Fair Trade Towns USA has put last month’s webinar about Churches & Communities Engaging through Fair Trade online. It’s a one-hour discussion from different perspectives. As a part of the webinar Billy Linstead Goldsmith gives a presentation on how Fair Trade Town campaigns can reach out to local churches and faith groups. I’ve summarized it below.
Webinar: Churches & Communities Engaging Through Fair Trade from Courtney Lang on Vimeo.
Churches are important for fair trade town campaigns, because many of them were pioneers in fair trade and so are a key part of the fair trade movement. Fair trade also sits well with religious values, so it is a natural combination.
First Steps to Reach Out to Churches
Start with people you know - ask other members of your steering committee who goes to church. Also ask whether members know friends or family who are church goers. Church goers can then inquire at church about what the church is doing and who would be the most relevant person to speak with. The church could well have a social justice committee and so this would be a good starting point. Find out what the church is already doing with respect to fair trade and questions of social justice/global trade.
Search on the internet to find churches that are already active in fair trade. Googling may well help you find churches that already serve fair trade, promote it in educational/informational events or sell fair trade products through the church or perhaps in its cafe.
Clergy associations or interfaith groups offer opportunities to get the word out to a range of churches. You can think of it as the spiritual equivalent of a chamber of commerce - a forum for meeting a variety of faith groups.
Conversing with Churches
Start by talking with individuals who you think/know will be interested in fair trade. Invite them to steering committee meetings so that they can find out more about the fair trade town campaign.
Putting together an informational session will help churches become more acquainted with the concept of fair trade. Although many churches have been active in fair trade for some decades, the local church itself may be quite new to fair trade. Presenting fair trade to the churches will help them see how it fits with their value system and yet also offer a way to find out what they are already doing and what they already know.
So these conversations offer routes to inform the churches and also to explore where their interests lie. So you should include basic information about fair trade (facts, talking points, examples, pictures, case studies, links to fair trade information from their national body); you should also see it as a way to learn more about them and what motivates them.
From the Church’s Perspective
Churches are busy, focused, have a unique culture and they are frequently asked to support campaigns. Sit it is important to not give up at the first try. It is also particularly important to find out what drives them and how they operate.
Consider how the local fair trade town campaign will benefit the church. What opportunities are there for the church to reach out to the community via fair trade? Are there opportunities to increase their visibility? How exactly does fair trade and the fair trade town campaign relate to their spiritual values?
You will most likely connect with a specific individual. yet this person may not be as familiar with fair trade as you are. It is important to support them by providing information that they need when talking with their colleagues at the church. Consider what materials they would benefit from when they are discussing the initiative with out you. Moreover you may like to offer to be present so that they can draw upon you for specific questions about fair trade.
Programs, Events and Resources
What events are there (or will there be in the future)? What plans do you have? How many people are likely to attend?
Consider also events and resources at a national level. Billy recently toured the country with a producer, which allowed churches to hold events linked to this.
Webinars and other resources are available via www.fairtradetownsusa.org and elsewhere to help churches become more involved with fair trade. For example, do they need assistance with introducing fair trade into the church Sunday school curriculum?
In short, churches offer considerable opportunities for a fair trade town campaign to reach out to those who will have a natural interest in the cause. However, we need to be careful to foster a mutually beneficial relationship, where the congregation and fair trade campaign cooperate together.