The women stood all lined up, waiting. Watching, preparing, like lionesses getting ready to pounce. Positioning themselves strategically, to the best places to get what they wanted. The gloves were off, their hands not quite hovering out – but you could tell they wanted to. Watches were being checked in as subtle a manner as possible, just how long until it started?! And then a hush fell upon them as they realised that it was – finally – going to get underway! Fingers flexed, smiles broadened, and at the appointed time, those hands rapidly reached out…
No, I’m not describing a hoard of young girls at some celebrity’s appearance. And no, I’m not detailing the madness of the Black Friday Sales. What I’m describing is the church’s annual tea and bake sale.
Every year, one of the parishes I serve holds this lovely event. Donated baked goods are set out on a long table at the side of the hall (complete with eager volunteers to help bundle up, bag, and calculate totals for the checkout). Smaller tables are set for 4 people in the rest of the hall, decked out with table cloths, cups and saucers, a centrepiece.
Every year, the ladies come. And who can blame them? It’s all one’s home baking for Christmas in one easy, inexpensive stop. And so they arrive 10-15 minutes ahead of time, put coats and purses at a table, and examine the baked offerings. Then they decide what they want to get, and stand all lined up waiting… and waiting…
It’s a delight to see the waiting. These ladies tend to be of a finer vintage, and they are all smiles and conversation and laughter. And once the blessing has been asked on the tea, marking the sale officially open, the pouncing happens. Those keen fingers are reaching out and grasping the cookies and breads and cakes. Aside from joking that these ladies have the spriteliness of lionesses ready to catch their prey, what’s great is that no one grabs for the same thing. And this is not just happy coincidence; this has been planned. As the ladies stand waiting, they have been discussing with each other what they intend to purchase – almost as if they are staking their claim on goods prior to the opening to ensure orderliness and politeness ensues.
And so, quickly, VERY quickly, the bake table is empty and the ladies are now comfortably seated with friends at the tables. It’s now that the kitchen saints (i.e. church volunteers) bring out the tea and coffee, platters of fancy sandwiches and dainties. And the conversations continue, the laughter grows, and a good time is had by all.
The tea and bake sale does raise some money for the parish to use in ministry. More importantly, however, this event is a celebration of the community. A large number of people come out because they know that the Anglican Bake Sale has a reputation for having not only good baking, but great community. It’s a chance to reconnect with friends in a fun and casual way. It’s one of those delightful expressions of ministry in action within our community, an opportunity to open our doors and our hearts in a meaningful way before the busyness of Christmas starts. So while it is a decent amount of work, it’s happy work that is appreciated and shows immediate positive result. It’s the type of the work that this parish enjoys pouncing upon.
How does your parish reach out? What traditions does your parish engage in that build community?