Fourteen years ago, a pastor turned to her husband and said, "Our church looks like Hogwarts." Soon after, some magic started happening in the halls of Quincy (Massachusetts) Community United Methodist Church. Every October, church members transform the space into Hogwarts School from the Harry Potter series and give those in the community a unique chance to spend time with beloved characters from the books.
(Actor) “Come on in, love, come on in, don’t be scared!
The Harry Potter books and films have attracted millions of fans, but also a little bit of controversy.
Participants: “Lumos.” (Jarek-Glidden) Concentrate please on the two candelabra. Point your wands at them please. One, two, three.” Participants: “Lumos!” “Yes!,” (clapping)
Still, the church members and volunteers bringing the books to life at Quincy Community United Methodist Church believe the stories about wizards, magic and ghosts-"Now, shake your hair a little bit!''-have plenty of spiritual themes.
(Actors do makeup) "We’re ghosting each other."
(Actors prepare) "Angel wing feathers?"
The Rev. Dr. Susan Jarek-Glidden, Quincy Community United Methodist Church: “Harry Potter is the gospel, told in a different way.”
(Jarek-Glidden to kids) “Turn around twice, counter-clockwise please!”
(Jarek-Glidden) "It's about loyalty, it's about honor."
(Jarek-Glidden to kids) "Now turn around twice in the opposite direction please."
(Jarek-Glidden) “It's about supporting those nobody else cares about, it's about DYING for your friends! If it comes to that. Sound familiar?”
Pastor Susan Jarek-Glidden plays a witch, Professor McGonagall. She insists the church's annual Hogwarts event is a perfect tie-in with Halloween, and its religious roots.
(Jarek-Glidden) “It's All Hallows. It's the night before All Saints Day. Halloween is a time when you protect yourself centuries ago from anything evil by assuming a costume so the evil creatures would think you're one of them.”
(Actor talks to guests) "This is a poltergeist. Poltergeists are tricky ghosts because sometimes they’re invisible. Thing about poltergeist is they are very noisy ghosts."
The wise Hogwarts school headmaster, Dumbledore, is played by Peter Griswold. He was invited to the church to play a part, but he has stayed for the core message.
Peter Griswold, Professor Dumbledore: “I hadn't really considered joining a church until I started coming to this one, and I find it much to my liking. It's also given me the opportunity to be of service to more people which is important."
(Jarek-Glidden)"The initial goal was to have our name out in the community, to be known for something and that has worked amazingly well. The second was for families with marginalized incomes to really have a wonderful magical day that adults and children can enjoy together."
This has gone on for 11 Halloweens. Some Hogwarts "students" have become cast members themselves.
Holly McKeon, Age16: "As I got older I wanted to be a part of the magic. Harry Potter is such a timeless story and to see all the kids so happy to be a part of it never gets old."
Andrew, Participant: “I wanted to do it because it's pretty cool. And, I love Harry Potter."
Alexander Bouley, Age 16: "I thought it was real. I was such a big fan of the books when I was a kid. I thought well, 'Did they move Hogwarts from Britain over to the United States?' I was thinking all these people were the actual teachers. And even the adults that come I think kind of feel like, 'OK, let's just take a step back from reality and pretend we're in the world of Harry Potter.'"
Another cast member who joined the church through Harry Potter Halloween is Hogwarts Nurse Alice Finn. The creative approach to this and all kinds of other community outreach, she says, cast a… spell…on her.
Alice Finn, Hogwarts Nurse: “Sometimes the things we work on are a little bit out there. But after you get involved with them, they’re not so crazy any more. They’re just wonderful."
The church's Harry Potter Halloween started in 2004. Throughout the year, the congregation does other outreach including nine recovery programs and an afterschool program to teach Chinese.
For more information on the annual Harry Potter Halloween event, you can call Quincy Community United Methodist Church in Quincy, Massachusetts at 617-773-6854.
This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Fran Walsh, 615-742-5458.
This video was originally posted October 23, 2015.