The good of me

Have you ever thought about how your notion of “the good” is different from someone else’s? For years I have studied personality typing. I am a nine on the Enneagram and tend to want to understand the viewpoints of all around me for the sake of connection. I enjoy seeing others’ points of view, although by doing so in the past I have, at times, risked not knowing my own stance more fully.

But the expression, “seeing others’ points of view” doesn’t carry the weight for me that the wondering of others’ views of “the good” does. I am excited to offer my own notion of “the good” and to listen to others’ going forward. Love cannot break through if we cannot begin the dialogue of listening, even in the worst of circumstances.

I will address dialoguing with others in more depth in later posts, but for now, must define my own notion of “the good” in order to better know from where I approach others.

The good that I stand for and protect can best be described as the “kingdom of God.” I understand that for those who are not religious or who have been harmed by religion, this phrase can seem trite, harmful and even off-putting. I do not mean to offend. But in recent years, this phrase has come to mean a great deal to me. I must confess that, delving more deeply into communication ethics with others, the phrase, “kingdom of God” is going to be as different to varying individuals and groups as is each person’s concept of “the good.”

But here is what it means to me: In the kingdom of God on earth, all people are created by the Creator, loved by the Creator and have value. No one person is better than another. That is where I am at this point in my life and I wish to spend my life defending that love in all people. Yes, individuals throughout history, as well as today, have done and do cruel things, have committed terrible acts, and just seem so different from me that I might call them wrong, my enemy, or “the Other.”

But when I call someone else “the Other,” I immediately break any possibility of relationship or love and separate myself from the God within them, no matter how readily available or covered in muck that Spirit might be.  Jesus teaches that we are to love our enemies, that before we take the speck out of another’s eye we must first remove the log from our own. In other words, we are all human. We all, if handed the conducive set of life circumstances, have the potential to do any of the bad that anyone else has ever done. Most likely, we each would like to think that we would make a different choice, and hopefully we would. But the truth remains that it is possible that we might not. That possibility, that shadow inherent in being human, is what connects us on a level that we do not enjoy looking at. But at that level, there lies the potential for compassion.

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a free HIV testing day at one of the churches for which I work. The most special moment of the day came when I recognized a gentleman from some pictures of an HIV/AIDS retreat sponsored by the Church summer before last. I said to him, “I know you from the pictures I received.” He greeted me, told me his name, and threw his arms around me. I hugged him back as eagerly. He is HIV positive. He is full of love. In a twist of divine reversal that Jesus likes to constantly toss out at us I thought to myself, “I am so honored that he hugged me. He cared who I was. He acknowledged the Spirit in me.” He could just as easily thought, “I have nothing in common with this privileged-looking woman who has probably never known a day of true suffering in her life.” He could so easily have judged me. But he did not. He chose to love me.

So, I protect love among all people. It’s not always easy to like everybody, but it is possible to project love into the world, first and foremost above all things. The more of us who do that, the less violence and hate there will be. How many people commit crimes as adults because they weren’t loved as children, in fact, never found love as adults in their communities?

I realize, friends, that I’m starting to sound like I’m preaching and as if I were raised in a tradition that quotes Scripture constantly. I wasn’t, and yet the more I can claim the language of my faith, the more comfortable I am using it. We each have a responsibility, in my worldview, to try to bring as much love, even in the tiniest of ways, to each and every day. The culmination of those tiny pieces is worth much more than the sum of its parts and it can change the world.

I understand that my friends and brothers and sisters out there protect different “goods” – the good of individualism and self-empowerment, the good of nationalism, and the good of the law among many other views. May we all learn from and begin to understand each other.

Reflected Images

In COM 601, Communication Fluency, at Queens University, I have learned a great deal about myself and how I process information, as well as how others receive it. The seven traditions of communication theory have given me the tools to question to whom I am communicating and from whom I am receiving communication. In addition, I have learned how much communication behind the communication there is by studying the seven traditions, such as the sociopsychological, rhetorical and critical (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011).

mr. darcy lyme park pemberly

The ability to discern the type of communication required of a situation from what I consider to be a psychological position will help me with my communication skills in all areas of life. A deeper learning of my own perception in all communication has reinforced my beliefs about the sociopsychological tradition, that we all see the world through individual lenses and those lenses affect all we see.

