Garage Sale – Meeting the Locals
Rodney Eivers – 30th November 2015
A couple of weeks ago Milpara Congregation held a “Garage Sale”(a.k.a “Boot Sale”, “Flea Market”)
I had not realised how popular these events are. There were people lined up at our gateway at 7 o’clock on the Saturday morning. They drifted in and out over the next three of four hours and it was notable that there was a high proportion of people whom we had never seen before. There was another group of non-church-attenders who were known casually to members of our congregation and greetings of recognition were exchanged
I presume such market days are a feature of church congregations around the world. While I was holidaying on the Sunshine Coast last week we read of one being conducted that weekend by the Coolum Uniting Church.
So what can this mean for those of us who seek integration of congregation and local community? At the very least it gives us chance to meet more of our neighbours.
A local market on the church grounds can have a number of functions. It may be a means of raising money, often for charitable purpose, or perhaps for some immediate need for maintenance of the property. In the case of the Milpara Congregation it was for the purpose for getting rid of the clutter from all the paraphernalia which had built up in the storerooms and cupboards over a number of years. These reasons have their value.
But what if, in the context of the Milpara vision we see these public occasions as opportunities to invite the local community to join with us in making our town or suburb a better place – a little corner of the Kingdom of God?
If this is to be the case we need to be purposeful in planning and carrying out these market days. Viewers of this site may have more ideas and we would invite you to send them in. Let us put aside the money-making or rubbish-disposal options. They may be a valid function of open-air markets but are not relevant to our purpose:
Market days as an integrater of congregation and local community
- Plan well ahead and draw up a schedule of market days as much as a year in advance and provide firm dates. As with the local government kerbside pick-ups this allows people to put aside items they may want to dispose of but which may still have value for others, knowing that they will have the opportunity to sell them or give them away.
- Be aware of government and denominational statutory requirements. This would include appropriate insurance cover. Church Councils will need to have the planned dates recorded in their minutes as activities of that congregation.
- With the awareness of the ageing and infirmity of most congregations, on top of the need to incorporate local “secular” expertise, be always on the lookout to invite non-attenders to participate and to have them, as far as is practicable participate in the initiation, planning, design and administration of the markets. It would be a good idea to invite people to attend church council meetings for that purpose. Such a practice would have the further purpose of demonstrating to the locals how church governance works.
- Use as a principle, the assumption, that in this context of enlivening our congregations and integrating with the local community participation is more important than efficiency. Thus where there is a choice (and we should be on the lookout for such choices), to carry out a particular role or task choose:
- A younger person over an older
- A non-member over a member*.
- An ethnic or minority group person (refugees?) over an Anglo Australian
- Perhaps in some cases a woman over a man. (Or perhaps the reverse when it is proving difficult to get men involved in the congregation’s affairs!)
- As the purpose of the market is to bring church and community together the money-making aspect can be subordinated to the bringing of local people on to the property. Therefore sites for stalls may be offered at very cheap rates or free of charge.
- While the market is being conducted the church building may be left open for people to wander through and gain a little familiarity with the religious environment.
- Publicity. Because the aim of the market day is to build up rapport with the local community, promotion and advertising needs to be directed to people in the vicinity of the church property. Ideally this would be for people within walking distance. Use of local shop fronts, newspapers, community organisations and so on may be useful but the most direct contact with people is likely to be either greeting them in the street or through a publicity brochure dropped into letter boxes of every household. I suggest an appropriate radius for this would be a distance of one to two kilometres from the property.
Glossary:* Members: In this context and in other places on the Milpara website “members” will not necessarily refer to formal, baptised members of the congregation (something which is not always easy to establish and a criterion not likely to be familiar to the general public). It will usually be used as a synonym for “regular attenders of worship services”. That is those people, whom to the casual eye, make up the group that forms a congregation.