Written by Leone Dyer
All churches have their core members. And like most Swedenborgian churches, their core members are the ones who do everything to keep the church running. When the time comes around for the largest fundraiser, the core members fall into place doing what they have always done to get the task completed. We know these members—they play the organ, make coffee, sit on the board, teach Sunday school, shovel the walkway before church starts, and usher during the service. These members are always available and always willing to serve. Now imagine your fundraiser lasting nine days, with several weeks’ worth of preparation and countless hours after the activity has ended. It is exhausting and taxing on the core members of the church.
The Fryeburg Fair, the largest fundraiser for the Fryeburg New Church, is a massive undertaking each year, and more so during COVID-19. Fryeburg, Maine, is a small farming community of 3,500, and the first week of October each year, approximately 225,000 people descend on the village for the week-long agricultural fair. The Fryeburg New Church’s largest fundraiser is a nine-day marathon (we are allowed to be open one day before the fair opens to help feed the vendors), of grilling hamburgers, hotdogs, homemade chili, and pies. There are weeks’ worth of prep before the starting day and at least a week’s worth of clean-up upon its closure. Volunteers make this fundraiser possible.
The Fryeburg Fair booth is successful because of our core members. They give hours upon hours of their time filling in when they can and overextending themselves because the tasks must be completed. But, beyond the twenty-something core members, volunteers are the extended and absent members of the church. Each year they give their time because this was their grandmother’s church, or they attended Sunday school as a child and have always considered it their church. In total, fifty-six volunteers contributed to the success of the 2021 Fryeburg Fair season. Many came to the booth to work before or after their professional jobs, or rushed home each night to grade papers, do laundry, pack lunches for the next day, or fall into bed after closing the booth at 9:30 PM to return to the church kitchen at 7:30 AM to make chili. Some signed up for one shift and stayed all week. Others had the luxury of placing their life on hold to be at the Fair for fifteen hours every day.
Why do we do this? We love the church. It is the common theme of our stewardship.
Yes, the booth’s purpose is to raise money to keep our church heated, pay our minister’s salary, and all the other expenses a large building requires. But there is a beauty of unity when a group of people shares space for hours for several days. Connections and reconnections form when our core members stand beside a volunteer who has never stepped into the Fryeburg Church. Or two strangers realize their parents attended Sunday school together in the fifties. Or core members work together for the first time, acknowledging their talents that they had not recognized before. For the core members of the church, it is refreshing to see different faces, new energy. It is reassuring that the extended or absent members know that the church is cared for and watched over. So, what is really happening is we are forming a tighter church community—the core members, the absent members, and the people who are not members. We are practicing, trying out living heaven on earth. We are united. And it all comes together because we have been called together to be of service.
Meet Leone Dyer
Leone Dyer wears many hats at the Fryeburg New Church. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees, Fryeburg Fair Booth coordinator, and A/V chair. Lee, and her husband Dan, enjoy hiking in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire.