St. Andrew’s, Harrington Park has been a Going Local congregation since the beginning, nearly five years ago. A team of five parishioners began the process by listening to others in their congregation. Team members interviewed each other, and then interviewed others in the congregation – the team had the chance to spend time with about half of all parishioners, asking them about their spiritual lives and where they found God in their lives and every-day activities.
The biggest surprise to all was the willingness of parishioners to talk about God with others. “I’ve been attending St. Andrew’s for many years,” said one member, “but this is really the first time I’ve spent time with someone and really shared how important God is to me – where God is in my life and that of my family.”
The team asked others to tell them what their hopes and dreams were for the community – again, many were eager to talk about their faith and share their hopes. “The most common similarity we found,” team member Amy Szurly said, “was the desire for community. Having opportunities for people to simply get together, talk, and share our dreams.”
The team then took that idea on the road – to the annual Harrington Park Town Day. John King built a Dream Board with a scroll of paper, and everyone was invited to share their hopes and dreams for the larger community. As more and more people wrote on the scroll, we ended with “30 feet of dreams”!
Next, the team met with local leaders including the mayor, police chief, superintendent of the elementary school and other residents, always asking others about their hopes and dreams – and concerns. After a number of gatherings, it became clear that a number of people were interested in how the local businesses and the downtown area could be supported.
A new group was formed and one of the team members, Paul Shackford, worked with other town residents to create the Harrington Park Community Business Alliance with the goal of providing opportunities for business owners to gather together and network, and to raise funds for the beautification of downtown Harrington Park.
“When discussing ways to raise funds,” Shackford said, “I mentioned that I would really love to have a farmers market. I admitted, however, I had no idea how to organize something like that, nor did I know any farmers!” To his surprise, one of the group members said that the owner of a farm nearby lived in Harrington Park. And the farmer knew people who owned an orchard. A member of the group bakes cakes. Before long, a larger group gathered to share their ideas and their contacts, and it became clear that we could actually create a farmers market in town.
“A few of us put in a lot of work,” said Shackford, “but we got it started. We launched it at the annual Town Day in September, and held it every Sunday through the end of October.”
On the second Sunday, the Rev. Diane Rhodes, rector of St. Andrew’s, was joined by other town clergy as they blessed the farmers market and all who grew the food and made the products that would be sold there. “And we blessed those who had the vision and desire to make this so much more,” said the Rev. Rhodes. “Because this became an opportunity for residents and others to experience community – for people to get together in a new and unique way.”
The baker (who is known as The Cake Fairy) also observed, “This is not really a big town. Yet I met people who live near where I do, and many others. What a great chance for people to spend time on a Sunday, getting to talk with friends, renew acquaintances, and make new friends.” And, enjoy fabulous cake!
All of this was a direct result of listening. “Here’s a perfect example of how Going Local can work,” said Szurly. “We learned to listen. To really hear what others were saying. Soon, it became clear that there were people in town who wanted to address an issue affecting the business owners and the downtown. People stepped forward, and listened some more. If we from St. Andrew’s didn’t go out into the community and open up conversations in the first place, we would never have had a farmers market in Harrington Park.”
Plans are progressing for the 2019 farmers market, and Shackford is very excited about it. “We’re Going Local... and Growing Local... and that community-building helps us as we are Living Local – with new friends and a more engaged community. We went outside the walls of our church, and found God there, waiting for us. Joining God was wonderful for all.”