The community craft faire this past weekend was what it is every year: a very pleasant coming together of artists and craftsmen and craftswomen on a beautiful autumn day in a beautiful place, attended by thousands. Wife, Daughter, and I strolled the booths and sampled the food for a couple of hours before we came to the row of displays in the back corner of the faire. That’s where they stick all of the churches.
Suddenly I felt guilty not to be working.
My church didn’t have a booth. We never have. We have one at the community Fourth of July festival, but not this. Should we?
The church booths do a variety of things consistent with what you’d expect from their traditions and affiliations (or not). The evangelical churches hand out tracts and tie balloons splayed with Bible verses on kids’ wrists. The Episcopal church blesses peoples’ pets. It seems that churches treat the faire as one of two kinds of opportunities–either to put their name and their message in peoples’ hands, or to do something for them (some, like the church offering passersby a drink of cold water in exchange for a chance to pitch them on the Living Water, attempt both).
My state shifted from guilt to smug self-satisfaction. I was glad to be participating in the event as a citizen and not as a carnival barker. I found myself doubting the value of the faire for a church. Why allow ourselves to be lined up alongside scads of other churches to compete for shoppers’ attention? What’s the point of that? Could absence from the faire be a better form of presence in our community?
I have zero confidence in either my smug or my guilty reaction to the faire’s church booths.
I wonder: what’s the real opportunity for churches in community events like this?