November 4, 2014
By Simon Chambers
I love conferences–I always have. For me there is the excitement of new ideas, new people, new places and new connections. Friday was no different for me and I arrived at the door of the beautiful old sedate St John the Evangelist Church in Peterborough, Ontario for this adventure. I had had a wonderful evening with my host billet, Bonnie, and I was ready for the day.
The setting of the opening service spoke to us of history, beauty and meaning as we praised God by song, word, reflection and prayer. We were reminded of our ministry in PWRDF as being one of partnership and one of being aware of the reality of unequal distribution of food around the world. We were also reminded of being part of the mystery of miracle if we partner with God in this ministry and don’t try to analyze or control.
As we gathered in plenary sessions, home groups and pairs we were involved in story–stories of ourselves, stories of the breadth and depth of PWRDF, stories of our ministries in PWRDF and stories of how we can enhance our work with volunteers. This included a lot of hard work both for those new to the job and also for the seasoned members but it was good foundation building for us all. We were then rewarded with a wonderful Halloween Dinner and party at Adele and Gordon Finney’s place.
As I was thinking through our second day, a phrase came to mind of one of my favourite theologians, Fred Breuckner, who wrote “We need to realize with real eyes where the Real lies”. Today we were certainly afforded many opportunities to encounter the reality of this quote at close range.
The morning started cold and wet and by the time we got to the Circle Organic Community Farm in Millbrook, the rain had turned to snow and the wind was blowing up a storm. Despite this, we had an amazing morning meeting with Farmer Julie, a young passionate woman living off the land, learning from others how to make farming a sustainable endeavour and giving back to the community. She and her husband, Andrew, believe in what they do as part of the solution to the world food security problem. We also met Roberto, a migrant worker who comes from Mexico for 6 or 7 months of the year. He helps Julie and Andrew manage the farm and we heard his story of how this situation has improved the life of his family and given them some security.
We heard from Alison Longson, one of our group from Calgary, about her trip to South Africa with the Steven Lewis Foundation. She also visited PWRDF projects and showed us a power point presentation about partners’ work there on HIV/AIDS, Maternal Health, and AIDS orphaned children. It was fascinating to get the details and to see so much joy in the eyes of so many there and to hear their appreciation for PWRDF work.
Maylanne Maybee, another of our group, introduced us to a theological reflection on the Theology of Food which included a game about our ecological awareness and thoughts on several passages from Revelations. She took this reflection, which she had created, from a resource book that has been made of the summer Sorrento PWRDF food security course called “Sharing Bread.” This resource book is a very flexible plan for workshops on food security and will presently be available online for parishes. It is a wonderful resource!
Gigi Labradores, who had just flown from the Philippines, led us through her work there with Southern Partners and Fair Trade Corp. for which PWRDF is a partner . This project has been going for 18 years and has made great gains in helping the people grow, process and market mango, coconut and other local produce. She has been with the project since its beginning and works with government and other agencies toward food security. Many challenges were expressed but her dedication, determination and passion spoke volumes to the vision of food security in the Philippines .
Carolyn Doris and Joëlle Favreau, from the Peterborough Food Network joined us in the evening to explain the food security activity in this city. They work with many agencies on sustainable programs to help address the poverty issues in the city. The churches and civil agencies are working in a partnership in this endeavour and there is a lot of activity going on.
During the day we saw many of the challenges and successes of food security through many eyes and then we wearily went home to our billets to ponder where the Real lies for us personally and where the Real lies in our ministries as diocesan reps for PWDRF.
“And now, we ride!” This action call, given to us by Suzanne from the movie Rango, became our mantra during the 3 days. It also became our theme for this last day, calling us to action as we wound down and set our vision for our ministry in our own diocese.
We were all part of the service of Choral Eucharist at St. John’s in the morning and it was a joy to worship with the congregation and to hear a sermon from the Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz. He called us to be aware of the reality of the communion of saints, past, present and future and to believe in our presence on that journey. We could feel the sense of mission and the joy of community in this congregation.
In the afternoon there was a sharing of the Sharing Bread course on food security at Sorrento this past summer. Those of our group who had been to the course shared an activity pictorially crafting why they had attended, what was their best learning and what they took away from that week in the summer. From that we were led into a group activity ourselves of why we had come, what we had learned and what we were taking home from our weekend. We had fun putting our thoughts about this on a huge poster of a road and a tree. There was a sense of positive energy to get going on our ministries at home but before we did that we were privileged to be able to spend an hour with our Primate, Fred. We were reinforced by his understanding, passion, and genuine love for both our church and the world.
I speak for everyone on the weekend in giving a huge Thank You to Suzanne, Christine, Carolyn, and the congregation for making this meeting such a wonderful experience. God bless us all as we move forward.