Saints? We aren’t Catholic. Why do United Methodists celebrate All Saints Day?
All Saints Day is a celebration Sunday that is not necessarily on the highlight reel of important Sundays for the average United Methodist. Most church goers do not mark it on their calendar or start planning for the special day. In fact, most worshipers will show up and be surprised when singing the familiar opening hymn, “For all the Saints, who from their labors rest.” However, don’t be surprised if they already know what November 1st is about. Thanks to popular culture, and movies like The Book of Life, and Coco, along with other faith traditions, United Methodists are beginning to have a deeper awareness, and perhaps even a yearning to strengthen the United Methodist traditions surrounding All Saints Day.
On November 1st, or the Sunday closest to it, United Methodists place importance on honoring the saints of our past. Our Wesleyan faith tradition does not canonize saints by electing people to the realm of sainthood, nor do we worship those whom we recognize as saints. So why celebrate All Saints Day?
All Saints Day is a time to remember and honor those who came before us and helped us come to know the good news of Jesus Christ. This includes those who first documented their witness of the life of Jesus (as Matthew, Paul, John, Luke), the disciples, and the first worshipers who started the Christian church. We honor those who have shaped our faith traditions, like John Wesley, along with those who planted our churches.
We pay reverence to those who helped grow and sustain the churches and faith communities through their gifts, time, talents, faith and witness. And most personally, we honor those who were closest to us, planting the seeds of faith in our own hearts, nurturing, and encouraging us on our faith journeys. This may have been a relative who told Bible stories, a youth pastor, a camp counselor, or a friend from Sunday School. Maybe it was a stranger who shared our first witness, giving us the divine gift to know and experience God. These are the saints of our lives.
We hold deep gratitude for the Saints. And oh, what I want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in.
Who are the Saints of your faith journey? Send us a comment and let us know.
by Kristi Kinnison, Executive Director, Methodists Helping Methodists Foundation