Every year we have a parish fair, usually on the first Saturday in November, but this year for reasons I can no longer remember we had it a week early.Not that the timing seemed to make much difference, as it all went off as smoothly as ever. There is a long history of holding parish fairs and a lot of people who know how it all works. People have their alloted jobs to do, and they know the steps in the process of making that bit of the process happen. I have my own particular contribution to make. There is a circuit of local schools and churches who all borrow trestle tables off each other, and, on the day before the fair, they have to be visited in turn by cars towing trailers, one of which is mine. There is a barbecue of formidable weight to be collected from the naval training base - why the Royal New Zealand Navy would own such a thing and why they would lend it to us are mysteries now lost in the fogs of history. There is a marquee to be erected and this involves a lot blokes in late middle age hammering large bits of metal into the ground using a mallet of prodigious size. We take turns and sweat a lot. Tables are erected and stacked with stuff. Old electrical appliances are tested to make sure they work. Cakes and sweets are baked and packaged. Local businesses are canvassed for contributions to a raffle table and to a silent auction. Signs and balloons and streamers are hung up about the place. A crowd gathers and a bell is rung and then it's all on. In about three hours the parish makes $17,000 and then we pack everything up, traverse the circuit of table suppliers again - only this time in delivery mode - and discuss how we can make next year's fair better than this one.
On the face of it, running a fair doesn't seem like a Gospel activity, but on the face of it is wrong. Pretty much everyone in the church community is involved in some way or another and at the end of the day, there is the expected deepening of bonds that come from performing any absorbing activity together. The general public seems to like coming to our fair. It is a cheap, safe outing for families and there's always the chance of picking up a bargain. Our parish is filled with interesting people with interesting and, sometimes, well paid jobs so the contents of the basements, garages, wardrobes and bookcases which fill our stalls are well worth picking over. We are providing a greatly loved and eagerly anticipated social service to the neighbourhood.
But wait, there's more...
This year the proceeds of the fair will be divided between some as yet to be decided charity outside the parish - some group who needs the cash - and the restoration of our hall . We can come up with all manner of erudite expositions of the faith, and make all the plans we like for imaginative ministry, but for any of them to be more than just a happy thought requires money and, usually, a place for them to happen. There is a lot going on at St. John's Roslyn: people are taught and grow; ministry happens; God is encountered. And, the people who on Saturday quietly got on with the business of making the fair happen were participating in that. Extraordinary happenings of lifesaving and sometimes cosmic significance finding a focus in small, everyday deeds. It's called incarnation.