Calendars across church and nation this weekend include similar checklists: set clocks back one hour Saturday night; buy candy for Sunday Trick-or-Treaters; remember All Saints Day and all faithful departed; vote Tuesday.
In Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other swing states, people of faith are working to get out the vote for Tuesday's U.S. presidential election even as European observers are arriving with the largely unprecedented mission of helping to monitor polling procedures in selected precincts.
Meanwhile, numerous Episcopal congregations -- especially those named for All Saints -- are preparing festival liturgies for the Feast of All Saints (see description below). Likely set for November 7, these Eucharists will include a reading of the names of those who have died in the past year.
In one such parish -- All Saints, Pasadena, California -- November 7 rites will feature the Mozart Requiem, while on October 31 parishioners will hear rector emeritus George Regas preach a homily titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush." The next evening, November 1, at 6:30pm the parish will affirm Latin American tradition with its annual Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) service in which participants are invited to bring photographs of loved ones who have died and to remember especially those lost in war and violence around the world.
Like the nation itself, the Episcopal Church is composed of members with a diversity of political and theological perspectives, including conservative, moderate and progressive. Within this context, a variety of congregations offer non-partisan encouragement to parishioners to exercise civic faithfulness in voting, while other parishes offer, as a matter of policy, no comment on political activities.
In Washington D. C., the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations is engaged in the following initiatives:
-- Faithful Democracy: The Episcopal Church has joined 15 other faith traditions in a grassroots campaign - Have Faith and Vote - working to ensure that people of faith are informed about and motivated to participate in the democratic process. The Faithful Democracy website
(http://www.faithfuldemocracy.org/) offers people of faith a number of voter-participation resources and numerous opportunities for coordinated action.
-- Let Justice Roll: This Sunday will be the final stop of the
National Council of Churches and the Center for Community Change's campaign to keep the issue of ending poverty part of this year's presidential election as well as registering voters. In 15 cities and during five months, participants have sought commitments from local, state and national public officials to commit to support public policies to meet the needs of those living in poverty. The Episcopal Church has been a part of that effort and those involved will continue to work together on issues of poverty. With a bus tour rolling through 14 cities in 11 days in early October, Call to Renewal's Rolling to Overcome Poverty provided another chance for people of faith to raise poverty as an important election issue.
-- Call to a Faithful Decision Weekend: This final weekend before the election, The Interfaith Alliance (http://www.interfaithalliance.org/) is calling on houses of worship across the country to participate in Call to a Faithful Decision Weekend, with special services and litanies. They remind Americans that personal religious beliefs can and should find public expression through thoughtful and prayerful involvement in the electoral process.
-- The Office of Government Relations has written a special litany for this election year that we hope will help guide Episcopalians as they go to the polls (www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn; click on "Election Year Resources").
Concurrently, liturgies for the Feast of All Saints (November 1) and the Feast of All Faithful Departed (November 2) are informed by the following descriptions offered in the Episcopal Church's "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" (New York: Church Publishing Inc., 2003):
The Feast of All Saints (November 1)
"It is believed by many scholars that the commemoration of all the saints on November 1 originated in Ireland, spread from there to England, and then to the continent of Europe. That it had reached Roma and had been adopted there early in the ninth century is attested by a letter of Pope Gregory the Fourth, who reigned from 828 to 844, to Emperor Louis "the Pious," urging that such a festival be observed throughout the Holy Roman Empire.
"However, the desire of Christian people to express the intercommunion of the living and the dead in the Body of Christ by a commemoration of those who, having professed faith in the living Christ in days past, had entered into the nearer presence of their Lord, and especially of those who had crowned their profession with heroic deaths, was far older than the early Middle Ages (perhaps first cited in church writings before the year 270)...
"All Saints' Day is classed, in the Prayer Book of 1979, as a Principal Feast, taking precedence of any other day or observance. Among the seven so classified, All Saints' Day alone may be observed on the following Sunday, in addition to its observance on its fixed date. It is one of the four days recommended in the Prayer Book (page 312) for the administration of Holy Baptism."
The Feast of All Faithful Departed (also known as All Souls Day, November 2)
"In the New Testament, the word 'saints' is used to describe the entire membership of the Christian community, and in the Collect for All Saints' Day the word 'elect' is used in a similar sense. From very early times, however, the word 'saint' came to be applied primarily to persons of heroic sanctity, whose deeds were recalled with gratitude by later generations.
"Beginning in the 10th century, it became customary to set aside another day -- as a sort of extension of All Saints -- on which the Church remembered that vast body of the faithful who, thought no less members of the company of the redeemed, are unknown in the wider fellowship of the Church. It was also a day for particular remembrance of family members and friends.
"Though the observance of the day was abolished at the Reformation because of abuses connected with Masses for the dead, a renewed understanding of its meaning has led to a widespread acceptance of this commemoration among Anglicans, and to its inclusion as an optional observance on the calendar of the Episcopal Church."