One of the most interesting concepts presented in this course is Kenneth Burke’s (1973) concept of art serving as “equipment for living.” I have always watched TV, movies and read books, all the while identifying with a particular character and wondering how I could be more like them in life. As an adult later studying Jungian psychology, I learned there was a reason for this feeling. It is explained by the notion of archetypes, or patterns of human behavior. A Jungian teacher once told me to think of favorite book and movie characters and to question what it was that I love about them. I have found that a helpful tool for me in my spiritual and life journeys.

In COM 601, this concept really clicked for me. It was taken to a new level by learning about Burke’s concept. It may seem obvious, but it deepened my connection profoundly to put a definition and a theory to the feeling of identifying with characters and their stories, especially in film, as sources of learning for life. I have always felt it but couldn’t articulate it.

In the dream work I do, we assume that everything and everyone in the dream is the dreamer. From that position, dreams serve as “equipment for living,” as we have something to learn from every part of the dream.

But the value of stories cannot have a price put upon it. Humans depend on story to define their existence. In this class, the students each had to choose a film that spoke to them as “equipment for living.” It would have been possible to choose one that did not provide “equipment for living” and argue that case, but my classmates, like me, seemed to wish to express passion about films that have touched their lives.

Treehouse Play Fairy Tale Park Children Window

We all did a good job with our theses and presentations. Some of the presentations were a bit text-heavy and might have benefitted from some visuals and a more conversational, storytelling style. Most of us could have stood to stick by the time restriction for the presentation (2 – 5 minutes) more diligently. However, each student’s work made me want to watch all the movies either again or for the first time.

The presentation that struck me the most was on one the film Little Women (1994) offering “equipment for living” as feminist response to society. I haven’t seen that film in years but remember it fondly. However, I was impressed and inspired by the thesis of Jo’s working through her right to be equal as a woman in society (the definition of feminism presented in the paper) through the wartime absence of men and through the development of her writing. I want to go back and watch with this new lens as this thesis appeals to me in my personal life.

The personal side of my own presentation was about my desire to “become Elizabeth Bennet,” from the film Pride and Prejudice (1995). Elizabeth is her own person, strong and self-confident in an age that makes women secondary to men. The Little Women presentation has given me another film to look to as a resource on my life’s journey to self-confidence and being true to myself. I also found the presentation on the film Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) compelling as this film strikes another chord for “equipment for living” for me – that of having compassion for those considered “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, NIV) in society, a concept important to me in my faith and in my work in the Church.

Overall, this course has afforded me the opportunity to hone my technical skills in blogging, podcasts, and YouTube presentations and in writing papers in APA style. In addition, it has enriched my life by learning from my fellow students’ resources for “equipment for living” and enlivened my perception of myself as a communicator in society. Thank to you to Tracy Schaffer for being an excellent and available professor. I’m not sure in how many Master’s programs you can term the first course “life-changing,” but this is certainly one. Best of luck to everyone on their continued higher ed journeys. I hope to see you in the next class!


Austen, J., Birtwistle, S. (Producer), Langton, S. (Director), Firth, C., & Ehle, J. (1995). Pride and Prejudice [Motion picture]. London: BBC Production.

Burke, K. (1973) The philosophy of literary form. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2011). Theories of human communication. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Seven traditions, seven stages?

In keeping with the theme of my blog of “monk in the world” or “mystic without a monastery,” I’d like to compare the idea of seven communication traditions with the notion of seven stages of spiritual transformation.

The seven stages of spiritual transformation, described differently by different teachers, including in the Gnostic Gospel of Mary Magdalene, take a soul through levels of growth. They essentially follow nomothetic theory, where spiritual teachers paint a picture of what is and leave it up to others to decide how to use the knowledge (Littlejohn & Foss, p. 27), according to various available teachings.

But the seven traditions of communication theory are clearly defined in the academic field.

The tradition of the seven that I best understand it the sociopsychological tradition. It explains  that we are all individuals who see the world through a lens with which only we can see it. No one can know the world or God in the same way I do. You are not me. I am not you.

This part of the human condition plays a significant role in our journeys as humans, our spiritual journeys, and all of our interactions/communication.The sociopsychological tradition  honors the way I see the world as an individual.

Several examples come to to mind when I think of the sociopsychological tradition. The scholarship in this tradition focuses on persuasion and attitude change (Littlejohn & Foss, p. 53). One could easily argue that religious community focuses on persuasion and attitude change. How many stories have we read over the decades of people being brainwashed or completely convinced by a religious stance? This type of persuasion can lead to unhealthy cultic behavior.

