St Toms, Fair Oak
The team from St Toms set out to bless their local community out on the streets on All Hallows’ Eve, setting up three stations along popular ‘trick or treating’ routes, serving hot dogs, puddings and hot chocolates consecutively. They also communicated a map to the community beforehand showing where all the stations were, and made sure each one was brightly lit up.
In the past the church has helped organise fireworks events and entertainment on All Hallows’ Eve, as a way of engaging the local community. But they changed tack this year and decided that serving their community with food and hot drinks was a better way “to be present at Halloween without being the same”.
“We had much better conversations with people,” said the Revd Jono Harvey. “By feeding people a proper meal, they hung around to chat – we found that if you just give out sweets people just turn and walk away again. It was lovely to get to meet lots of people we’ve never met before, and everybody was positive – lots of people thanked us for being out in the community.”
“It wasn’t about debating the rights and wrongs of Halloween, just about loving and blessing the community.”
St Nics, North Stoneham
Volunteers from St Nicholas, working together with North Stoneham Community Group, put on a Supper Trail for residents of the North Stoneham Park estate, a new housing estate on the outskirts of Eastleigh.
“Lots of people moved in during Covid and, being new to the area and rootless, seem to embrace community events,” said Licensed Lay Worker, Sammy Jordan. “Part of our approach to mission on the estate is to go to the community, to ‘do with’ and ‘be with’, rather than to do mission ‘to’ or ‘for’ people. It’s a long term, relational approach of being present and listening to our context. This has informed our approach to Halloween when we prefer to be on the streets engaging with what’s already happeningm rather than trying to persuade people to do something other. Light parties are great but let’s share the blessing in All Hallows’ Eve… a holy evening.”
“One of the supper point hosts had been praying that the food would draw out members of a particular house on the street where there had been trouble and tensions with other neighbours for over two years. Most of the evening the curtains and door remained firmly shut, but just as the host thought it was too late, first one and then the whole family came out, ate and began chatting with neighbours for the first time in years. Loving our neighbours and hopefully helping them to love each other too!”
The team from St Nic’s intentionally avoided the word ‘Halloween’ in order to be distinctive and the trail was billed as an opportunity for ‘supper amongst the sweets’. As well as serving food in the form of hot dogs, burgers, s’mores, cookies and hot chocolate at different points across the estate, they chatted to people and offered ‘non-scary’ Halloween stories like Immie and the Black Beauty (a story about a spider that points to Jesus) by Naomi Dawson.
“There were literally hundreds of people out on the streets, talking to each other and having fun together. We think we had about 350 people toasting marshmallows on our driveway across the two hours. The hope is that by engaging whole families, the atmosphere on the estate on the night itself is more family-friendly and less sugar fuelled – and at the same time we are building trust in both St Nic’s and the community group for the long term.”