Learning module #3
Welcome to this third learning module of a five-part series that invites you to explore the connections between climate change and food security through learning, prayer, action and giving. Over the year, we are following the seasons of agriculture, as well as the liturgical calendar. In this module we will explore Thanksgiving. Here in Canada, local churches often mark “Harvest Thanksgiving” in September, and since 1957, the wider society has celebrated “Thanksgiving” in early October.
Giving thanks for an abundant harvest is one of the world’s oldest holiday customs. But there are many places in the world where harvests are not abundant and where people are hungry. Climate change is exacerbating this reality. Following close on the heels of Canadian Thanksgiving is World Food Day, marked by the United Nations on October 16 to raise awareness about global food security and global hunger. This third learning module seeks to offer opportunities for giving thanks, as well as learning and taking action on these vital issues.
Below you will find resources for a session that can be carried out individually or as a group, with prayers, reflection and information from a PWRDF volunteer and partners, questions for discussion, links for further learning and action, and an opportunity to support the ongoing work of PWRDF partners engaged in work at the intersection of creation care and food security.
Should you have any questions about the content or would like further information, please contact Suzanne Rumsey, [email protected].
GROUP TIP: In preparation for your session, send a message to participants, asking them to bring a symbol/image/story of a personal experience of what “thanksgiving” means to them. They will be invited to share those with the group.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
OPENING PRAYER, INTRODUCTIONS AND SHARING SYMBOLS
- LEARN about climate change and food security from our volunteers and partners
- REFLECT on how scripture speaks to the issues of climate change and food security
- ACT in small and large ways to address climate change and food security issues
- GIVE to support the vital work of PWRDF partners who are addressing climate change and food security
Begin your session by saying together, the one or both of the following prayers:
In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows’ flight and moonlight rays
WE SEE THE CREATOR’S HAND
In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls, frost’s first kiss
WE SEE THE CREATOR’S HAND
We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest,
and we bless each other,
that the beauty of this world,
and the love that created it,
might be expressed through our lives
and be a blessing to others,
now and always.
Harvest Thanksgiving prayers written by John C. Birch and sourced from the website, Faith and Worship c. 2020
Introductions and the Sharing of Symbols
Group Tip: Following the Opening Prayer, invite each participant to introduce themselves and to share their symbol/image/story of “thanksgiving.” If your session is taking place online, invite participants to hold up their symbol so that others can see it. If your session is in person, invite participants to place those symbols on a “Thanksgiving table” at the centre of the circle.
- Read “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” by the Rev. Terry Francis,
- Read the article about long-time PWRDF partner, UBINIG’s (Policy Research for Development Alternative) efforts to address climate change and food insecurity in Bangladesh
- View the video “Mapping the Ground We Stand On with Cheryl Marek”
- Reflect on the questions for discussion that follow. You may also find some of your own questions or observations emerge as you read and watch. Discuss those too!
What Thanksgiving Means to Me
By the Rev. Terry Francis, PWRDF Diocesan Representative, Diocese of Athabasca
In 2002, Western Canada suffered an incredible drought. We were left with no pasture, no crops and no hay. For a livestock operation we were facing a terrible disaster. Our options were limited, sell off livestock or pay exorbitant prices for what feed was available. For most farmers it was a combination of these options. And for a lot of us this was a wakeup call on climate change and its consequences.
On our farm we made some major changes in our land management. We started a system of rotational grazing, cut our livestock density and made use of spreading manure on hay land. This allowed us to protect our moisture through increased soil fibre, and always keeping a grass cover to shade the soil and protect root reserves. We also started stockpiling a portion of our hay crop, so we always have feed in reserve. We have since installed a solar system to provide the farm’s electrical needs.
This year we suffered a drought equivalent to the one in 2002. The difference though was incredible. We have had sufficient pasture to maintain our flock, our hay yield was half its normal size, but with our carryover we have sufficient winter feed. We now have crop insurance that helps with the financial burden we face with increased feed prices and a government subsidy to help with transportation costs on feed.
In 2002, my youngest son, an anthropologist working in Africa, returned home. He managed to put our drought in a whole new prospective for me. He pointed out that for us this drought was more of a financial problem. No one was in danger of starving to death here, we were able to maintain stock levels that would allow us to return to normal. He had worked in an area in Africa that was facing a drought equivalent to ours. The difference was the old and young people were dying, livestock was dead, wells were dry, and they were facing a bleak future of hunger and health problems.