But it can also lead to healthy cultic behavior, the kind where a persons sees a happier, healthier way to live in community that is contributed to by their own perspective. In The Episcopal Church, we believe that each person has a slightly different view of what God is. Makes sense, right? If, as the sociopsychological tradition states, we each view the world through our own lens, then it follows that we would each have to follow God through our own lens.

The beauty in this theory is that even though our experiences of God are all individual, affected by personal traits, we can be persuaded and influenced to make choices, moment by moment, that have a positive impact upon the world. Those positive choices fit into the schema of the cybernetic tradition, a system at its core. In that tradition our individual choices and views form more than the sum of their contributions. In the spiritual traditions, we are, as individuals, an essential part of a larger system that comes from a higher power.

This discussion can be fleshed out exponentially, but to leave you with one last comment on a communication tradition – the critical tradition questions systems and the status quo. It is an essential part of spiritual growth in community. Without questioning, we would be blind followers without the individual perspective and investment brought by the traits we carry from the sociopsychological tradition.

How do you see your individual perspective contributing to a larger spiritual system?


Foss, K. A. and Littlejohn, S. W. (2011). Theories of Human Communication.  Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.

Pride & Prejudice, or how a woman should live?

The 1995 BBC film Pride & Prejudice offers “equipment for living” (Burke, 1973) for women seeking to build self-confidence and the ability to stand up for their own best interests. Right, fans? We all have role models and I’d be willing to bet that for a large number of women in the United States, one of them is Miss Elizabeth Bennet. And not because you might have been assigned Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to read in high school.

In 1996, the BBC film Pride & Prejudice aired in the United States on the A & E channel and swept the nation. Women ogled Colin Firth (Darcy) and fell in love with Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth). This production brought the book to life. Unlike other remakes, this is a period piece, and yet, Austen’s work is timeless. The masterful transcription of this book-to-film rendition offers women everywhere hope to grow in strength and to stand up for their own best interests.

Below you can view a presentation on my paper on this subject. The paper itself, which includes cited references, is also linked below. Let me know if you love Elizabeth Bennet as much as I do!

GravesCarrie_Week6_FinalPaper 061817

Choosing the right scribing style

What kind of research or writing are you doing in your scriptorium? Are you a scientist, a liberal arts researcher, or a social scientist? Dependent upon on what kind of work you do, you’ll want to choose the writing style guide that applies to your field. I hope you enjoy the podcast below on the various kinds of style guides and their purposes. If you’ve been out of school for a while, it will take you back. Perhaps you want to check one out to develop your professional writing!

APA Style Storytelling

In researching several recent topics, I am getting reacquainted with APA Style. I never really learned it thoroughly in the first place. My main course of study in college required the use of MLA Style, designed more for the languages and language arts. Where I once studied languages (French and Russian) in great depth regarding their structure, grammar and idioms, I am now studying language itself. The study of language is also social science, which looks at the ways we communicate. Communication, whether it be verbal, non-verbal, cultural or social, is a dynamic system.

Writing about communication, then, requires the use of APA Style. Communication is a sort of umbrella field that overarches others that require APA Style, including:

  • Social Sciences, such as Psychology, Linguistics, Sociology, Economics, and Criminology
  • Business
  • Nursing (Seas & Brizee, 2016)

I love the study of languages, enjoy communication and writing and have come to have a passion for psychology later in life. My recent interests, including participating the Master of Communication program at Queens University in Charlotte, have brought me to a point where I must understand APA Style better if I am to continue my studies.

Although being fastidious in tracking and documenting sources can be quite tedious for me, I appreciate its importance in leaving a trail for later scholars to follow. In the vein of my “Monk in the World” theme, I think of scribes in medieval monasteries, who needed great patience and to be extremely detail-oriented in order to produce beautiful, accurate manuscripts for posterity’s sake.

The element that most surprised me in studying APA Style, is its particular attention to the risk of bias coming through in writing up scholarly research. As APA Style deals in large part with the social sciences, it follows that groups of people will often be identified by their culture, race, gender and other markers. Insofar as one doesn’t compromise their research by changing identifiers, writers using APA Style are encouraged to alter pronouns to the plural and identify groups of people with adjectives rather than biased nouns. Using a phrase such as, “disabled persons,’ instead of the noun, “the disabled,” takes the focus off of the descriptor and adds weight to the noun, “persons.” To me, this encourages the reader to think of people as people first, and not to identify them with their particular situation outside of what is required to understand the research (Paiz, Angeli, Wagner, Lawrick, Moore, Anderson, Soderlund, Brizee & Keck, 2017).

