Martha & the Maple team design a more Kingdom-beneficial way to run the neighborhood Christmas store.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with one another is one of the best ways to understanding someone's experience. It takes a change of position, an intentional move from serving - from a place of privilege “above” down to someone who is “below” - to a position of journeying with another. The Solidarity Christmas Festival has become a context to allow the local church and neighborhood leaders to walk shoulder to shoulder.
This Saturday 13 churches and 8 neighborhood leaders will host the Maple Christmas Festival at the 601 Community Center. For the past four years, Martha San Elias has played a big role in putting on this community event.
Ten years ago, in the Garnet neighborhood the Christmas store was in its infant stages. It was simply an event to serve the neighborhood and supply gifts for the “needy.” Solidarity would collect gifts from local churches, set up a store, and neighborhood parents could choose free gifts for their children. This model of Christmas store started to feel undignified. It was simply another service project. Parents felt they were receiving handouts from strangers coming from the partnering churches.
Our church partners were not shoulder to shoulder with the community members. Free handouts does not promote neighborhood dignity. Unintentionally, Solidarity positioned the churches to be above the neighborhood while serving down to the community. This was a mistake that Solidarity had to correct.
Christmas Festival has changed and Martha has been a catalyst in developing local leaders to take ownership of the festival. No longer was it local churches partnering with a non-profit to put on an event, but now the mothers in the community were shaping and organizing it.
Martha has enjoyed seeing ownership from the community leaders. The mothers have approached her asking how they could help. This year, eight Maple neighborhood leaders are supplying food, running activities, sending out invites, and being present at Christmas Festival.
The Christmas Festival continues to be beneficial for both the neighborhood families and the churches involved.
Martha knows that allowing neighbors to buy gifts at a discounted price is invaluable in this sensitive and financially stressful time. She also sees the actual event as crucial to promoting community within the neighborhood. Standing shoulder to shoulder with her neighbors teaches Martha how to have hope and inspires her to help others.
This opportunity is also for the local church.
The Maple team has structured Christmas Festival to no longer be a top-down service event. On Dec. 17th, the 13 churches attending the Christmas Festival have co-created and will co-lead the event. They are not coming to “serve” the community from a place of high position, but instead are intentionally choosing to come along side of the community and join in with their event.
Christmas Festival has become another opportunity for the local church to help transform their city by standing shoulder to shoulder with the neighborhood.