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Church bazaars require people power

By Beth Kowal

Churches around the world have held bazaars for hundreds of years. Bazaars are a tradition that builds fellowship and community, while members raise funds for charity, mission and outreach.
Today, however, many churches no longer call their holiday festivities a bazaar.

Making Rosettes
Making rosettes

The word, “bazaar,” comes from Pahlavi, a Middle Eastern language. It means a market with different shops and stalls lining a street.

The concept of a church bazaar is steeped in tradition passed down for generations. Traditionally, churches sell homemade crafts, such as knitted, crocheted and quilted items, canned and baked goods, and used items donated for resale.

Crafting the items and attending planning meetings take hours. With younger generations working and having different priorities and hobbies than handiworks, some churches are discontinuing their bazaars.

As people retire from bazaar committees, churches have to discern if they can continue the bazaar or want different events for fund raising and community outreach.

Women’s teas, women’s Christmas desserts, trees of giving, Christmas markets and international fair-trade marketplaces are alternatives to holiday bazaars.

Spokane area churches offer a range of holiday events.

Central United Methodist’s bazaar has been “going strong” since the 1930s, said Dorothy Worthington, who has been involved with it for more than 50 years.

“It raises funds for local and foreign missions,” she said, noting that it also helps the church meet the budget, provide camperships and help people.

In the 1930s, the church had 13 fellowship organizations. Today, it has one. Members’ interests have changed, and it’s hard to find people to fill committees.

“We are a downtown church. Satellite churches have grown,” she said. “Most members work. Previously most women were housewives,” Dorothy said, adding that many young people give financial support instead of time.

Forty members are organizing the church’s Nov. 3 bazaar. It will have booths for food, china, craft items, books, cards and a luncheon of casserole, vegetables, bread and dessert. Members make crafts and sew all year.

Some bazaars share a church’s ethnic heritage. Central Lutheran Church is holding its annual Scandinavian Bazaar on Nov. 2.

Making sandbakkelse
Making sandbakkelse

For more than 30 years, members have made flat bread, lefse, Scandinavian cookies, meatballs and candy. They have booths with crafts. In years past, they served lunch, but now hold Kaffe Stua—a coffee and dessert tea on the morning of the bazaar.

To prepare, men and women spend more than three weeks making lefse, cookies and meatballs. Several generations of friends and families—some from as far as Seattle—gather at the church to help deep fry rosettes and bake sandbakkelse and other Scandinavian specialties.

Patty Harrison, chair, said members peel, cook and rice about 35 pounds of potatoes a day. The next day, they make lefse from them. The process is repeated for eight days. This year, they prepared 700 pounds of potatoes.

In many churches, women do most of the bazaar preparations and activities. Central Lutheran has equal involvement. with men peeling potatoes, setting up, selling items, directing parking and assisting behind the scenes.

More sandbakkelse

“Sandbakkelse are Norwegian,” said one of the women helping prepare them on Oct. 21. “Scandinavian,” said another.

The mix of national heritages among those baking that day at Central Lutheran reflect the denomination’s Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, German roots. In the 1970s, they united as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American.

At the bazaar, many will wear their Scandinavian outfits to add to the ambiance of the event.
The mix of heritages in subsequent generations is exemplified by Lucinda Saue, who said her granddaughter is Norwegian and Scottish/English, Hispanic, Spanish and Jewish.

Rowena Fredekind said her German name hides that all four of her grandparents were Norwegian.

The Lutheran’s Women’s Club sells cookbooks and uses donations to buy food. Proceeds go to charities such as Cup of Cool Water, Christ Kitchen, Sally’s House and Lutheran World Relief.

Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ had a strong November bazaar for more than 120 years. With declining participation, they decided four years ago to have a Christmas Market in conjunction with the Children’s Chorus Concert.

“Our goal is to involve the whole church,” said Robin McLain, administrator.

This year, the church’s new men’s fellowship will cook lunch for the Dec. 8 event. There has not been a men’s group in the church since the 1960s.

Scot Stout, who organized the men’s group, said the men first thought they would start after Christmas until the pastor asked them to make the lunch with three soups, homemade bread, salad, dessert and beverages. They will make everything from scratch from family recipes and recipes the men have tried and enjoyed.

Even with a strong history of bazaars, some churches are not able to muster the people power to hold one.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is celebrating its 79th bazaar this year. The first bazaar, held in 1928, helped lay the building’s cornerstone and raise funds to build the cathedral.

This year, their Nov. 3 bazaar will raise money for the service league, the governing body for the women’s guilds, and for local organizations. Each guild has a table to sell items: one sells mustard and tea towels; another sells white elephant used goods and cookies, and the youth group will help a guild serve meals and run the fair-trade coffee cart.

Proceeds support Crosswalk, the Women’s Hearth, vacation Bible school, youth missions and guild projects.

St. John’s will also offer guided tours of the cathedral, carillon and organ music, and meditation by walking the labyrinth.

Sharon and Ken Fisher, who chaired the bazaar this year and last, said they want to introduce the community to St. John’s as “a vibrant, active church” inside what appears to be “a monolith on the top of the hill.”

In contrast to 19 guilds from the 1940s to 1970s, now there are few. Many women work and have less time to help do a bazaar.

“While our numbers are shrinking, our members are dedicated and bring their gifts,” she said.
Instead of a bazaar, First Presbyterian Church hosts a women’s Christmas dessert, a Jubilee Alternative Christmas sale and the Messiah sing-along.

These events support the church’s local and international mission work.

The dessert and Messiah draw people into the church who might not normally come. The Jubilee Alternative Christmas Sale on Nov. 9 involves people who sell fair-trade crafts from around the world. The money earned goes to the artists.

Brenda Norton, community life director at First Presbyterian said, “Most of what we do here during Advent is focused on missions, serving others and drawing people to church during the holiday season.”

Patsy Opsal of Christ Lutheran said, “We’ve had a successful bazaar in the past with vendors and a luncheon everybody loved.”

A few years ago, after no one offered to chair the bazaar committee, Patsy gave it up. Young women have different priorities.

Manito United Methodist Church also decided to discontinue its bazaar.

The Rev. Joyce O’Connor-Magee said that “years ago, crafts for bazaars were labors of love, time and energy. Now we don’t have that time and are not receiving the value people put into them.”
Some members make items that would normally sell at a bazaar, such as prayer shawls, but the purpose is different.

Today, many people see time as money. Church members prioritize personal activities over church committees, but are still willing to contribute financially.

“Some people have more disposable income,” Joyce said. “They don’t save pennies in a dish by the sink. They have the luxury of just giving.”

Manito still has a rummage sale and bake sale, and people donate to charities.

Some churches never had a bazaar. They have other ways to raise funds and do outreach.
Life Center has two evening women’s teas in December.

Penny Kasslen, administrator at Life Center, said each member who comes buys two tickets and brings a friend.

Life Center tries to keep fund-raising events to a minimum. Half the funds people donate for drinks from their free espresso bar goes for mission. The youth raises funds for activities and camp.

Life Center focuses on community outreach by joining the community turkey drive, buying Christmas presents for people in need and sharing the Gospel in person-to-person evangelism.

“Our focus is leading people to Jesus and helping them grow,” she said.

So each church finds unique ways to connect with the community, build fellowship and raise funds to help people.

The Fig Tree - Copyright © November 2007