A question for further study would be to examine papers where the altering of language to avoid bias has inhibited the communication of research, as well as those where it has enhanced it by use mind-opening language.

One of the hardest things for me to remember in using APA Style guidelines is how to record the various kinds of in-text citations. There are a number of rules for capitalization, quoting (short-form and long-form), italicizing/underlining, as well as paraphrasing and summarizing, depending on what type of writing within the text the citation is referencing. And, in the references list at the end of a paper, the style is different still (Paiz, Angeli, Wagner, Lawrick, Moore, Anderson, Soderlund, Brizee & Keck, 2014).

Yet, like the monks copying scripture ages ago, consistency and precision are key in using APA Style. When citations are precise, other scholars and researches do not get confused about where information was obtained and are easily able to track down at the sources cited, as well as ancillary sources, for further research on the topic. One major difference between we modern researches and those monks is the determination of who can use poetic language. The scriptures the monks produced were both practical and poetic, using figurative language and metaphor. We modern researches must avoid flowery language in our research, keeping the data clear for maximum comprehension.

One of the nicest things about APA Style is that provides stylistic guidelines for writing, not just rules on citing sources. It encourages the author to use the active voice in writing up research (Paiz, Angeli, Wagner, Lawrick, Moore, Anderson, Soderlund, Brizee & Keck, 2015). I have some friends in a band who titled one of their albums years ago, “Excessive Use of the Passive Voice.” As excessive us of the passive voice is often a criticism in all kinds of writing, I found it reassuring to be encouraged to use active voice. It’s not always easy to do. For me, using active voice helps it be viewed as a living thing, still important, still active, not ancient history.


Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from

Paiz, J., Angeli, E., Wagner, J, Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., Brizee, A., & Keck, R. (2014, November 11). In-Text citations: The basics. Retrieved from

Paiz, J., Angeli, E., Wagner, J, Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., Brizee, A., & Keck, R. (2015, September 10). APA stylistics: Basics. Retrieved from

Paiz, J., Angeli, E., Wagner, J, Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., Brizee, A., & Keck, R. (2017, June 11). APA stylistics: Avoiding bias Retrieved from

Seas, K., & Brizee, A. (2016, May 13). APA style workshop. Retrieved from

Spiritual Transformation at Work?

In the following Powerpoint presentation, you can learn more about the use of the Enneagram as a tool for enhancing spirituality in the workplace. The presentation describes the work of two scholars who, through research into management trends in the late 1990s and early 2000s, discovered the benefits of bring spiritual growth to workplace, calling employees into discernment, vocation and deeper meaning and thereby increasing work performance. The authors of the article discussed in the presentation offer their own plan for working with the Enneagram at work. The Enneagram is an ancient Eastern personality typing system that serves as a tool for spiritual transformation. You can be a “monk in the world,” even at the corporate level. I hope you enjoy learning more.

External Downloads

As an introvert, I’m a big believer in going within myself to find information and to process those ” internal downloads.” As a curious student, I love to research. Libraries and the Internet are particularly important resources. Google and YouTube – pure instant gratification, whether true or false information is presented. These external downloads are fun to search for, but in the end, their validity makes a difference in their usefulness in the professional world.

Scholarly research matters to me. As a nine on the Enneagram, an ancient Sufi personality systems theory, I tend to enjoy seeing all perspectives and to know what I’m reading is true from a least one perspective. Just this week, in doing research on communication, I found an article on being successful at work and obtaining goals through good communication from the perspective of the Enneagram Bringing Out the Best in Yourself at Work- How to use the Enneagram System for Success.

Digging into the Enneagram is like a Scavenger Hunt. One clue about my coping mechanisms leads to another, leads to growth, leads to another clue on areas for improvement…I love this detective work and enjoy the mystery of the human condition and behavioral patterns we were born with. All of these behaviors and coping mechanisms function in the world through communication, whether it be effective or ineffective. The diagram above teaches the direction of both types (read more in The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson).

This week, in studying communication theory in more depth, I’m going to get a little practice in finding sources for what I want to study, research, teach or write about. Below is my list of scavenger hunt items. I just returned from a church retreat for 5th graders to ease the transition to middle school. Since there wasn’t a scavenger hunt on the docket for the retreat, I’ll enjoy one of my own here. Letters i. through l. will give you some resources to read more about the Enneagram, an ancient tool for spiritual transformation and one of my favorite resources for coaching.

