness is not optional. It is mandatory.

On Wednesday evening we reflected on a story of the experience of Sydney pastor, Tim Costello, at his inner city church. Quite unexpectedly, while at communion, one person spoke about his shock that he would be accepted at the altar though he was a very great sinner… the man (still at the altar) then gave a very graphic account of his misdemeanors. Other people were also moved to individual confession. With one such confession, a number of communicants were moved to gather around the “sinner” to offer forgiveness and to pray for healing from a particular “addiction.”

It got me wondering how people would react on Sunday, if the same sort of thing happened. I suspect that there would be a certain amount of discomfort. But, after the initial shock, I wonder, would we have the grace to offer healing and forgiveness in Jesus name? Would we still be able to look at each other with love? Or would the revelations change the way we perceive one another?

Jesus ate and drank with sinners… he knew their failings, and, if he didn’t, someone was bound to tell him. Regardless, he persisted in reaching out to those who were shunned by the religious leaders of the time. How would we feel if the undisclosed sins our a parish friends were suddenly made public?

A young member of the congregation made the comment that it is easier (less “scary”) to confess to God than it is to confess to a parent. I suspect that it might be the case with most of us. We make a general confession, at our services, but no one around us is likely to know our individual sins. We keep our “darker” side to ourselves, rarely trusting our whole identity to others, perhaps out of pride, but partly because, while we are pretty sure that God will forgive us, we are not so sure about our Christian brothers and sisters.

We are all sinners in need of forgives, but we are also, by the grace of our calling into fellowship with Jesus called to forgive others.

Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.’ Go ahead – stretch out that hand of forgiveness to someone today. Write that letter, make that call, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. And always remember the words of Corrie Ten Boom: ‘Forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an act of your will.’ To be forgiving can be a wonderful act of encouragement, not just for the person forgiven, but also for yourself.

A local pastor recently wrote “To be forgiving can be a wonderful act of encouragement, not just for the person forgiven, but also for yourself. To refuse to, or to simply not forgive, is to be actively involved in building a cage around yourself from which forgiveness is the only way of escape.”

May you know the healing power of forgiveness this week.

Many Blessings

Rev Shan