A time for celebration and giving back

Minda Davison, SEIA Synod, Director for Communications

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Advent is also a time marked with holiday celebrations filled with music, food, and gift giving. If you walk into Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City on Sunday, November 23, you will experience all of these things.

For the past seven years, members of Zion have celebrated the beginning of Advent season with an Alternative Christmas Market. Organized by Beth Noyes and a team of 12-15 congregation members and staff, the Alternative Christmas Market is one of the most anticipated events of the year.

“Zion’s Alternative Christmas Market is a congregational event that brings members together for a morning of celebration and giving back. While people shop they can also enjoy a buffet of Christmas goodies, cider, and live holiday music,“ said Noyes.

A success from the beginning

In it’s first year the Alternative Christmas Market had a small list of global and local gift options for people to choose from. The gift options included ELCA Good Gifts, LAMBO Parish, Zion’s companion congregation in the Pare Diocese, as well as Shelter House and Free Lunch Program – both local ministry programs supported year-round by Zion. The committee had a goal of raising $750. To their surprise and excitement they surpassed that goal, and the Alternative Christmas Market brought in $5,000.

Now in it’s seventh year, the market continues to grow raising $14,500 in 2013. Noyes credits the generosity of the Zion community for the continued growth and success of the market. “Zion members are generous at the market because they know the gifts they are buying support people in our global and local community who are in need. Zion member Betty Norbeck describes the Alternative Christmas Market as being similar to the hustle and bustle you find in department stores before Christmas except all the money being spent goes to help people in need.”

Something for everyone

As the market has grown in popularity so has the gift giving options. Prices range from $5 to $500 and some of the gift options include: buying mosquito nets through ELCA Good gifts, buying dinner at Shelter House for 40 homeless people, providing winter clothes for students at Horace Mann Elementary School, buying Palestinian olive oil, honey, and crafts.

The market even has something for those with a sweet tooth. “Three years ago we added a silent auction component to the market. We encourage Zion members to be creative and bring homemade soups, cookies, bread, and jam for people to bid on. We have cinnamon rolls that go for $100, and it is all because people know the money is going to support people in need,” explained Noyes.

Last year the silent auction raised $2,108 for The 1105 Project – a collaboration of four human service agencies who are working together to better serve more clients in Johnson County. This year the money raised will go to support ELCA Hunger projects.

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