Works Cited

Starke, J. (2016, October 21). An Evangelical’s Guide to the Enneagram. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

Cron, Ian M., Stabile, Suzanne (2016, October). It’s called the ‘Enneagram’: How this thing could save your life. Fox News, Retrieved from

Wagner, J., Ph.D. (n.d.). Enneagram Styles and Cyclical Psychodynamics. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

Hudson, R. (2015, April 30). Enneagram Type 9, by Russ Hudson. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

A Box of Sky

In the middle ages, monastics living in cloistered communities had access to a limited amount of sky. I can imagine solemnly walking from morning prayers to the courtyard garden in an abbey in Europe, hungry to soak up the vibrancy of plants and herbs. I would then turn my head upward to the sky framed by the four walls of a stone inner sanctum,  where monks and nuns were called to live in private community, to hold the world up with their prayers. They had a system of influence and communication for their time.

Durham Cathedral Cloister, England

The 21st century has brought a movement sometimes known as “monk in the world,” and promoted by such renowned spiritual teachers as Christine Valters Paintner (Abbey of the Arts), Caroline Myss (Entering the Castle), and Glennon Doyle Melton (Momastery). But what does it mean, exactly – monk in the world? I’m not a nun, but I am a spiritual, Christian lay person. Being able to share my spiritual experiences in the online community affords me a virtual cloister where that box of sky is not my window on the universe but is a window for the universe into me. It then connects me to others working to nurture the mystical side of  humanity, forming a wide fanning network of influence. It’s a system for our global times.

Earlier this week I set up a YouTube channel for an online class I’m taking in a master’s level communication program. I’ve used YouTube before, to store private videos and to make public videos for my professional work in the Church. But this time, I set up a channel to go along with this blog, Creative Monastery. I’m exited and nervous. Setting up a YouTube channel on which I will risk posting videos for the whole world (or no one depending on SEO and level of interest) to see is a daunting move.

It is intimidating to work from a concept hundreds of years old, that of hiding away from the world in order to influence it from a place of inner sanctum, privacy and relative safety, and hope to help transform it for the modern world. Stepping out from inner spiritual sanctum to be vulnerable in the world, to attempt to offer bits of healing and wholeness by exposing my voice through digital media, is a loud, public practice.

Two Doorways, Monk Bretton Priory, South Yorkshire, England

So I’m going to start by using my YouTube channel in an online class. I know I’ll be working out kinks and learning new tricks to learn to execute my work successfully. Although I plan to make my posts on YouTube public, it is likely that my classmates will be the only ones to see them for a while. The class is a small group of about 12, which constitutes a safe space in which the students are wishing each other success and are there to offer each other constructive feedback – kind of like in a small cloistered community. We’ll be there at the finish, cheering each other on like mama birds sending their babies out of their nests as they take off to soar in an endless sky, seeking to reach their full potential.

Beginning by using YouTube in this online class is like taking those first tentative breaths of fresh air in the morning before looking up at the blue box of sky through the stone courtyard, a blue box of computer screen in today’s world. Through digital media, my voice, as well as those of my fellow classmates in their own ways, stands a chance to break free of the cloister and be an influence on the vast world beneath a spacious sky. I hope you see us soaring up there soon.

Subscribe to Creative Monastery on YouTube!

What experiences have you had in releasing your voice to the world through digital media?

All Hallow’s Eve – Would Jesus Trick or Treat?

Jesus Halloween
Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you…
  • “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”― Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.”― Stephenie Meyer, Twilight
  • “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some churches today shy away from the practice of Halloween celebrations. And although All Hallow’s Eve is not a feast of the Church, most major feasts of the Church were created on top of the dates of Pagan festivals in ancient times. In the constant battle to conquer darkness, some believe we must abolish it and not own it. But we cannot abolish darkness. It is part of creation. Process theology and other fields of study, such as quantum physics, assume that if God is the one and only, the Alpha and Omega, then God made everything, including darkness.

Just look up at the night sky. Darkness has a very important role – it helps us see the stars. We can’t know light without the contrast of dark. On earth we dwell in a world of polar opposites. Our job as humans is to hold the tension of those opposites as God helps us integrate the darkness within ourselves, and thereby in creation, until it is consumed by, but not separated from, the light.

I once read in a sermon that Halloween is a time to have fun and laugh at the darkness that is a serious and threatening part of life. This time of celebration is a reminder that, in the light of God, we are stronger than darkness.

