What is church? Our Little Fresh & Free Market

By Sara Wright
Sept. 1, 2022

Our last night of the Little Fresh & Free Market brought the usual assortment of regulars and newcomers and a fresh batch of surprising encounters. A couple of the many stories from the evening:

“Are you the pastor?” The question was directed to me from a 5-year-old boy who had come by our Little Fresh & Free Market with his dad and sister several weeks in a row.

“No, I’m not the pastor.”

“I want to meet the pastor.”

He rounded up his dad and sister and I rounded up Rev. Rick and handshakes and introductions were exchanged. I’m not sure why he wanted to meet the pastor, but it meant something to him and he left satisfied.

“Would you like a cookie?” I asked the 8-9-year old girl who had come by with her grandmother.

“No, just water.”

She was doing a lot of mental multitasking—her eyes looking over the table of produce, her brain taking in the rapid-fire questions in Chinese from her grandmother and translating between Grandmother and the strangers standing at the table, processing the visual complexity of the table itself, wondering about the extended family sitting in a small cluster on the ground, smiling and chatting with each other. There was a lot to take in.

“Is this a school?” she asked me, in her own heavily accented English.

“No, it’s a church.”

“What’s a church?”

And then I was the one doing the mental gymnastics—my eyes moving from granddaughter to grandmother, wondering what faith traditions they might have that I could find words to connect with. I was rescued by the grandmother’s repeated question to the girl, both of them unsure they were understanding correctly, the question asked at least half a dozen times during their first five minutes at the table.

“Free? No money?”

They left with a large bag of tomatoes and beans and peppers and basil, the grandmother beaming her thanks and the girl gently holding one of the small corn husk dolls made by our Marianne D.

“What’s a church?”

I don’t have adequate words to explain it across language and cultural differences, but I think the little girl and her grandmother experienced it during their encounter with our little free market. I know I did.