Halloween in Witch City, USA

October in Salem means one thing: Halloween. Yes, there is an election coming up here, but it’s pretty well overshadowed by the thirty-one day celebration that attracts from 250,000 to 500,000 people from other towns, other states, even other continents, to this small city of 41,000 people. A couple of weekends ago, a cruise ship entered Salem harbor, something I believe has never happened before, and her passengers descended on Salem to see the attractions, hear about the history, eat in the restaurants, etc.

Each year before the month begins,The Gathering, the small church I am part of, rents and assembles a stage in the open fountain square on the two block walking mall where nearly every visitor to Salem will tread. The live music serves as an effective means of crowd control and is our much needed contribution to the city. In the area around the stage, we and other ministers from all over the U.S. put up tents and offer free dream interpretations, free spiritual readings, free hugs. Halloween is the main attraction, and our combined activities are one of the biggest parts of it.

Between the live music and the free hugs, the effect on the crowds is palpable. The music provides a focus of attention to the mad (but fun) chaos; A line of people offering free hugs makes people happy, and even those who don’t take us up on our offer are amused, and amused people are happy people. Many of those who pass by will enter our tents simply because it is free and will encounter God in powerful ways. It is immensely satisfying to be an instrument through which people learn that God loves them and wants to touch them. Partying revelers come looking for fun and get far more than they bargained for. Happy tears are common. Forgetting to bring boxes of tissue to provide for people is a common mistake.

We’ve had teams of ministers as well as individuals join us from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maine, New York, Texas, New Hampshire, California, and probably some places I’m unaware of. It has been a lot of work; the dishes pile up in the sink at home and other stuff is neglected until November. It’s a crazy time and I love it.

Today is the 31st; Halloween day. The streets will be wall to wall people. We will minister to hundreds. So I have to go now; no more time to chat. Have a great day!

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