Since its creation, RAFI-USA’s Come to the Table (CTTT) program has been associated with its statewide and regional gatherings for faith leaders. Unfortunately, a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the necessity to hold these meetings virtually. After two years of Zoom calls and online meetings, Come to the Table is excited to host in-person regional gatherings this summer.
On July 12, faith leaders from Western North Carolina gathered in Mills River for a day of learning, fellowship, and discussion. In the first session, CTTT Program Coordinator David Allen led participants in a conversation around “just hospitality” building off of Dr. Norbert Wilson’s plenary address at the 2022 CTTT Conference. “Just hospitality,” a term coined by theologian Letty Russell, describes “a mutual relationship of care and trust in which we share in the struggle for empowerment, dignity, and fullness of life.” Faith leaders discussed how their food ministries can — and already do — live into just hospitality by developing relationships, listening to stories, and advocating alongside the people they serve.
CTTT Program Director Justine Post led the next session, which featured a conversation on root causes of food insecurity and the role faith communities can play by developing policies at the pantry level all the way to the local, state, and national level. Participants split into groups to imagine practical ways their communities could make a difference on issues of transportation, under and unemployment, and healthcare.
After lunch and a time of networking, Sam Springs and Jess McClelland of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) discussed their work to build a more equitable and sustainable food system. Through their Local Food as Medicine project, BRWIA supports producers and cultivates community connections that educate, inspire, and increase the demand for local food. During this time, BRWIA encouraged participants to think about their own community’s response to food injustice and the accessibility of that response. BRWIA’s engagement with faith leaders sparked more conversation about the need for a mutual relationship when it comes to a sustainable response to food justice.
The Western Gathering concluded with a farm tour of Tierra Fértil, a hispanic, worker-owned farm co-op in Hendersonville. On the farm tour, there was continued discussion about how faith communities can partner with farmers in their area. CTTT is hosting a final regional gathering in Mocksville, NC at Smith Grove United Methodist Church on September 29. To learn more and register, click here!