In September 2015, two very different local church communities took on the 90kg Rice Challenge. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences…
Margaret Bonney: St Guthlac’s, Knighton
Overall, the 90Kg Rice Challenge was a real success at St Guthlac’s. We did it over our Harvest weekend and it gave us a new and thought-provoking ‘twist’ on a traditional harvest festival time – we were thinking about the harvesting of minds in the future through supporting young people in Malawi through secondary education.
Harvest weekend attracts a lot of people into the church and so more people than usual saw what we were up to and contributed. Our church was decorated not just with local produce but also with flags from East Africa and the 90 bags of rice which were piled up in front of the altar – as people bought their bags we saw the pile visibly reducing before our eyes!
We used some of the excellent material in the Wild Goose Resource Group ‘Harvesting the World’ liturgy booklet, particularly the useful material specific to the rice project.
We took the opportunity to invite friends from the local Shia mosque in Leicester, many of whom come from East Africa, to our Harvest evensong. They really loved the idea of us supporting education in Malawi, and gave generously to the appeal. The appeal has raised £315 so far, and over the Harvest weekend we sold all but 8 bags of rice – donations are still coming in.
It definitely appealed to people of all ages as a project to get involved with, and we’ll certainly do it again next year.
Peter Black: Leicester Cathedral
[The Cathedral Community Committee] were discussing what we could do differently for Harvest Festival and it was suggested that we attempt the 90kg Rice Challenge. Just Fair Trade gave us lots of encouragement and useful tips and advice of how to approach the challenge.
From my own personal view the first priority is that you must be really enthusiastic and committed and ensure you involve everyone in your church or organisation. Secondly you must ensure you have done your homework and are fully conversant with the aims of the challenge so you can get everyone on board once you get started. In our case we started by putting flyers announcing the challenge for about a month before in our notices etc.
On August Bank Holiday Monday I had a stall at the Old Town Food Fair in Leicester and had a very positive day; you must make sure you tell all perspective buyers about the Malawian farmers and how secondary education must be paid for.
Our challenge was a most rewarding experience and we would recommend any organisation to consider taking it on.
The Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester.
Living in Leicester helps me to be reminded on a daily basis that we are part of a complex, inter-connected world. Yet I have seen many times personally that whilst we have more than plenty resources, they are far from wisely distributed. Our markets and now even our climate and weather disproportionately impacts those who are the poorest in our world because they are least cushioned and most exposed.
The cathedral congregation entered in enthusiastically to the 90kg Rice Challenge and quite quickly sold the rice and enjoyed eating it because it was flavoured by justice – trade justice.
Week by week the scriptures, our worship and our community return us to a vision and experience of God’s blessing. From this comes thankfulness and from that comes commitment to ensure that others might be blessed. These are not merely spiritual words but they are very practical – people being treated more fairly, families being fed, children going to school are all signs of God’s blessing and by being involved we’ve been blessed and we have become a blessing. It certainly helps change other people’s situations and it changes us too and helps us to see the horizons of God’s kingdom of justice, mercy and peace.
We’d love to see a network of churches grow across Leicester and Leicestershire, committed to supporting Malawian rice farmers for the long term. If you’d like to explore the possibility of your church taking up the 90kg Rice Challenge, contact us on 0116 253 8032, firstname.lastname@example.org or just pop into Just Fair Trade!
But the challenge isn’t just for churches – it’s for anyone who’s part of a community group, be it a faith group, school, youth organisation or something else entirely! Get in touch and get your 90kg Rice Challenge started!