Christmas shopping among crowded small stalls of merchants and craftspeople is a pleasant nostalgic memory for many Cork residents. That is precisely the image that many secular Cork residents have about the Unitarian Church as they talk favourably about shopping at the vendor market at Christmas time.
That local shopping tradition was interrupted last year by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is not over and the church has had some time to deliberate on how much of its resources and public image should be devoted to gift buying commerce during the Christmas season.
The story of Jesus expelling the merchants and money changes from the temple is found in all four Gospel accounts and certainly comes to mind. The Unitarian Church is a sacred place, but we Unitarians do not make dualistic distinctions between the sacred and the every day. We are fine with facilitating Christmas traditions of gift giving and holiday cheer, be they religious or secular. To the extent that some secularisation of Christmas promotes “peace on earth – goodwill to all” – we are all for it. Or to paraphrase Matthew 12:1–8, Christmas is made for people, not the other way around. So, the balance for our church is one of proportions and messaging. Commercial activities are important fundraisers for a small church like ours, but they need to be viewed as much more than pure monetary activities.
The net result is that “the market” as it formerly existed is not envisioned as part of the Unitarian Church’s space planing going forward. Will the Unitarian Church still be open to allowing appropriate commercial vendors use the church’s centre city location for events? Yes, but with more balance to the needs of the church’s primary mission, particularly during the holiday season.
Your Church Committee