In Centre County, no series about vacations would be complete without talking about the Grange Fair. For those that might be new to our area, the Grange Fair is the oldest and largest encampment in the country dating back to 1874 when Leonard Rhone urged his grange to meet with other granges in the area for a picnic. Now, for those that don’t know, the Grange is a national organization dating back to 1867 and while it has its roots in the agricultural community, the grange really exists to help people from all walks of life improve in all areas of life and to specifically grow in citizenship and leadership. So what began as a picnic to encourage people to join the grange has become a tradition for families, business and the entire community. With 1,000 tents and 1,500 RV’s on the grounds, the Grange Fair is where many people go on vacation each summer and with hundreds of concessions stands, thousands of exhibits and nightly entertainment – many from our community find their way there for some rest and relaxation.
As you know, I am probably the only person who can drive through Centre Hall and not find the Grange Fair. It is true, the first time I decided I needed to go and check this thing out I drove straight through Centre Hall thinking that it was out in all the farm land beyond town. So once I got out to Potters Mills and didn’t see anything I turned around and then coming back through Centre Hall I finally started to figure out that the bumper to bumper traffic I was sitting in was all headed to the fair and when I saw people all trying to turn down side streets, I finally figured out where the Fair was. Now before you judge me, when I went looking for the fair 8-9 years ago they did not have the nice signs you see today. In fact there were no signs except little handmade signs that said parking.
Through the years I have asked a lot of people why the like going to the Grange Fair and in my unofficial research on the Grange Fair, people go for three main reasons – family, friends and food. In many ways, the foundation of the fair is family, friends and food. It started as a picnic by the families of the grange to invite their friends to come together. In many ways not much has changed in 143 years. People still attend the Grange Fair to be with family. Families have been going for 50-60 years. People still go to see their friends and yes, people go for some very specific fair food. These are also the things that make vacations so memorable, time with family and friends and sharing in some good food.
But family, friends and food is not just the foundation of the fair and what we look forward to on vacation, it is the foundation of our life and these are the things God uses to develop our faith. God uses the family structure, our circle of friends and times spent eating together to sustain our lives and grow our faith.
The family is important to God. We are born into families and all through the Bible God talks about the importance of nurturing family relationships. In the Old Testament we are told to honor our fathers and mothers which is not just a call to respect our parents when we are children and teens but a call to care for our older parents when we are adults. In the New Testament we are given instructions on how to keep families strong and healthy.
Please don’t disregard this passage just because it says that wives should submit to their husbands. While some have used this passage to devalue the role of women in the family and in society, Paul began this section by saying we should submit to one another so this is in no way a one sided submission of women to men. Let’s be clear that there is no place for abuse or oppression in any of our relationships with one another based of gender or race I might add.
When I have been asked to read this at weddings, and yes I am asked at times to share this, I make clear to the congregation and to the groom that the real burden is on the husband who has been called to love his wife as Christ has loved the church. The love of Jesus was one that was willing to sacrifice everything for us. So while submission might come across as a difficult call, so is surrender and sacrifice – so it is a mutual humility, submission, surrender and sacrifice that God is calling for.
And while children are to obey their parents that is not a call to obey in the face of abuse or oppression because it also says parents are not to exasperate their children but love and care for them. So the family is important to God. The health and structure of the family is important to God which is why he gives us instructions on how to navigate family relationships. Mutual love, honor and respect are the foundations on which to build. Family is important because our character and faith is formed first in the family. Studies show that so much of who we are is formed by the time we are three years old which shows that God’s plan for our development and formation is through the family so strong and faithful families are needed, but creating this families takes effort and time.
Nurturing children and loving parents and caring for one another takes time and cannot take place exclusively through text messaging and social media, actual time together is important. Time away as a family is important and vacations are important but even more important is how to make sure we are taking this intentional time between vacations. Do we set aside time to be with family every day and every week. Are we taking the time to talk and share together? Are we worshipping together, praying together and playing together? Family is important and we need to commit ourselves to developing these strong relationships.
Family is important but so are friends and we see this clearly in the life of Jesus. We know that Jesus was close with Mary, Martha and Lazarus and he often stayed at their home when he was in and around Jerusalem. Jesus wept when he heard the news that Lazarus had died. The friendship Jesus had with the disciples was important. Peter, James and John were especially close to Jesus and when Jesus needed love and support he invited those friends to stay with him. Mark 14:32-33.
