Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pete Rollins - Sunday, December 7th

We're just a week and half away from our Sunday evening visit with author, pastor of the Ikon community in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Doctor of Postmodern Philosophy Pete Rollins.

So here's the deal. He will be with us at 6pm on Sunday evening at The Vault - 217 Essex Street in downtown Salem. This is our standard Sunday evening service time. We will have a smidgeon of music (that means a little bit, smidgeon is not a relative of the pidgeon), and then Pete will do the Pete thing and speak to us. Then following the service it will become a food and drink event. We call it the "Pete Rollins End of the Book Tour Party!"

We'd love to see you. It will be a great time to hang with friends, maybe meet Pete (if you're interested in that kind of thing), maybe hobnob with some seminary professors, or just learn some good stuff about the Christian faith.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Halloween Outreach '08 Update

I am just now getting to telling our Halloween story for this year. The month-long experience of Halloween in Salem is remarkable to behold for those who have never experienced it. Many visit us for a week or a weekend, but for those of us who live here, and serve throughout the month of October it has become commonplace to view Salem as Halloween Town. Like Jack the Mayor of Halloween Town in "The Nightmare Before Christmas" many people in Salem work all year toward October, and Halloween becomes a month long event with its 500,000 visitors.

We have rushed headlong into the middle of the celebration with the hope of being a blessing to all, and this year the event was as spectacular, and life-changing for people as any of the previous nine. Yes, this is our tenth Halloween in Salem.

Trainings occurred, and over 80 people were trained to learn how to treat Witches and Neo-Pagans as regular people. This is not something we as Christians do well. There were returning friends who helped interpret dreams from a biblical perspective, and offered spiritual advice to passing Halloween partiers. Others played music, or served free hot cocoa. Others still served food to those who came to be part of this massive outreach, or provide background support by setting up the outdoor stage, run the sound system, raise money to help support the event, or clean the carpets of the church.

We organized and ran a Children's Day event with the help of Domino's Pizza and had 3,000 attendees. We held a feast based upon experiences of Heaven and Hell, we ran 6 days of live music, gave away 3,000 cups of free hot cocoa (this number was down by 5,000 cups, because it was such a warm year!), counseled or interpreted dreams for thousands of people, gave 800 people an educational experience highlighting human slavery in the world today, and sent young men dressed as monks to offer free blessings to the people on the streets.

Each year this event grows. It seems to have legs of its own, and is moving faster than we can keep up with it. All these things are accomplished by a small church of about 45 people, and the friends and other churches who like to hang out with us.

The AP Press called me and asked for a phone interview this year. You can access the by following podcast of the short radio segment here.

The number of people who spoke of being touched by the gentle presence of God's blessing are beyond the scope of our ability to count. Even the simple gesture of giving a cup of free hot cocoa can illicit a generous response. One college aged young man replied, "This is the best idea I've seen out here." There are new faces visiting the church since the October outreach - locals who were significantly touched by the "spiritual readings," dream interpretation, and blessings from our wandering monks are visiting the church on Sunday now.

In the Old Testament we find the children of Israel gathering in Jerusalem for the feasts. Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles brought the people together into one place to worship and celebrate. This was the manner in which they gathered for "church." Today our society is running to festivals to celebrate, party, and vacation. Haunted Happenings in Salem is one of the great festivals in U.S culture. It has been our goal to "crash the party," and make our little festival within this larger festival called Haunted Happenings one of the "places to be." In a sense we are bringing church to the partying public, and offering gentle touches of God's grace. They effect has been dramatic.

After ten years of serving in Salem in this manner, hundreds of Christians from near and far gather to help us serve. Thousands of people experience the ministry outreach we offer, and now are beginning to return each year to looking specifically for us. These returning people are not necessarily Christians. They come from all walks of life, and have simply recognized that there is acceptance, love, and peacefulness in our presence. This has become our way of bringing the power of the Old Testament festival life to the city of Salem, and the people who visit us from around the world.

For those of you who have supported the large efforts of this little church financially or in prayer - thank you. You are at the base of our ability to continue in the footsteps of our gracious Savior on these cobble-stoned streets of Salem, Massachusetts.

Included below are some photos of the streets of Salem during our month long Halloween season. Notice the unbelievably warm temperature for this time of year. It is on the digital clock above the church. Then you will see the massive crowds in the street, and lastly one of our roving monks - Jeff Tang, who blessed the crowds is standing in front of our century old vault.

May God's Love Be with You,
Pastor Phil