Food issues (whether Fair Trade, local food poverty or world food security) did not attract church members in any numbers to the Churches Together in North East Lincolnshire event in Grimsby Minster yesterday, which is sad because we heard from Lincolnshire's Agricultural Chaplain about his engagement with things from the local rural stress network to discussions about the tensions between producing cheap food and producing to welfare standards and we heard from the Borough's Cabinet member about things like now paying the 'living wage' to its employees.
The top photograph shows the CARE, Harbour Place, Green Futures and St Hugh's Meals stalls down one side of the Minster. The bottom photo shows a speaker talking about the local Daily Bread Food Larder (whose stall isn't in either picture) and is taken across the Traidcraft stall; we've seen before the 'Insisting on Life' t-shirt.
Here is the item which appeared in the Cleethorpes Chronicle on Thursday because it happened to be my turn to contribute the weekly 'Pause for Thought' item.
Insisting on life. That was the slogan. Not giving in to the occupier. Not getting caught in an inequal fight with the oppressor. Instead, working for human flourishing however unpromising the situation. ‘Resisting occupation by insisting on life’ was the slogan in full. ‘Insisting on life’ was the version on the t-shirt.
We were taking part in an unusual Harvest Festival. It marked the end of the olive harvest in the Israeli occupied West Bank. We were at an olive oil factory where a cooperative was celebrating the opportunity it gives to Palestinian farmers to get their harvest processed and then on to a market.
The factory was one of the places which we particularly wanted to visit when we were in the Holy Land last autumn simply because Traidcraft supplies our olive oil from there. Traidcraft is a Fair Trade organisation in this country, and it is worth highlighting it in this ‘Pause for Thought’ during what is Fair Trade fortnight.
Once a year, Churches Together in North East Lincolnshire tries to get us to think about our responsibility to make a difference in people’s lives. It often organises a big event in Grimsby Minister. This year’s event is there on Saturday 1st March from 11.00 until 1.00. The theme this year is food.
What are our churches doing between them to make a difference here? Promoting Fair Trade is one obvious approach. But there are many others. The provision of local Food Banks may well be something which is also being highlighted.
I remember particularly the year homelessness was the theme of this annual event. I walked into the Minster and saw long lines of stalls down both sides of the church. From Doorstep to the YMCA, from Harbour Place to the Salvation Army, it was moving to see more than a dozen local organisations.
And next week Lent begins again on Ash Wednesday 5th March. Christian people are meant to begin forty days of preparation for Easter. We are meant to remember Jesus fasting – deliberately being hungry as he prayed.
Each little act of ‘giving something up’ is symbolic of this sort of fasting. But it is not life denying. It is ‘insisting on life’.
In our parish we are encouraging people not just to ‘give something up’ but to make one small symbolic change in their lifestyle. Changing one shopping habit to shift to buy a different product with the Fair Trade logo on it is the example we are giving.