'Watch me stall for a minute, will ya love?'
And so, Deano Wicks bravely leaves his market stall in Albert Square to Stacey Slater, his market mate. Where's he going? Not to church, that's for certain, as a recent UKTV Food study has shown, which claims that up to 78% more people visited the 27 Sunday markets in Wales and England (which included Celyn in Flintshire and Riverside in Cardiff) than church services. Then, in a lightening strike, the Church in Wales retaliates. Anna Morrel enters the Market Place and presents the real figures and says it's just not true! The Riverside market attracted only 800 visitors and Celyn just 1,200. The Church in Wales’ own figures show a far more dramatic difference, with nearly 12,500 people going to church in the diocese of Llandaff and nearly 8,000 in the diocese of St Asaph, where Celyn market is situated. It looks like things aren't so bad after all!
Centuries ago, (Medieval times, I mean) many markets were held in the church yard and sometimes even in the church itself, a vibrant kaleidoscope of sound and colour. These days, much the same is happening. Churches are looking for ways in which the buildings they maintain can be opened up and used by the public in different creative and caring ways, to become a market place in a new way. In my former parish of Cwmaman, for example, the present priest, Fr David Way, has succesfully developed the building into a community facility and local heritage and environmental centre, all topped with solar panels. A few miles down the road, the parish of Ynysboeth have handed the building over to a Community Partnership for their 'Feel Good Factory' whilst keeping their own designated time slot for Sunday Mass. So, the market place isn't miles away from the life of the Church. Yes, there are fewer people going to church and, yes, we are in a missionary position, but mission and the market place are happy together, and if we make the most of it we might just look after one another's stalls! It looks like things aren't so bad after all!
Meanwhile, Deano returns to his stall in cheery, dreary Albert Square. 'Cheers, Stace, you're a star! What was that you wanted, love? A pound of tomatoes? Call it a quid, yeh. And I'll throw in a couple of onions for you! What's that, love? Yeh, been to church. St Mary's. They got a proper 'caf' down there and a gym downstairs and a community credit association and once a week they got a drop in centre and there's even a woman who can give you an Indian Head Massage!'
'Church sold out, has it?' askes Stacey, sharp and surly.
'Sold out? Nah, they're just making the most of the market place.'
It looks like things aren't so bad after all!