A gift shop with a mission

Inspired by the ministry of Brother Rick Nelson, who in the early 1990s spent a year in Lititz while on sabbatical from his service in Honduras, a small group of mission-minded Lititz congregation members developed a plan to establish a gift shop. The shop was originally intended to provide a local market for items made in the mission fields, with all proceeds beyond that required to keep the shop open and stocked to be distributed to missions at the end of each year. With support and encouragement from the congregation, space was provided in a room attached to the west side of the Archives Museum, and the Moravian Mission Gift Shop opened its doors in mid-November 1992.

Now, having just completed our 27th year, the shop continues to be a multi-faceted means of ministry at Lititz Moravian Church in Lititz, Pa. A group of about 20 volunteers collectively works more than 1,000 hours in a year to staff the shop during the regular season: Fridays and Saturdays from March through September, then Thursday through Saturday for the three months leading up to the Christmas holidays. One of those volunteers, Sister Wilma Beard, has been a member of the Gift Shop team from the very beginning.

Though the inventory in the early years emphasized crafts from the mission fields, the shop team very quickly discovered that what our visitors really wanted were items related to Moravian history, customs and practices. Today we carry a number of books from the Interprovincial Board of Communication, CDs from the Moravian Music Foundation and Moravian-themed items of all sorts, from earrings to dish towels.

Talented congregation members provide many of our hand-crafted items. Do you want beeswax candles? We offer a selection of sizes, including Lovefeast candles and lantern candles made by our candle-making crew right here in Lititz. And oh, do we have stars! Traditional 26-point stars from four different star makers come in a variety of sizes. Then there are paper stars, copper stars, tin stars, stained glass stars. We’ll do our best to find just the right star to go home with you.

As a fund-raising enterprise, the Gift Shop is a heart-warming success. In recent years we have averaged $14,000 per annum sent to missions. For 2018 and 2019 the total was $16,000 each year.

The Gift Shop team tries to follow a formula for allocating donations in which about 20 percent stays in the Lititz/Warwick area, 30 percent is for the wider Lancaster County area, and 50 percent is for Moravian and related projects throughout the world. Examples of each include the Lititz Warwick Community Chest and the Power Packs Project (food support program) in Lititz/Warwick, Habitat for Humanity and Water Street Mission (ministry with the homeless) in Lancaster County, and the Board of World Mission, the Unity Women’s Desk, and MedNica (support for the Moravian clinic in Managua) for global ministries. In all, approximately $284,000 in donations has been distributed by the Mission Gift Shop since its founding.

Fund-raising is only part of our story, however. As our dedicated volunteers have learned, working in the Mission Gift Shop provides many opportunities for outreach, both to our local community and to the numerous visitors who come through our doors. Conversations can be informative and inspirational. To answer some of the most common questions—What is a Moravian, anyway? Are you Christian? What’s the history of the star?—we have produced a series of small pamphlets that are available in a rack near the door, free for the asking.

For those seeking the graves of relatives, we maintain a directory of burials in the current God’s Acre and in the old St. James cemetery. Information sheets about upcoming services and other church-sponsored events are also available. Interactions with visitors are often as fruitful as are sales; greeting a Saturday shopper who returns for worship on Sunday morning is a special delight. Sharing our faith is one of the joys of volunteering in the shop.

The Moravian Mission Gift Shop is a source of great blessing for those who work there, for the visitors who come in to shop or just to talk, and for all those who benefit from the donations we are able to send out into the world. If you are ever in Lititz, please stop in. Someone from our team will be glad to meet you.

To contact the Moravian Mission Gift Shop, e-mail: [email protected] or phone: 717-626-9027

Marian L. Shatto is a member of Lititz Moravian Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Photos by Marian.