One of the hallmarks of Baptist beliefs is the priesthood of all believers. It is deeply meaningful to be able to approach God through Christ of our own accord, without interference requirement to go through another person. I think the celebration of All Saints day (Nov. 1; we celebrate the first Sunday of November) is a little different for us in that way – we don’t venerate only some saints (the “official” ones of the ancient and modern church like St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Mary, St. Mother Teresa); instead, we understand that since we are all children in God’s Kingdom, being a saint isn’t something we earn through the enormity of our good works, but something we are gifted in our baptism.
Preacher and Pastor Barbara Brown Taylor says, “The reality is that all of us who have been baptized are already saints, have already been given our halos, because all it takes to be a saint is to belong to God…Once you have linked up with Christ’s body, once you have been baptized in his name and shared his body and blood, you have everything you need to be a saint. You have your identity, your halo, and a choice: to live as who you are or not.”
Now, sure, the famous saints of the church led meaningful lives and have much to teach us. I, for one, will still think back on them on their feast days and study their contributions to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
But I will also venerate G.G., my surrogate grandmother in my church growing up, who taught me the beauty of a simple life and a faith that embodied hospitality. I will venerate Miss Ace, who taught me in preschool Sunday School so much about what it means to be an inquisitive person when it comes to learning and play. I will venerate the youth group leaders who listened to my call to ministry and didn’t dismiss it outright, even though my faith tradition didn’t understand it. I will venerate my grandparents, whose steadfastness in the faith passed on their love for Christ to my parents, and then to me. I will venerate those professors who stepped in and helped me navigate deconstruction in seminary and built me back up into the believer I am today. I will venerate those saints in my congregation who give of themselves tirelessly to ensure that our city experiences the love and transforming power of Jesus Christ that we experience here within these walls.
The church universal does talk about these less-recognized saints on All Souls Day (Nov. 2nd), which tells us about the faithful departed of all walks, like those souls I venerate (who are both living and departed). But for me, these souls are also saints, in the most meaningful way – they may not have plaques or monuments, but they are the reason our faith lives on, and their saintliness is the main reason I have faith today.
Are saints perfect? No. Are they everywhere and responding to God’s call on their lives? Yes.
And I believe when we lift up those who have left us during worship, we give space to remember God’s powerful work in the lives of the saints, and we get an opportunity to examine our own lives and legacies in the process.
What a gift we have in all these saints!