Guest Post By Stan Duncan, Intentional Interim Minister
I am an Intentional Interim Minister, which means I serve churches during the period between settled pastors, while the church is going through a search process. My unusual vocation has also given me a unique opportunity to introduce Equal Exchange’s Fair Trade coffee program to a wide variety of churches. In doing that, one thing I’ve been impressed with is that no matter who I talk to--rich/poor, young/old, urban/rural--people love the idea that just by standing around the church coffee pot, drinking Fair Trade coffee, they are making a difference in farmers' lives and are supporting communities all over the world.
Equal Exchange’s strong ethical standards, like paying a fair price to farmers, or giving credits to help them in the down times, or making long-term commitments with co-ops, and so on, appeal to everyone. This is a mission cause that church people from all over the political spectrum can get behind. Members who are more politically liberal tend to appreciate that this is an alternative business model to that of major coffee corporations that crush the little guy in their poverty, while those of a more conservative bent often feel good that drinking our church coffee pays a hard-working farmer more money, helps his family, and helps them keep their home.
It’s not rocket science to realize that the crash of coffee prices in the 1990s was a major factor in the increase in immigration into the U.S. during those years. Drinking fairly traded coffee is one small step in slowing the migration flow. The more we raise the incomes of small farmers in regions like Mexico and Central America, the more we can lower the terrible social disruption that breaks up families and communities and drives their young people thousands of miles, off into a different (and often hostile) country.
Equal Exchange’s church coffee program is a treasure for church mission programs. Today over 10,000 churches in the U.S. serve and/or sell Equal Exchange products. That’s an enormous amount of coffee and it represents an enormous amount of good around the world.