We need to take the time to deepen and develop our relationships with another. God calls us to love one another and to encourage one another and to bear with one another. In fact, there are dozens of what we call “one another” passages in the bible and we have included some of them in the next steps so you can read them this week. These are passages we can use to strengthen our friendships so they can become a source of hope and help and healing in our lives.
So the last thing that is often important about vacations and one of the main reasons I have heard that people like going to the grange fair is because of the food. I love to go south on vacation because I love southern food. I love grits, biscuits and gravy, pulled pork barbeque and hushpuppies. So food becomes a focus of our time away and a highlight of our vacations but food really has an important place in our lives beyond giving us fuel for our bodies. Actually, it’s not the food that is important to our life and faith as much as the time spent eating together and it has always been that way. In the Old Testament God called for several feasts and festivals to be held every year and these were times when people travelled to Jerusalem to honor and worship God but they were also times for the family and the community to celebrate with food.
God called people celebrate in the spring at the first harvest and then again at the final harvest, but the best example of God calling people to honor him with a meal was the Passover. This was the time when families would gather to remember what God had done in leading the people of Israel out of slavery but it was done in people’s homes around a table of food. All the food at the Passover has meaning and significance – much like how our own family’s favorite recipes have meaning and significance for us. When we gather at Thanksgiving or Christmas our favorite foods tell our families history and traditions. While the food is important, again it really is the time together that strengthens our lives and while we often are able to eat together on vacation what we really need is to eat together as families through the entire year.
Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on children’s health. Family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of
• Substance abuse
• Eating disorders
Family dinners also increase the intake of fruits and vegetables; which means that families who eat dinner together tend to
• Eat fewer fried foods
• Drink less soda
• Consume more protein, calcium, and vitamins
In other words families who eat together are physically healthier.
There are more benefits to family dinners, like
• increased language skills,
• wider vocabulary,
• better grades
• higher graduation rates.
As we get ready to enter into the school year and schedules get set and then quickly overloaded, it will take real planning and discipline to set aside time for family dinners and then keep them. If you are going establish a tradition of family dinners, here are some things to remember.
• Turn off the TV
• Make the dinner table a cell phone free zone.
• Enjoy positive conversation
• Talk about each person’s day
• Discuss appropriate current events
• Pray before the meal
• Spend an hour eating, conversing and cleaning up.
Think about all the meals we read about Jesus having with people. There were meals where Jesus provided the bread and fish. There was a meal with Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, a Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples and a meal Jesus served after his resurrection where he offered Peter forgiveness. All this eating together was significant in the lives of these people. These were often moments where Jesus taught the people, revealed his power and shared his grace and love. These then became important times in the development of people’s faith. God wants us to eat together and we can’t just make this an event for vacations. Eating together needs to be an ongoing part of our lives.
So people go to the Grange Fair for family, friends and food and these are often the things we look forward to on vacation, but these are the things that need to be part of the foundation of our lives every week. Time with family and friends and eating together with family and friends improves our lives, strengthens marriages and families and become important opportunities for our faith can grow. These are the valuable times of life that should not be missed. Make family, friends and eating together the priorities in your life and God will honor and bless you and your families and our faith will grow.
The Grange Fair – Family, Friends and Food
If you have never been to the Grange Fair, consider going to experience this unique Centre County tradition. (Just don’t ask Pastor Andy for directions!)
1. How much time do you spend together as a family? What things do you tend to do together?
2. Add quality family time into your schedule this week.
3. This fall, set aside time for your family to worship, pray, play, study, and serve together.
1. Identify the friends who are part of your life. What person is God asking you to have as a friend in your life?
2. Read and reflect on these “one another” passages;
• John 13:14, Romans 12:10, 15:7, 14, Galatians 5:13, 6:2
• Ephesians 4:2, 32, 5:21, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:13
• 1 Thessalonians 5:11 James 5:16, 1 Peter 3:8
1. How often do you eat together as a family?
2. Add one more family meal into your schedule this week?
3. This fall, set aside 4 family meals each week. When you do, commit to these things:
• Turn off the TV
• Make the table a cellphone free zone
• Make all conversation positive
• Discuss appropriate current events
• Share aspects of your faith
• Give everyone a chance to talk and listen
• Pray before the meal
• Spend an hour together eating, sharing and cleaning up