Food & Faith: UMC Creation Care Conference Digested

Food engages us with Creation day in and day out. As we fill our plates and cups, we inevitably connect with people, plants, creatures, and places from across our yard to across the world. Whether we embrace or ignore that connection matters for the health of the world and for our very souls.
More and more, people of faith are embracing the connections and developing food-related ministries that nurture life, community, and sustainability. Some of them gathered last weekend at Decatur United Methodist Church for a two-day conference called, “Sowing Seeds of Hope: Where Food and Faith Meet,” an annual national Caring for Creation conference sponsored by the United Methodist Church.
Theologians, farmers, pastors, grassroots organizers, students and others gathered to share stories from across the country about how food and faith intersect, and where that intersection fits into the larger issues of climate change and justice.
Several GIPL board members and I participated, listening, learning, and getting inspired. Board member Susan Varlamoff presented “The ‘Laudato Si’ Action Plan for Georgia,” a new Roman Catholic resource in response to Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, which includes guidance for sustainable food and gardening practices, listing specific actions on a scale from “easy” to “advanced.” <http://archatl.com/catholic-life/refreshatl/>
Several important themes emerged:
-Healthy soil is Everything.
-Environmental issues, including food, are fundamentally spiritual issues. As urban farmer Rashid Nuri commented, “The greatest challenges facing our world are greed, pride, and apathy. Climate change, habitat loss, and pollution are symptoms.”
-Because environmental issues are fundamentally spiritual issues, communities of faith have a crucial role in leading efforts to address them at the core.
-Addressing them is often joyful, nourishing, love-expanding, and delicious work. The conference speakers radiated excitement about their work—about the ways that good food transforms people, churches, communities, and the world.
How and what we eat impacts all of God’s Creation. Theologian Norman Wirzba put it bluntly: “Our desire for cheap, convenient food is destroying everything.” Communities of faith have the great responsibility—and opportunity—to be a healing force in our broken food system, one forkful at a time. Let’s eat!
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by Rev. Dcn. Leeann Culbreath, GIPL’s South & Coastal Georgia Outreach Coordinator