The Churches’ stall on the Metropole Market went really well again on Sunday. To give a flavour:-
Over 500 customers engaged with us, taking part in the Christmas ‘survey’, and many more the pre-advent calendar quiz, ‘take-a-pebble-with-a-message’ and prayer tree. All of these were designed to start meaningful conversation with all sorts of passers-by in Holdenhurst Road on a cold, but dry, November day. There was a great community atmosphere, with good well-planned organisation throughout, and a wealth of creativity in music, art and food/drink.
This talented young artist took a thumb print, and chatted as he sketched the rest of the subject’s characteristics, based on what emerged from the conversation. Each got to keep the pocket-sized drawing as a souvenir based on their own thumb.
We had slightly less allocated space this time, but the ‘no sided’ gazebo arrangement worked well and we were situated right outside the BU Executive Business Centre where the 1015 was being held. We are now getting to know some of the neighbouring stallholders, which is enriching the experience. Many locals were interested to hear what’s happening with the current re-build, a stone’s throw away, in Lansdowne Road.
The Christmas survey was a great light-hearted ‘engager’ again, asking for bucket voting with fir cones. The outcome showed just how important family and friends are to people at Christmas.
Our team was excellent; very hardworking, and some loved it so much that they stood the whole day in the cold, taking on the longer conversations tirelessly. Most did one of three two-hour shifts. We were able to take food breaks and sample the flavour of nearby stalls, joining the passing footfall.
The whole team reported great opportunities and worthwhile individual conversations, with few refusals to the offer of a chat. It has to be one of the best opportunities we’ve had as a church lately to reach lots of people in a personal way in a short space of time, and it’s been a good advert for Church generally, I think. There was a very friendly atmosphere like I haven’t seen in this part of Bournemouth before and it is great that we are welcome to take part in this.
Meeting so many people reminded us how we are all so diverse, yet created in the image of God, with the same longings. Some visitors became emotionally moved by this depth of conversation with a Christian- one of the team reported a visitor just reading the word ‘hope’ on a pebble, and it immediately reduced them to tears because it was so appropriate for something in their life.
Over 100 hung prayer baubles on the prayer tree and some took considerable pensive time over this.
Many were signposted to LIFE, the Hub Cafe, etc, and invited to upcoming carol services here and at St Swithuns. Dom, Ric and Jon did a great job with personal invitations to LIFE, as there were many in the 20-30s age-bracket passing by.
If anyone would like to join us, we could always use more help, as people were literally ‘passing’ by without conversations too! Maybe it is scary if you’ve never chatted to strangers much before, but if you’d like to have a go, actually doing it for an hour alongside someone else takes the fear out, somehow! Very few passers-by refused to engage, and most were very happy to hear what we had to say, and share from their experiences, many of which involve some sort of Church involvement in the past. They welcomed an opportunity to talk about matters of faith again. Some took the opportunity to pray.