Once in a while, I like to give an account from my tiny community in the shadow of Horn Mountain just north of Rome, Ga. Here’s what happened at a memorable Halloween celebration a few years ago:
There’s something about the approach of Halloween that warrants notice. Maybe it’s the cooler air or earlier evenings, but fall brings with it a sort of anticipation. My daughter gets it. She begins celebrating this holiday in mid-September.
It’s one of my favorite times of year, and I’ll never forget my first Halloween at the church where I now worship — Mount Tabor Methodist. It sits way up in the valley if you’re headed out toward the Pocket in Floyd County. Mount Tabor is an old church. It’s been serving the inhabitants of its little valley since 1848, and a lot of its traditions harken back to an earlier era. There are hand-made Christmon ornaments on the sanctuary tree at Christmas, and the congregation still sings out of hymnals — no newfangled Powerpoint slides in sight.
Nevertheless, for such a tiny church, the Wednesday night youth activities are well attended, and other events geared toward young people usually draw a crowd. The annual trunk-or-treat is a nod to a more modern way of celebrating Halloween, and it’s a great event for outreach. And, of course, I’m referring to years without the threat of COVID-19.
This year, all activities have been modified or canceled.
As Halloween approached two years ago, we were new to Everett Springs, and we realized that this would be the first time we hadn’t lived in a subdivision where all we had to do was step out our front door to trick-or-treat. I knew Mount Tabor was having a trunk-or-treat, so we decided to drop in, and what we found was the start of a wonderful relationship with other worshipers in our community. When we arrived, the imposing ridge of Horn Mountain was visible across the road from the church, rising up into the deepening gloom, foliage glowing gold and scarlet in the dying evening. It seemed a little strange to be standing in a church parking lot with wilderness just a few steps away. I looked back at the mountain with a now-familiar feeling that we were conducting a modern-day tradition on the edge of the world in a setting as old as time.
We hesitantly entered the fellowship hall and the church’s pastor, Dale McConkey, gave us a hearty welcome. Mount Tabor has a tiny but flourishing congregation, and that night, there were maybe 30 people in attendance. In true Mount Tabor fashion, though, we did all the things, including having a tiny costume contest and pizza for dinner before it was time to collect candy.
Finally, we made the rounds of the trunks in the parking lot. (We might have gone around twice, honestly — the gathering was that small.) Dale hoisted my baby son up and entertained him while I escorted my daughter around the lot.
The church’s oldest congregant, who was over 90 at the time, was there with his trunk popped handing out candy and regaling passersby with snippets of the valley’s history.
I had been to a few trunk-or-treats at larger churches, but this one had more organized activities than the others. It wasn’t until after we gathered candy that I realized we were headed into the signature event of the evening. Everyone suddenly rushed for the little pavilion in front of the fellowship hall and squeezed under the roof together. I saw pumpkins lined up from one end of the long, concrete table to the other, and I realized we were all going to be making jack-o-lanterns. Everyone from age 2 to 92 grabbed a carving instrument and prepared to demonstrate their artistry. (Don’t worry. Any two year olds were heavily supervised.)
We all gave this community carving endeavor our best with some participants (my daughter) refusing to touch pumpkin slime and others whipping out knives they had hand-forged themselves at home.
The Crumblys left that evening with a rime (for some of us) of sticky pumpkin sludge, a lot of delicious candy and a standing invitation to any event Mount Tabor might have in the future.
It was a night I have not forgotten and a tradition I look forward to celebrating again and again.