In Dana Reinhardt’s young adult novel A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, the main character, Simone, who is very much in the darkness and let down by life, finds Halloween to be a time that warms her heart:

Halloween is my favorite holiday of all time. It always has been…I think Halloween brings out the very best in humanity. We open our homes and give without expecting anything in return…What other night do you talk to your neighbors…and other people’s neighbors who just drove to your neighborhood because it seemed like a nice place to knock on the doors of complete strangers? What other night do your not mind when your doorbell rings in the middle of dinner again and again? On most holidays we turn inward. We gather in our homes, we light fires, we spend time with our loved ones. But Halloween sends us out into the streets, into the cold, with people we don’t know, running from stranger’s house to stranger’s house.

The festival / holiday that we practice today (the one that has become a multi-million dollar industry just like commercial Christmas) is primarily filled with fun, imagination and treats.

Horror movies exist and some bad pranks are played on Halloween, but these things are occurring day in and out, on countless television shows and in the real world in school shootings and other ways. This real horror is not caused by the celebration of Halloween but by the fact that humanity does not accept its own darkness and do the work to transform it.

A time for children to dress up and have fun, carve pumpkins into Jack-O’-Lanterns (which bring light) and approach neighborhood homes with joy in their hearts, is a wonderful way to understand and appreciate that darkness exists, yet know God’s love is stronger.

As a child, Halloween was my favorite holiday, and I was a sweet and innocent child. To this day I do not like horror movies. I never did nor do I condone violence of any kind or anything that takes energy and love away from another person. Yet I love Halloween.

Trick-or-treating doesn’t usually harm our neighbor. Every time we are mean or unkind to our neighbors in day-to-day life, insulting them or sending bad thoughts their way, we are casting a spell. Did you know that? We are affecting that person and ourselves with darkness. Our job is to see that, to feel that meanness within us, and to make a different choice.

Jesus consumed the darkness by integrating and understanding it within himself in a battle with the devil in the desert for 40 days. Jonah ventured in the whale through the night sea journey – the dark and depressing crisis of spirit. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years until they could understand the darkness in themselves. This is the human journey and it leads to wholeness (notice the multiple mentions of the number 4, the number of transcendence).

It’s our job to recognize, acknowledge and admit the darkness within, then turn to God and offer that energy to the service of love.

What better way to admit that we all contain darkness than to have a holiday that lights it up, pokes fun at it, offers treats and welcomes strangers and neighbors?

On Halloween we honor ghosts – the unhappy, violent energy left behind, not integrated, by those who have come before. Then, the next morning, on All Saints’ Day, we celebrate their rising to God. Our lives are committed to doing the work our ancestors did part of, but not all of, to living their unlived lives. This is part of the cycle of life, an ongoing participation in creation and commitment to bringing less darkness into the world.

Every Sunday through the Eucharist and once a year on Easter we make the theme of light consuming darkness a living tradition with our celebration of the Resurrection. Most Episcopal priests will tell you that there is no Easter without Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Why? Because it is part of the human process – all part of a journey to wholeness, for us and for the world.

Like my love of Halloween, Maundy Thursday is my favorite Holy Week service. Again, I work in the church, love God and feel it is my mission to spread God’s love in the world. The Maundy Thursday service is dark and morbid, a gruesome remembrance. Yet I love it. It shows me what Christ overcame. I experience it, breathe it in – the darkness – redeemed by light.

In Advent and at Christmas we say that the light is coming into the world and then that it has come in Emmanuel, God incarnate, God with us. The world is dark. The light is coming. God became incarnate to show us the way. Not to separate the world from Himself, but to integrate it, to transform it. We are charged with bringing the kingdom of God to earth, not to eschew the earth or run away from the dark side.

We live the Holy Days of Advent to Christmas, Lent to Easter. Why can’t we use Halloween to do the same? Darkness preceding light. All Hallow’s Eve transformed into All Saints’?

As a bookseller, I must include one final very important book reference: Harry Potter had to accept his inner darkness, the Voldemort who lived inside him, and die to that darkness to be reborn into the light. If we only run from the darkness it will always be chasing us.

How can the church use Halloween as a teaching tool? How can we demonstrate the seriousness of darkness and the joy of All Saints’ through it?

O God, give us to wisdom to see and understand the darkness within us, that we might, by your grace and mercy, transform it into love for the world. Help us to know that you are with us through it all, as we travel through the valley of the shadow of death, and that by your love and in partnership with you, we will transform the earth, and live in your kingdom. Amen.