Sometimes we lose sight of all that we should be thankful for here in our country. We have a social safety net that protects us when faced with a widespread farming disaster. We have the financial resources to provide assistance to problem areas that enable us to move feed and protect livestock numbers and crop insurance that covers some of the financial losses. Starvation is not likely here.
The consequences of climate change are all around us. In the last six years we have faced either too much or too little moisture. We know what is causing climate change and we know what we need to do to stop it. We need to be aware that our actions have consequences that affect all the world, not just us. We need to acknowledge that we will not be affected here, because of our wealth, as badly as other places. On our farm we have adopted practices that mitigate the consequences of climate change, but these are only a band aid solution. Long term solutions are what is needed.
God expects us to be good stewards of all that God created. This Thanksgiving, we need to thank God for all that we have been provided. And while we do that, let us not forget the responsibility we have to all peoples, everywhere.
The Rev. Terry Francis has farmed in Alberta for over fifty years. Now “retired,” he and his wife, Patricia, continue to run a small farm raising purebred Dorset breeding sheep. After twenty years of lay ministry, Terry was ordained to the priesthood in 2015. He now serves as an honorary assistant in the Anglican Parish of Athabasca.
Read together “Reducing Climate Vulnerability to Improve Food Security in Bangladesh” and “The Seeds of a Cow”
UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), a long-time PWRDF partner, is working to decrease climate vulnerabilities that are affecting high-risk farming areas, while increasing food security support. Read more here.
In 2016, Farida Akhter, UBINIG’s executive director, and Fahema (Liza) Khatun, joined PWRDF staff and participants at the Sorrento Centre in British Columbia for the third and final Sharing Bread Learning Exchange. (Click here to see the Sharing Bread Learning Resources that emerged from that week.) Among the many stories they share with us was this one, The Seeds of a Cow, that describes the big impact that small seeds, stored and shared by the UBINIG-supported Nayakrishi Seed Network, had on the life of one Bangladeshi woman farmer and her family. With 300,000 farming households in its membership, the Nayakrishi Seed Network is a web of household, community and regional seed huts and “wealth centres” developed to “keep seeds in farmers’ hands.
In this video Mapping the Ground with Cheryl Marek, we hear her expression of gratitude for our land on which we stand, and see a wild rice harvest at Curve Lake First Nation.
- What is one new thing you learned about harvesting and thanksgiving in Alberta, Bangladesh and Ontario that you didn’t already know?
- A harvest that ensures food for all requires both personal and collective action. What are some of the ways you read about Terry and PWRDF partner, UBINIG, in Bangladesh acting to address food security and climate change?
- Thanksgiving is both a time to express gratitude and to hope. What are the instances of gratitude and hope you read and heard in the video? And what are the challenges to that gratitude and hope?
Read together or in turn, one or more of the following readings. All three are from the Revised Common Lectionary for Canadian Thanksgiving 2021. Reading all three will help give the group the sense of the abundance of God’s harvest, but also God’s persistent call to us to restore our relationships with one another, with Creation, and thus, with God. Then, discuss the reflection questions or others that the group might have.
A Reading from the Book of Joel 2:21-27
Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord,
Am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
A Reading from Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses of the Negeb.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-33
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?
Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The assurance of God’s abiding care and concern for us is everywhere in the Bible, including in the prophetic writings of Joel, the Psalms, and the teachings of Jesus. At the same time, we are called “to strive first for the kingdom of God” in the here and now, be that first century Israel or 21st century Canada. And in all that we do, we are called to rejoice and give thanks.
- If the authors of the biblical texts were writing today, what imagery might they use to call us to give thanks for all that God offers us in Creation?
- What challenges would they pose to us as caregivers of one another and of God’s created order in this time of climate change and for many, food insecurity?
- Can you think of one or more modern “prophets” who are speaking about these issues? What are they saying?
One or more of the following activities could take place during your session. Alternatively, participants could undertake some of them following the workshop; in particular, the invitation to participate in the For the Love of Creation’s Fall Symposium, October 30.
The Food Security Candy Exercise (a good inter-generational activity; an in-person activity)
This game was created by PWRDF’s Youth Council, written by Tessa Dudley, Youth Council member from the Ecclesiastical Province of BC/Yukon, updated in the fall of 2015, and used as part of PWRDF’s Sharing Bread Learning Exchange workshops.
