St. John’s Methodist/URC market stall has been running for 3 years now. The vision was originally to have a presence in Stone High Street to reach those who never go inside a church, but it has developed into support for fellow Christians and increased fellowship among the Church members as well.
The stall begins each month 2 weeks before we get into the High Street with a visit to the Methodist Book Centre at Hanley to choose the new stock- Christian books, cards, stationery, toys and other gift items. We try to take things we haven’t had before, so while, for instance, we might take a book about prayer every month it will be by a different author. Sympathy cards are always in demand, but we vary the ones we bring.
The day before the market we load up the cars: the night before we don’t sleep very well… and at 8 o’clock we’re in the High Street setting up the stall. The stall is there for us, so we just have to attach the sides and display the banner and the stock, which takes about an hour. On Saturday we got the stall arranged before it rained! There weren’t many people about all day because of the weather, but we still gave away 119 balloons with our church’s name on.
Two of our helpers are members of a Christian motor bikers’ group. On Saturday one was delighted to talk with a fellow Christian motor biker. Behind his back his wife bought a fish sticker to go on his bike. We gave away a couple of copies of the Bikers’ Bible to some interested men.
Our helpers often park one of the bikes by the stall. This attracts a lot of interest from the men, who come over to see it and have a talk. A month ago a young man stopped to look at the bike, and he was asked if he wanted to speak to the owner, who was busy blowing up the balloons. ‘No, just looking,’ he said. Half an hour later he came back and asked if he could have one of the flowers with a text attached, which we were giving to ladies that day, and of course we were very happy to. We used to be visited every month by one of the nuns from the local Dominican convent, but we haven’t seen her for several months. This time another Sister stopped to tell us ‘our’ Sister has been very poorly, so we wrote a Get Well card for her and sent her a little Joy in Your Pocket booklet. We’ve missed her- she often bought books from us and enjoyed talking to us. One helper spent a long time listening to a lady on a mobility scooter.
We’ve recently found a source of beautiful (free!) postcards with a text on, and on Saturday we gave away a lot of these. One young recently appointed teacher was very pleased to take a set of 35 or so of these to use in teaching RE to his class. He’s not a church goer, so we gave him a contact phone number. If he needs resources we can get them for him to see- no obligation, as they are on sale or return. On a previous occasion a teacher said she had to tell Bible stories to her class and didn’t know any: she was very happy with the 2 books of stories she bought. One single Mum told us about the difficult times she had had, and how pleased she was to have moved back to Stone. She bought an Aled Jones CD, and we invited her to Church with her disabled daughter, assuring her they would be very welcome. So far they haven’t come, but we’re still hoping. A disabled lady who had a troubled childhood and who has been victimised where she lives bought a book about someone who had had similar problems and overcame them. The next month she came back for the second book which told the next part of the story. As we were packing up this Saturday a young Mum asked us what time our services are. Will they be in Church on Sunday…?
As usual we had an opportunity to talk to each other and exchange news and concerns. A close relative of a Church member has died; a very difficult situation in someone else’s family has been resolved happily, and one of our members was delighted to tell us she’s got tickets for the Olympics! There isn’t always time for this after services, and we’ve grown closer as we work on the stall together. But we’re in the High Street, giving away mince pies at Christmas and hot cross buns at Easter, always with a Christian message and an In Your Pocket booklet. We’ll never see the results of our work, but we have faith that God will use what we do to Reach Out to people who don’t know Him yet.