Recently Father Paul wrote about how meaningful the Daily Office is for those that participate in it regularly. Both Morning and Evening Prayer have short intercessory prayers in a series called suffrages. One set of suffrages directs us to pray to God "for guidance in the way of justice and truth." Keeping this in mind at the September meeting of the Vestry, the Newcomer Committee presented a resolution for all coffee used at St. Mark's for parish functions to be fair trade coffee. The resolution passed unanimously. As soon as all of the coffee in the cabinet has been used, the only coffee that shall be used at St. Mark's will be fair trade. Any non-fair trade coffee donated to the church will not be used, but shall be given away.
Several months ago, Father Paul put an article about fair trade coffee in the Evangel E-Newsletter. We began using Bishops Blend Coffee from Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) at that time. However, as time went by non-fair trade coffee once again became the norm at St. Mark's. This will not happen with the September vestry action. It is not only a matter of making sure laborers on coffee plantations are being paid reasonable wages for their work. It is also a stand against child and slave labor. Frequently children age nine to sixteen have been sold into slavery to work on the coffee plantations. They and other laborers are illiterate, work in unsafe conditions, with limited access to medical care, and no labor rights. We will be taking a stand against such injustice with every cup of coffee.
You can take such a prophetic stand at home too. Fair trade coffee is available in stores such as Costco. Look for the Fair Trade certified information on the package of beans. If you would like to purchase local coffees to support the local economy, select coffees that are 100% locally grown. Local coffee growers must abide by the labor laws in producing their products. That is a reason local coffees are more expensive than other brands on the market. Local coffee blends may have beans that come from plantations with the unjust labor practices.
Another option is to purchase fair trade coffees such as Bishops Blend from Episcopal Relief and Development. Purchasing Bishops Blend Coffee, which is 100% organically grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, not only helps small farmers and workers in the coffee industry, but it also helps to support Episcopal Relief and Development. Fifteen percent of all of the sales profits ERD, allowing the Episcopal Church to respond with aid worldwide in times of disaster. We have also invited the other Episcopal churches in our area to make the same action as St. Mark's. Some already use fair-trade coffee; some do not.
All of this reminds us that our liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer are not just idle words. The prayers we say daily often lead us into prophetic action. Who knew that a single line of the suffrages would lead us to take such action for the dignity and worth of every single human? Now our coffee tastes even better!
Senior Warden of St. Mark's