'Faire' to sell many items, raise money for missions

When the Rev. Nancy Cox was installed as rector at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Concord last fall, the offering from the service went to purchase 100 solar flashlights for Haiti Lumiere de Demain, a missions project in La Gonave, Haiti.

The flashlights replace expensive kerosene lamps and provide light for families' homes, allowing school children to study in the evening.

On Saturday, a large, 46-year-old sale on church grounds will raise money to help advance all church missions.

Mission work has always been important to Cox, who has participated in more than 20 mission trips. She was struck by the poverty of the people in Haiti, but also by their resourcefulness.

While younger schoolchildren there use chalk slates, older ones have access to paper. Instead of writing notes in only one direction, the students fill a page with notes, then turn the paper 90 degrees and write a second page of notes on top of the first set. The shift in perspective makes it possible to read the writing.

That kind of thinking also has been a theme in Cox's life.

Her undergraduate work was in geology and geophysics, but she soon understood that her true calling was ministry. Her thesis adviser commented Cox was often unavailable for special lectures or academic opportunities because of the amount of time she spent at church.

It began to dawn on Cox that she had been looking at things the wrong way.

"I realized that I had gotten two degrees in my 'spare time,' " she said.

Her priest, meanwhile, asked her to look at the ordination service in the Book of Common Prayer and reflect on its meaning.

When she returned to church, she brought her boyfriend, Lee, with her for the first time. It was All Saints' Day 1985.

"In that service, it was so clear," Cox said. She had been asking herself, "What makes me think I'm called into ministry?"

This time, it was her boyfriend who offered the shift in perspective.

"What makes you think you're not?" Lee asked her.

Later that day, he asked Cox to marry him.

"We (say) the Holy Spirit was working overtime that day," Cox said. Then she offered another perspective: Perhaps they were just more open to God's plan.

The couple soon married and had four children. Cox graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1995 and has since served in churches in Virginia and Connecticut.

Cox has continued her mission work since coming to All Saints' Episcopal. She recently returned from McDowell County, W.Va., where she and several other women, including her daughter, made repairs to a home damaged in a fire.

"This is a really special congregation," Cox said of All Saints'. "Very faithful, very grounded in prayer."

When All Saints' worship committee met with Cox to plan sermon and study topics for the next few months, they listed several urgent concerns: the nation's economic uncertainty, recent violent revolutions in the Middle East, climate change.

Again, a shift in perspective added hope to an otherwise gloomy outlook.

"They said, 'That's not the whole story. Yes, the crisis is real. But we have seen and we know that hope comes. We are doing something, and people who come here find a place where they are welcome,' " Cox said.

To that end, the church will host its biennial Olde Countrie Faire on Saturday.

The Faire started in 1965 when church member George Liles recognized the community's need for a place to find inexpensive clothing and goods at the start of the school year. He hosted the first Faire on his front lawn.

Since then, the event has evolved to include auctions, kids' activities, food and much more. But its focus is the same.

"We continue to look at how we can meet the needs of the community," Cox said.

This will be her first Olde Countrie Faire.

Also new this year is entertainment by area band Too Much Sylvia.

"We're hosting the Faire in the shadow of the memorial of 9-11," Cox said. "We're doing exactly what we need to be doing. We just need to come together and have fun. People need to know their neighbors."