So how Christian is Halloween?

So how Christian is Halloween?

Halloween is the most Christian festival, says American pastor Phil Wyman

Photo: Pastor Phil Wyman speaking at Church Mission Society in July 2018

Pioneering American pastor Phil Wyman has sparked controversy by calling Halloween “the most Christian festival”.

His reasons? Because “contrary to the reluctance of most people to open their doors and welcome strangers, Halloween is a unique time when doors are thrown open, people welcome strangers and there is a willingness to talk about spiritual things like good and evil, heaven and hell, angels and demons, and embark on conversations of meaning that can be tied to the gospel.”

One of the main speakers at Mission With People Who Are Spiritual But Not Religious, a day conference recently organised by Church Mission Society in Oxford to examine how Christians can best respond to this generation’s increasing interest in alternative spirituality, Wyman said: “Halloween is one of the most open days of the year to have fun and share both the love and the truths of scripture in dialogical and creative ways.”

Traditionally Christians have often shied away from taking part, but since Halloween has become America’s second biggest commercial holiday and in the UK spending on Halloween products, at £420 million, has doubled in the last five years, there can be little doubt that it offers a window of opportunity for mission engagement.

Wyman, author of The Reformation of Halloween: Rethinking Christianity’s response to Halloween, continued, “At Halloween when people put on masks, this interesting transformation takes place: we ironically feel more free to be ourselves when in costume. Other holidays are often celebrated behind closed doors with people we know and love really well, but on Halloween, we go out into the neighbourhood, we speak to strangers, offer hospitality and have fun and it’s also a real family holiday.”

Wyman moved from California to Salem, Massachusetts, famous for the witch trials of 1692, wherein 20 people were executed for alleged witchcraft. Legend and history have made Salem a popular destination for people interested in witchcraft, paganism and alternative spiritual practices. Every October, one million people come to the city for its trademark Halloween festivities. Wyman, who founded and led a ground-breaking church in Salem, says that rather than hide away from the celebrations, Halloween has been a launchpad for him in mission and building relationships, because people are more open to discuss spirituality, and the meaning behind the common depictions of horror, and good and evil, commonly found in Halloween movies, costumes and family events.

Naomi Steinberg, Head of Communications at Church Mission Society, said: “Phil was a perfect choice to have as one of our speakers at our Mission With People Who Are Spiritual But Not Religious conference. As someone with vast experience in truly edgy mission, Phil offered some great challenges to UK Christians to go into places that many resist. Like all the conference contributors, he embodied much of what Church Mission Society is about: asking tough questions, discovering God at work in surprising places and getting people into mission in pioneering contexts. We hope to see more people getting involved in mission among people who identify as spiritual in some way, but not religious – a rapidly growing group in the UK today. So I hope and pray the podcast resources we produced from the conference will be a real help and challenge to the UK church.”

Get our email newsletter: