Cumberland Presbyterian women “Step Out” for Fair Food!

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First-ever Fair Food protest in Chattanooga, TN, “proud day to be part of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.” 

Last week, Silvia Perez of the CIW delivered the keynote address at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church’s Women’s Ministry Convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The Women’s Ministry, as part of its “Step Out” initiative committed to putting faith into action, is focused on farmworker justice this year, and Silvia’s speech took up the theme, framing the Campaign for Fair Food itself as an act of faith — faith in the workers’ vision of justice that would someday become a reality through the committed partnership of farmworkers and allies of faith around the country.

Following the keynote, members of the Women’s Ministry and participants in the larger denominational General Assembly that was taking place at the same time — including the denomination’s leaders, Moderator (Rev. Lisa Anderson) and Stated Clerk (Rev. Michael Sharpe, pictured below) — got ready for a scorching afternoon action at a Publix store in Chattanooga.  This was the first-ever Publix protest in Chattanooga, and for many of the participants it was their first time to take part in a protest.  
All in all, about 40 participants from the General Assembly, staff of National Farm Worker Ministry, board members of Beth-El, and a contingent from Nashville Fair Food who made the two-hour trek for the action with extra signs in hand, held an hour-long picket outside the store.  A delegation (pictured below) delivered a letter to the manager on behalf of the Women’s Ministry, in part reading: 


“We encourage Publix to be part of the solution to Florida’s longstanding history of farmworker exploitation — the Fair Food Program.  We are asking you to join us as we STEP OUT in support of the farmworkers who harvest the foods that we enjoy each day.  In the coming year, Cumberland Presbyterian Women’s Ministry will be living out our current theme to STEP OUT and share the love and grace of God made real in Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus would most certainly STEP OUT with us in this effort.  Please won’t you step out and join us at the table?”

In the delegation report following their discussion with the team of Publix managers, one of the participants, Rev. Joy Warren, said that “we are being the hands and feet of Jesus,” adding, “this is a proud day to be part of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.” 
You can watch the brief report on the action that appeared later that night on the local news here
It was another inspiring Publix action — a first of its kind for Chattanooga but certainly not the last, and another in a growing series of actions led by women of faith in support of the call for Fair Food!