What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a wise man, I would do my part;

Yet what can I give Him; give my heart.



The last verse of my favourite Christmas carol, In the bleak mid-winter, caught my eye in the shop window on a rather bleak December day in Penzance, writes Rebecca Evans, Diocesan MAPping & Stewardship Officer.

It wasn’t in an ordinary shop though; the window display was adorned with the nativity scene and the shop name wasn’t a well-known chain – it didn’t offer bargains, sales, the perfect present or a payday loan. In fact, this shop turned everything about consumerism on its head. It was called The Giving Shop.

Churches Together in the Penzance area have been working tirelessly since September to get the shop open. The empty shop that is – with bare shelves and no presents or gifts to be purchased. Moreover, the idea was intended to encourage people to come inside to donate gifts to local causes in need.*

Mobilising 80 volunteers, Churches Together planned to open the shop from 26 November until Christmas Eve and hoped that by Christmas, the shelves would be fully stocked with donated gifts – the complete opposite of other shops – desperate to empty their shelves!

The Giving Shop is beautifully decorated with montages of the Christmas story including a local twist, stockings for financial donations, a prayer tree, a Christmas tree bearing labels with suggested presents for people to take away and bring back attached to a gift and a short video playing about the Holy Land today.

Local people have been moved to give to the causes which have supported them in the past – or been a help to someone they know. The local economy is benefitting too, with gifts being purchased from other nearby shops – all with the aim of bringing the Christmas story into the market-place.

The Giving Shop has been a huge success. After 12 days, 1,000 gifts had been donated. Six days later that number had more than doubled and £600 had been raised in monetary donations. It seems that despite the economic climate, through their generosity, the people of Penzance have a lot to give.

* Women’s Aid, Breadline, Foodbank, Street Pastors, Social Services Children’s Department and Fishermen’s Mission.