Purpose of the Game:
This game is designed to explain the difference between the terms, food aid/assistance, food security, and food sovereignty in a fun and interactive way.
You will need:
- Three different colours of the same candy (enough for 7-10 candies per person)
- Three bowls
- A table (if available)
- Divide candies into three separate bowls
- Bowl 1 with only one colour and a limited number (fewer than the number in the group) of candies
- Bowl 2 with all colours and some candies (enough for one candy each)
- Bowl 3 with all colours and an abundance of candies
How to Play:
- Have participants sit in a circle around a table or on the floor. Explain the purpose of the game and encourage participants to think about where our food comes from (“food systems”) in Canada as compared to other countries in the world, while they are playing the game.
- Ask participants if they have ever heard of the term “food aid/assistance.” Ask them to share what they believe food aid is. Explain that food aid is when one group gives food to another group to combat hunger on a short-term basis. Food aid is a temporary solution. For example, in 2020 PWRDF used some of its equity at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to provide food assistance to internally displaced Syrians fleeing their country’s ongoing conflict.
- Give every second or third person a candy from Bowl 1. Other participants are given nothing.
- Explain that while food aid/assistance is an important temporary solution there are problems with it. Ask participants is they can see what problems may arise. These include: not enough food for all, unequal distribution, no choice in food or control over global food markets, the type of food may be contrary to cultural or religious beliefs in the region, there may be timing problems as to when the food arrives, etc.
- Next, ask participants if they know what “food security” is. Explain that food security is when people have access to sufficient, good, safe, nutritious food. For example, PWRDF partner, St. Jude Family Projects is working with and training farmers to be able to provide good, safe and nutritious food to the communities it works with in rural Uganda.
- Give every participant a candy from Bowl 2.
- Ask what they noticed was different in the distribution of candies between “food aid” and “food security.”
- Ask participants if they know what “food sovereignty” is. Explain that food sovereignty is when people who produce, distribute, and consume the food also have control over when, how and to whom that happens. They have control over their own “food system.”
- Put Bowl 3 in the middle of the circle and have the group decide how they will distribute the candy. Emphasize that a part of food sovereignty is the equitable distribution of food resources throughout the world because there is enough food in the world to feed everyone.
Describe the difference between food aid/assistance, food security, and food sovereignty. What should we be striving for?
- What type of food system do we have in Canada?
- Possible answers: Canada has food sovereignty, but not all Canadians enjoy food security. The existence of food banks and soup kitchens demonstrate some Canadians require good aid.
- What can we do to strive towards greater food sovereignty?
- Possible answers: Advocate for good governmental food policies, local decision making, buy local food, buy organic food, educate friends and family about the importance of local food, discourage wasting of food, etc.
The Fruits of our Labour and Our Journey (an in-person or online activity)
Thanksgiving can be a time to pause and reflect on the seasons of planting, growing and harvest and on the seasons of our lives. We are now halfway through Year One of PWRDF’s Creation Care: Climate Action Education Focus. Two more Learning Modules will be produced about the intersections between climate change and food security in early 2022. This activity, adapted from PWRDF’s Sharing Bread Learning Resources (2014-16), offers the opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been on your learning journey to date and where you would like to be going as we move forward into the future.
Note: Should you need assistance in thinking through the process described below for either in person or online delivery, feel free to contact Suzanne Rumsey.
- If you are gathering in person, ahead of time prepare a simple mural based on the drawing at right (click on it to download). Put the mural up on a wall that everyone can see and access. If you are meeting online, show the drawing using Share Screen to give your group a visual reference for their reflection. Alternatively, the drawing could be sent to participants electronically, for them to download and print.
- Explain that this activity is designed to enable participants to reflect on their journey of learning about climate action and food security. Ask them to think about what they have brought of themselves to this learning journey, what “fruits” they have “harvested” and what they want to take with them and do on their continuing journey.
- Invite participants to trace, draw and cut out outlines of their feet – using one foot to describe their road to the event and the other to describe their road beyond the event. Ask them also to draw and cut out a favourite fruit. If you are online, you can instead write/draw on the drawing by using the share screen function on Zoom, and then the annotation tools. Or, you can send participants the drawing to print and then write/draw themselves to hold up and describe to the other participants on Zoom.
