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 May 24, Eastern NC faith leaders gathered at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park 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 second session on the root causes of food insecurity and the role faith communities can play by developing policies at the pantry level all the way to advocacy at the local, state, and national level. Participants practiced by tackling the topic of transportation and how this root cause could be addressed through conversations with county commissioners and public transportation advertisements.
After lunch, McQueen Chapel lay leader and master gardener Veronica Watson and farmer Steve Moore discussed their food-based partnership. Watson and other lay members started an organic garden in 2013 and have since worked to distribute healthy food boxes to senior citizens, disabled veterans, and other marginalized community members experiencing food insecurity in a four-county region. Watson supplements her boxes with fresh produce purchased from Moore’s Harnett County farm — S and D Farm Fresh Produce. Moore said that he has constructed his farm in such a way that allows him to sell produce at an affordable price to those who need it. Watson and Moore gave tips and answered questions from faith leaders about how to form an equitable and meaningful partnership.
The gathering concluded with a networking session. Ninety percent of attendees recorded that they felt more connected with others doing similar work in their region. Come to the Table is hosting two more regional gatherings this year, and we would love to see you there!
Western NC: July 12 at Mills River Park (Mills River, NC)
Central NC: September 29 at Smith Grove UMC (Mocksville, NC)