Bible Balloons And Pet Blessings

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?


4 thoughts on “Bible Balloons And Pet Blessings

  1. We spent a long time discussing what to do with a booth at the PRIDE festival. And it evolves a bit each year. We wanted to be invitational, but not make it seem like we were only there to “save their souls” or something like that.
    But we felt our presence in the community mattered.
    So we pass out bottles of water. We offer apologies to folks hurt by religion. We have fabric on tables where people can write whatever they want to about God. (Later turned into banners and paraments).
    So I think there is value being out in the community, not waiting for them to come to us. But agree with you it is tough to find the right tone.

  2. We’re kicking this around as well. We’re right on a major park in town, so there are many festivals that bring the whole city literally to our front yard. We don’t want to sell fried dough, but are considering making a place of rest – free parking bathrooms, etc. Plus just a clean place to let your baby crawl around for a while. It’s hard to staff it on a holiday though.

    • That reminds me: the church closest to the faire had signs out front inviting people to come in, cool off, and rest. There were hospitality volunteers welcoming people. I thought that was great.

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