Can Ren Fest Teach The Church A Thing Or Two About Loving Kids?

Yesterday my family was led around the Ranaissance Pleasure Faire by my daughter’s second grade schoolmate, who knows the place intimately, since her parents are both faire performers. Her dad spins yarn in the town square (he’s actually a computer coder) while her mom performs at various shows throughout the day (she’s actually a high school English teacher–that makes more sense).

This is what their family does Saturday and Sunday for seven consecutive weekends every year. This hot, dusty, slightly overdone mock-up of all things vaguely Elizabethan–so. many. corsets.–this is their thing. And these accented, always-slightly-bawdy, kilted and  robed performers–these are their people.

My daughter’s schoolmate recognizes everybody at the place, from the washing wenches to the queen. She rides the maypole carousel for free and walks through the “performers only” doors without hindrance. The booth-lined lanes might be her own cul-de-sac and the food court her kitchen. And she’s not the only one. I watched dozens of costumed kids carry on free of adult supervision throughout the day.

Is this the experience of community many people come to church looking for, where their kids are known by everyone and inhabit the space with an unencumbered sense of belonging? I’ve wondered before on this blog how churches love children, like, what are the particular things they do to care for and nurture young people. Maybe a troupe of Ren Fest performers could teach us a thing or two about this.

What struck me most was how thoroughly the kids participate in the community’s organizing ethos. They’re costumed like their parents, and they, too, speak in bad English accents. And when the queen processes along the roadway, even though they’re not part of the performance, the costumed kids all arrest their own play to pay attention. They aren’t making distinctions between their own roles and the one played by the court jester, i.e. Jerry the the accountant from San Dimas.

These kids are full participants in a subculture to which their parents are highly committed. Maybe that is a step further than what most people have in mind when they come to your Presbyterian or Methodist church. But there’s something undeniably beneficial about it for the kids.

3 thoughts on “Can Ren Fest Teach The Church A Thing Or Two About Loving Kids?

  1. I love this stuff. I agree that the church lost on an opportunity to go all out about history: music, crafts, costumes and Christianity throughout the historical ages. There is something for everyone. Success happens when fair participants let parts of themselves relax into that willing suspension of disbelief.

    I see a bits of this vision offered by the church sometimes, as a vacation Bible School in the Roman times, neat and tidy packaged in a curriculum.

  2. The Ren Faire atmosphere can be a family atmosphere for visitors and performers alike. It is the complete incorporation of children into the community that makes it so special. And yet the children are still allowed to be themselves, playing and exploring, while also following the lead of their elders–doing as their role models do and not just what they are told to do. Isn’t that what we want the church atmosphere to be like for our children?

  3. I wonder what role the limited time frame plays in helping the Ren Faire know and love children? In comparison, how many of the families in our churches are in worship any given seven consecutive weeks? I know in our congregation that would not be a large number. But for the Faire, when there is a definitive beginning and end, does that help families commit to it? Seems like it could.

    I suspect most of our families still don’t think of the congregation as a participant in a subculture. Perhaps that’s an area of opportunity for us?

    Couple things we do each week that (I hope) demonstrates our love for children (and I hope demonstrates it *to* both the children and all others), is a conversation time with the children in worship, and the children are brought back from Sunday School to receive communion — and they always are invited to receive it first.

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