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October 20, 2012
It took them awhile to get here, our pumpkins: they were due at 8am Saturday morning, and more than a dozen Lukans were here to unload. But pumpkins came there none: there had been a flat tire, it seemed, and our pumpkins would arrive shortly after noon. We dispersed, to return then.

But noon came and went; again there were no pumpkins. Now they were announced for 4pm. There were Lukans whose dance cards for late afternoon were filled, but some returned-- only to Kearney that there were still no pumpkins. They would arrive the following day, Sunday. Right after church.

Well, at least we know there will be plenty of people to help. And there were. The pumpkin truck arrived just as I was putting the finishing touches on my attempt to sell the congregation on joining The Bible Challenge, a method by which they would read the entire Bible in the course of a year, beginning on January 1st. I was about to ask them for a commitment when the cry went up. THEY'RE HERE!!! The room emptied out. Our commitment to reading the whole Bible in 2013 appeared to be on hold.

The Lukans pumpkins those pumpkins like black flies on a church picnic. Karina inventoried them as they left the truck in blanket-lined wheelbarrows for the short trundle to the patch. Mary supervised their deployment once they got there, utilizing the design skills honed by her decades of service on the altar guild. But mostly it was a day for people with superior upper body strength. Almost everybody there was better suited to the work than I was.

Some of these guys are really big, I said to no one in particular as I eased a fifty-pounder gently out of a wheelbarrow onto the grass. DON'T YOU LIFT! Mary scolded. I'm not lifting, I protested. I'm easing. Allyson realized that a subcompact could pull up to the truck and carry five or six pumpkins, instead of two or three. That was a good deal, it seemed to me, and I went to get my car. By the time we were finished, the pumpkin patch I had been imagining had come into real-world existence along the main road into town. It is a brilliant swath of glorious orange, a highway of excitement and allure to young and old.

Because everybody loves pumpkins: from the first one you cut laboriously out of orange construction paper in kindergarten to the one you drew in first grade, the one with ribs you were so proud to have drawn, your first venture into drawing something with texture. From the one you helped your father carve, when you realized that "helping" just meant sitting and watching while he carved because he didn't want you using a sharp knife, to the one you carved alone by yourself after school in seventh grade, and the first one you carved for your own children. We love pumpkins in all the phases of their lives: their startling growth, the peeking orange spheres of them showing among the broad leaves of their vines, their jolly faces lit from within by a hidden candle, their plump sweet flesh steaming away on the stovetop en route to becoming pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup, their seeds toasting in the oven.

When the Patch is over, which will happen abruptly on October 31st, we are to take the pumpkins to the Johnson Park zoo, where many goats reside. Some we will keep, though, and cook them up into pumpkin soup and pumpkin pies for our First Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday after the great day, a feast that will include only the foods people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony would have had: venison, fish, corn, cranberries, nuts. Beans, maybe. And pumpkins, of course, together with some of their squash cousins. We are in the process of deciding how hardcore we should be: should we cook and eat it outside, on a chilly November Sunday, intrepid spiritual descendants of the pilgrims in our winter coats? Stay tuned.

The month before our memorial meal, we will have visitors: a Cherokee scholar who will come and speak to us about how our Thanksgiving observance looks to Native Americans -- suffice it to say that it's not the same. A group of Turkish immigrants who will bring food from their wonderful cuisine, as they engage us in discussion of how different cultures can live creatively together. An historian of Puritanism , who will explore what the pilgrims were like.

Halloween begins it in America: the end-of-year celebration of life in the presence of death, plenty in the presence of want, of fellowship in the presence of suspicion. At the end of every year, we enact our world as we want to to be, softening the harsh realities of life. We try to make them beautiful, though we know that often they are anything but that.


The Center for Biblical Studies has designed a one year reading schedule to help those who commit as individuals or as members of a church, a church school or a diocese to read successfully through the entire Bible in a year’s time. The CBS intentionally focuses on reading the entire Bible, reading the books of the Bible in sequence and ensuring that a psalm and a portion of the New Testament are read each day in order to provide strong spiritual daily content to sustain readers working through the entire Bible.
Learn more at.


The Pumpkin Patch at St. Luke's, Metuchen is open daily until 7pm on October 31st. Prices range from 50 cents to $25. 17 Oak Avenue, Metuchen, NJ 08840.
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