History of JWUMC's Alternative Christmas Market


In  December 1986, John Davis spearheaded a Christmas event that began a longtime tradition at  John Wesley United Methodist Church and soon became community-wide. The year 2016 will mark the thirtieth year John Wesley UMC has facilitated alternative gift-giving. The Alternative Christmas Market is a way of honoring friends and family by donating in their name to various charities. Church and community members have the opportunity to learn about the respective goods and services offered by each charity to the needy both locally and worldwide.

The initial concept of buying gifts to share God's blessings came from Heifer Project International (HPI), an agency in which John was actively involved as a local representative.  HPI furnishes indigenous animals and training to impoverished farmers to enable families and, subsequently, entire villages to sustain themselves.   The first Alternative Christmas Market featured Heifer Project and Habitat for Humanity displays. Each display pictured a different animal, showing how the animal was useful, or illustrated a project that Habitat was developing, either in Tallahassee or elsewhere in the world.  Sunday School classes chose the Heifer Project animal they wanted to depict. One showed dairy cows, another one chose baby chicks and another, a swarm of honey bees.  Preparing for the market was educational and, shopping with the idea you were truly celebrating Christ's birth, made it a favorite church tradition.  As the years went by, many more charitable agencies participated --limited only by space in the Fellowship Hall.  Last year the market sponsored over forty non-profit groups, including those that sell fair-trade gift items. 
 
Before John's "retirement" as director of the market, he helped seven other churches set up markets of their own, thereby adding to the number of churches who honor Christ's birth by serving the "least of these".  Thus far, the total  donations from shoppers has amounted to over $1,000,000, 100% of which is given to the agencies.  In addition, numerous volunteer hours have been logged in by, not only church members and friends, but also agency staff and volunteers.  The enormous number of people who have been blessed by the market is gratifying indeed...the disadvantaged, the shoppers, the honored gift recipients, and the volunteers.