June 30, 2016

What's Your Claim to Fame?

How or what is your congregation known for in your community? In my town, the two Episcopal Churches may be best known for their fundraisers.

Both St. Michael’s and St. Andrew’s Episcopal churches in Marblehead, Mass have long established fundraisers that have become part of the fabric of the community.

St. Michael’s annual lobster luncheon is on many people’s ‘must do’ list for the July 4th weekend, including mine. Beginning on Saturday and continuing through July 4th, the lobster luncheon fundraiser coincides with the Marblehead Festival of Arts, taking advantage of St. Michael’s location in the midst of the festivities. My friends Joe and Jill became engaged while eating lobster rolls on the St. Michael’s lawn and return each year to celebrate this milestone.

All proceeds support the Church’s community and world ministries and information about these ministries is visible to people purchasing lobster rolls, clam chowder, hot dogs, and watermelon. Tours of St. Michael’s historic building and an organ concert are typically offered during this event.

St. Michaels also provides space to the Festival for their printmaking and sculpture displays, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to the building and past their food tent.

St. Andrews, located on the outskirts of town, has taken a different approach to fund their ministries. Capitalizing on the abundance of ‘stuff’ people accumulate, the congregation offers fall and spring rummage sales as well as their annual Christmas toy sale – each preceeded by a preview party the night before the sale begins. 

Publicized mainly by signs on the church lawn and homes of church members, and articles in the local papers, these sales are also a ‘must do’ for many people in the area. And, like St. Michael’s, St. Andrews does a good job of letting people know about the ministries supported by the sale proceeds.

Looking beyond the financial benefits of these annual ‘events,’ I see them as a low risk way to ‘check out’ a congregation. Inviting visitors in for a secular experience provides an opportunity to experience our sacred space and to learn about our engagement in the world on their own terms.

In my work as editor of ECF Vital Practices, I’m learning about the many ‘claims to fame’ our Episcopal Churches have in our communities and the positive effects they can have on congregational vitality. What’s your congregations’ claim to fame? And, what has been its impact on your congregation? Do you have a success story to share with the readers of ECF Vital Practices? 

This post was first published on ECF Vital Practices June 30, 2011.

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