Manhattan Beach Community Church’s Alternative Christmas Fair - started in the mid-1980s by a member of the congregation - has evolved from an event that featured one nonprofit organization into a larger project. It features organizations that align with the goals of the congregation while seeking to highlight a variety of organizations, geographic locations, and types of work. The Fair now includes both religious and secular organizations.
At the Fair, some organizations simply accept donations, others sell crafts, and many provide donors with informational packets describing their work. When congregants arrive, they are provided a “menu” containing the name and brief description of each organization along with a space for the amount the donor would like to give to each organization. These menus are handed into a central table along with a check for the total amount and the Church then sends one check to each organization for the total they received following the event.
In 2019, the MBCC’s Social Action Board, which facilitates the Fair, wished to expand its focus on challenges posed by international migration and displacement and decided to support the Global Ministries Relief for Displaced Syrians project at the Fair. Donors received informational materials describing the work done by Global Ministries partners the Orthodox Initiative, Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue, and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. It was important to the Social Action Board to select a project the congregation could continue to engage with throughout the year. Toward that goal, in the spring of 2020, a zoom presentation was organized by David Barickman of Global Ministries Resource Development, with Dr. Peter Makari, Global Ministries Area Executive for the Middle East and Europe. Peter discussed the history and context of the initiative and described its programs and challenges. MBCC hopes to continue to engage with the global partners doing the work of relief with displaced persons and refugees from Syria.