Four years ago I was in the picturesque town of Lancaster looking for a church to attend one Sunday and found my way into St Thomas Church, or ‘St Tees’ as it’s affectionately known. From the outside it looks like your fairly standard Church of England town centre church. On the inside it was lively and friendly, and after the family service I decided to stay for coffee where I discovered that this church supports fair trade … big time!
To begin with St Tees’ uses Fairtrade tea and coffee after their services. There's a fair trade stall at the back of church before Christmas and Easter and members of the congregation also have stalls in their homes at Christmas. The church hosts the Lancaster and Morecambe Fairtrade group meeting once a month and for the 10th anniversary the Fairtrade District a special inter-church service was held at the church.
More impressively, the church started a fair trade shop, Craftaid, which is now an inter-church initiative hosted by the St Thomas Church. The shop features in some services and supplies information, stalls and talks for church groups looking at Fairtrade or Justice. For other churches and Fairtrade groups in the area, the shop provides catering tea and coffee, and goods on a sale or return basis. They also take stalls to fairs, and provide a monthly term-time stall at the University of Cumbria. The shop will supply local schools with snacks, stalls, resources and talks about Fairtrade although they receive less demand for this nowadays. Everyone in the shop is a volunteer and they are open five days a week to the general public. Profits support Traidcraft and Tearfund and also subsidise a school bus for disabled children in Peru and give grants to local young Christians for going on short-term missions to relieve poverty.
Over the years the people of Lancaster have together made a huge difference to the lives of poor producers and artisans in the developing world, and I am so inspired by the way they are a prime example of Traidcraft’s current theme of Let it grow being put into practice.
Corina Redmore, who manages the shop, says "I very much see Fairtrade as an issue of Justice. The worker is worthy of his hire and it is only fair that people get a fair wage for their labours and reasonable and safe working conditions. I also like the idea that the workers can choose what to spend the Fairtrade premium on as opposed to us telling them what they need. I like the way that Traidcraft supports the businesses in the developing world with all their difficulties and problems and purposefully works with the poorest communities, the sort of places that big businesses would not be able to work in."
If you’d like to find ways to deepen your church’s support of Traidcraft just call us on 0191 497 3999 and we’ll chat through some tailored ideas and options with you. Meanwhile, please join us in applauding the work at St Tees’ and Craftaid in Lancaster.