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.