- Have them do this work individually (15-20 minutes), asking that they write responses to the following questions:
- What brought you to this workshop session? (first foot)
- What is something you have learned/what is the “fruit” of this session for you? (fruit)
- What is something you are taking away/home with you that you will be able to act on and/or share with others? (second foot)
- Conclude by asking participants to one-by-one place their first foot on the road leading to the tree, the fruit on the tree, and their second foot on the road leading away from the tree, and explaining what they have written. If online, invite people to say their words and write them on the drawing using Share Screen. Or, ask participants to hold up their drawings and describe what they have written or drawn.
- Note: If you are working through this learning module on your own, consider printing the drawing and responding to the questions as you reflect on your learning journey.
Digging deeper (beyond this learning module)
- For an informative and inspiring examination of a sustained dialogue between food producers (farmers) and food consumers over several years, look for “Germinating Conversations: Stories from a Sustained Rural-Urban Dialogue on Food, Faith, Farming and the Land” edited by Marta Bunnett Wiebe.
- Each year, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank produces a worship resource for World Food Day on October 16. This year’s edition is titled “Hope in Times of Trouble” and is available here.
- First We Eat – For an inspiring, funny, and moving account of one Yukon family’s year-long effort to harvest and eat ONLY food produced in the Yukon, watch “First We Eat.” This feature-length documentary will challenge your perceptions about food production in Canada’s north and what food security and food sovereignty means to all of us who depend on grocery stores and global supply chains for our food. It is available to rent or purchase online. Consider having a viewing party in person or online. And challenge yourself to eat only local snacks while watching it!
Advocacy actions (online activities)
PWRDF is an active member of both the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and the For the Love of Creation campaign (FLC).
CFGB Harvest of Letters
CFGB continues to encourage people of faith to write letters to the Canadian government regarding food security and climate change. Here is a link to CFGB’s Harvest of Letters campaign:
FLC Fall Symposium
On October 30, 2021, the For the Love of Creation campaign is holding an online national Fall Symposium. This gathering will mark a key moment in the FLC’s journey, in Canada’s climate plan, and in global climate action in advance of the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference, COP26 taking place in Edinburgh in November 2021. Participants will hear the collective theological reflections in the Letter of the Faithful, learn about how advocacy goals have evolved, and engage with faith leaders, theologians, climate organizers including:
- Sister Eva Solomon, csj
- Councillor Christine Boyle, Vancouver
- Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, Trinity College, University of Toronto
- Dr. David K. Goodin, McGill School of Religious Studies
- Mueni Mutinda, Canadian Foodgrains Bank
- Jennifer Preston, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) … and more!
UBINIG and other PWRDF partners are confronting climate change as they work to ensure food security for the communities they serve. In thanksgiving for their work and witness towards another possible world, we invite you to support their work. To make a donation go to pwrdf.org/give-today and click on the Climate Action button. You can also call Donor Relations Officer, Mike Ziemerink, at 416-822-9083 or leave a message toll free at 1-(866) 308-7973.
PWRDF also accepts cheques, which can be mailed to 80 Hayden St. Toronto, ON. M4Y 3G2. Please indicate “Climate Action” in the memo line to designate to this program.
Have a birthday or anniversary coming up? There are many ways to raise funds for PWRDF’s Climate Action work. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a personalized crowd-funding page, please email Mike Ziemerink.
GROUP TIP: Gather around your symbols of Thanksgiving, or if online, hold them up as you say together the closing prayer.
One: For the rain and sun and insects to pollinate crops;
for farmers who work with nature and preserve
the beauty and diversity of God’s Creation.
All: We give thanks, O God…
One: For growing awareness that we all depend on
the Earth for our daily food and fuel and for the
increasing number of people who want to eat
local food and have closer links with farmers.
All: We give thanks, O God…
One: For grace to recognize we are part of God’s
creation with responsibilities to care for God’s earth
and our fellow creatures.
All: We give thanks, O God…
One: Send us out into the world, in service of God’s
creatures, as disciples of Jesus who blessed bread and
wine at the Last Supper – bread that Earth has given
and human hands have made, and wine of the vine and
work of human hands.
All: Lord, send forth your Spirit
From the Farming Community Network, England. The FCN’s mission is “To provide practical and pastoral support to the farming community. FCN is a voluntary organisation and charity founded on Christian principles. We walk with farmers and members of the farming community in times of difficulty. We are here to support and work with everyone who seeks the help of FCN.”