Canton church readies for Allhallows Eve

By Charita Goshay - The (Canton) Repository (TNS)

CANTON — In the hoopla that surrounds Halloween, a Christian observance that goes back centuries has been obscured.

But a local Anglican congregation is hoping to put a renewed focus on Allhallows Eve with a service at 6 p.m. Oct. 31 at St. John’s Anglican Church.

The candlelit service will be followed by a trunk-or-treat for children in the parking lot.

Rooted in the early church, Allhallows Eve originally was a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1.

Nov. 2 is All Souls’ Day, a Catholic observance in which alms and prayers are offered on behalf of the souls of those who have died in the faith.

It evolved from the pagans’ observance of honoring their dead, which came to be known as Halloween, said the Rev. Sean Ewing, St. John’s associate rector.

“It’s a way for the church to honor its saints and also to honor our loved ones,” he said. “The lighting of the fire symbolizes the fervor of the faith, and as a shining in the darkness as the days get shorter.”

St. John’s is a new plant led by the Rev. Bryan C. Hollon, a professor of theology at Malone University and director of Malone’s Center for Faith and Theology.

History lessons

Hollon said many Christians don’t realize that Allhallows Eve is part of the church’s liturgical calendar.

“Many churches have taken their lead from culture at large and retained only the most secular dimensions of the church’s ancient calendar,” he said. “For example, most churches celebrate Christmas and Easter because these are fun secular holidays for the whole culture. Many Christians have no idea that Christmas and Easter are actually seasons rather than individual days.

“The only reason Christmas Day and Easter exist as holidays is because they have traditionally been part of a much more complete liturgical calendar made up of seven seasons.”

Instead of openly condemning the pagans for honoring their dead, Ewing noted that the church wisely conscripted some of their traditions. This includes the yule log at Christmas and the use of rabbits and eggs as symbols of life at Easter.

“They in a sense ‘baptized’ what they were doing,” Ewing said.

Hollon said modern-day Christians are no different than others in not knowing their history.

“Allhallows Eve is a wonderful reminder that the church extends not only over the whole earth but also through time,” he said. “It is important that Christians remember that we are only a small part of God’s work in the world stretching throughout time.

“We receive the faith from Christians who came before us, and it is our responsibility to share that faith today and pass it along to the next generation. Allhallows Eve helps us understand our part more clearly.”

St. John’s, a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America and the Global Anglican Future Conference.

The Anglican Communion, which evolved from the Church of England, was founded in London in 1867. With 80 million members, it is the world’s third-largest Communion following the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Growing fervor

The Anglican Communion, in turn, is the mother church of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and Canada. In recent years, there have been tensions between the two bodies as American Presbyterianism has grown more liberal in social matters, particularly in the area of gay clergy.

Meanwhile, Anglicanism is growing in the U.S., Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.

“Globally, there’s a fervor in Anglicanism and Christianity in general,” Ewing said. “At least in the U.S., I think a lot of young folks like me are looking for something that’s more tied to church history and tradition and beauty.”

“In North America, some young people seem to be attracted to the deep biblical and theological resources of Anglicanism,” Hollon said. “For example, when we worship, we don’t put on a show. Instead, we read a lot of Scripture and worship God with time-tested prayers, hymns, and songs of praise. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week. Our worship services are rich and profound, and I believe there will always be people looking for richness, beauty, and depth. We will be a place where they can find it.”

Ewing, 30, a graduate of Cedarville University, was raised a Southern Baptist near Cleveland. He and his wife, Sonya, were introduced to Anglicanism while he studied at Duke Divinity School.

“I was preparing myself to be a pastor, but it didn’t feel to me there wasn’t that depth of faith,” he said of his undergrad years. “I also felt I didn’t have enough tools to pastor people. The Anglican tradition, and the Book of Common Prayer, helps me to do that.”

He was ordained in 2014.

“It was a long process, three to four years, but you come out of it well-prepared,” he said.

After ordination, Ewing was assigned to plant a church in North Carolina but the funding ran out. Upon returning to Cleveland, he was contacted by Hollon in 2016, who was leading a core group of about 20 local Anglicans. They moved into the current site last spring. The church’s pianist, Janelle Phinney, is the wife of Malone University Provost D. Nathan Phinney.

“We don’t have aspirations to be a huge church,” Ewing said. “We’d like to plant other churches. We want to be a strong teaching church with a creative outreach. If we find other people who are already doing it well, we’d like to help.”

By Charita Goshay

The (Canton) Repository (TNS)

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