Galveston’s West End. Not your run-of-the-mill, traditional community. Retirees. Second homes. Rental properties. Young families. And that variety brings a mixture of life philosophies and religions, from Christianity to Islam, from community activist to “leave-me-alone-I’m-going-fishing.” 

A trip “clear into Texas” means extensive preparations. Some even feel that the drive in to Walmart is too far!  

I came home to Galveston 17 years ago to become pastor of a little church in Jamaica Beach, the only part of Galveston Island that is not Galveston. Some forward thinkers years ago thought they could develop the little stretch of land into something special. I think they did. The little island within the island is quite a community, with a volunteer fire department that delivers Santa to light up the village’s Christmas trees — not Colorado firs, though. Galveston palms.  

Our little church has been trying to find our place in this wonderful community. I’ve done my share of weddings and memorial services and park dedications. Our Easter Sunrise Service on the beach is a real community event. We’ve hosted a craft fair, a school and more recently a retreat center.  

And now it’s Christmas. We want to do something special to kick off the season and to help our community. So what to do? We heard reports that some crafters from our Spring fair have called and asked us to do a winter one. Now there’s an idea. After all, it’s Christmas. People are looking for gift ideas anyway. It’s a way to help the community. And … and … hey! It’s Christmas!

That idea grabbed us. What if we could transform a simple craft fair into an old street market? And what better place for it than Bethlehem? The possibilities were endless. Dress in period costumes. Music plays from both eras. Every hour or so a different Christmas story is read.

And food. Simple fare, fried turkey, baked goods, stone soup. Why not invite our next door neighbor to have a food booth as well? He’s Muslim, so the reality of diversity back in Bethlehem comes to life today! 

Some teenagers can man a garage sale booth. Great name idea for that one — “Gentile-ly (rather than “gently”) used objects for sale.” Our resident goat-raiser will bring a few up to meet kids. Another neighbor, SNG Stables, can offer horse rides. A trailer provides hayrides, and Christmas caroling to top everything off! And Seasiders from the past can have a reunion lunch.

A date: December 8 from 10 to 6. Fliers. Yard signs. Newspapers, magazines, and of course Facebook!  

Phew! What started out as a simple youth camp fundraiser really morphed into an event that could be a lot of fun. It certainly involves more people than we ever thought it would. So, who are we? What can we be to our community? How about keeping it simple? How about we be … just us? Broken people in a broken world doing our best to love God and the people around us.

Guest column

Kelley Vaughan is pastor of Seaside Church in Jamaica Beach.

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