As we continue to explore the dynamic between food and justice, let us introduce you to…
Tim Dickau has been a pastor at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, in East Vancouver, for over two decades. He led the church to refocus its mission towards the emergence of a number of creative responses as a church in and for the local neighbourhood. Grandview Calvary Baptist Church will be the venue for the upcoming, October 29th, Famine or Feast conference: “Connecting faith, food & people”.
Planted: In a little under two weeks, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church will host a conference, in association with the Canadian Food Grains Bank, as a part of the Good Soil Campaign. The provocatively titled, “Famine or Feast“, conference hopes to engage participants in conversation around food issues, both locally and globally.
When did food justice, and the conversation around holding an ethic, to how we eat, first strike you as important?
Tim: I think there have been two primary sparks that have got me thinking and acting differently. One is the theological vision that sees God as wanting to restore God’s creation and for it to be fruitful. A lot of the evangelical spirituality that I grew up with would be what I call “dualistic”. It didn’t take the earth seriously and basically said that the purpose of spirituality was to get away from engaging with the world and creation. That has shifted for me dramatically with the biblical story, creation and bringing new life, out of death. That was one trajectory that got me thinking differently.
The second spark that got me thinking was being around people dealing with poverty and recognising that I took for granted so many aspects around food—its abundance, having nutritious food, getting whatever food I wanted. Being around people who live with poverty opened my eyes to the importance of nutritious food, access to food, growing food, eating well and how that could be achieved. In particular, travelling overseas, where there is greater and different types of poverty, really impacted me. One story in particular—we had a family from Nicaragua who were part of our church [in Canada] and they connected us with a church there. We were helping them with building work and learning from them about issues they faced. When we were in Nicaragua, we were with a family with a teenager, whose name was Roberto. Roberto was 14 years old—really intelligent, a great personality. But his mother had to make the decision to feed their family, or send Roberto to school and she couldn’t do both. She just couldn’t do both. So she had to stop sending Roberto to school. They still wouldn’t eat regular meals though. They would often eat only once a day as a family. And I thought, what can we do about this kind of situation? How can we make a difference? It really spurred me on to continue to the conversation about food and living well in creation.
Planted: How has your thinking changed over the years in how we could make a difference?
Tim: The challenge has been in seeing how things are connected in many ways regarding food. My own consumption is connected to the production of food (in good or bad ways) which is connected to how we use resources. These issues, and our lives, are all so connected. It’s a process to begin to see the connections between issues surrounding food—it’s production and distribution, that really challenges me, personally, and us, corporately, to shift how we live locally, and live globally, as well—to share the resources of the world so that everybody has enough.
Planted: In terms of your own shifting of thoughts and understanding of global food systems – Where do you see major changes in how your Canadian congregation responds to these issues?
Tim: One of the gifts of belonging to a community, that is actually engaged in these issues, is the opportunity to learn from each other. So we have people who are thinking about sustainable urban agriculture [gardening and growing your own food] and they are learning about it and they mentor and teach others about it. That’s a gift of community—how do we connect people to knowledge and understanding so that we can shift how we grow food and how we consume it? So there’s also the organic, locally grown, food purchasing group that is organised in our community by Kurtis Peters (see his story here). These are some of the kinds of things you can do when you have a community working on these issues together. It gives you new opportunities.
I also think A Rocha has been huge in our community in terms of helping us to think deeply about creation, about food, and about how it’s grown. Even the partnership with the A Rocha CSA, that we are a part of, promotes ideas around healthy eating and the thoughtful purchase of food from farmers who grow it well. There are other community members who are so knowledgeable about a number of subjects; like food and agricultural sustainability, colonisation and food, personal consumption, and others who have developed real gifts around hospitality in the community and at our weekly community meal on Thursday nights (called Crossroads). The community meal has been crucial in offering a space to serve nutritious food for people who don’t get it regularly enough. And we need each other—to spark our imagination in different ways, to live differently around food and to encourage one another to participate in ways that will help to bring more food security to other parts of the world, as well as our own city. I view this as one of the big reasons for holding this Famine or Feast conference together, to address these issues overseas, to learn and to act locally as well, with one another’s help.
Planted: In a nutshell, why do you encourage folk to come to the Famine or Feast conference on Saturday, 29th October in Vancouver?
Tim: I’ve come to realise how important food security is to human flourishing and to living well. We have to start thinking more deeply about this issue, which means thinking about our own consumption, thinking about our own food production, and thinking about our own policies around food charity and income support, and thinking about our own contribution, nationally, to foreign aid directed to farmers. All of these issues are so important and just basic to creating a world that we can live in, well, as human beings. And this conference is a way to put out that reminder, front and centre, for a day, so that we continue to move forward.
Planted Addendum: So Pastor Tim, you’re obviously passionate about the subject of farming—what’s something that we might not know, about you, that links you directly to the land?
Tim: Well, for the first 12 years of my life I helped my mum in the garden. [This meant] … shelling peas, picking peas, picking tomatoes, some cultivating, picking raspberries, trimming the raspberries and so on. A lot of my summertimes growing up were in the garden. Then when I was 12, I switched to the bigger farm and I started harvesting the grain, loading the grain trucks, and being involved with the whole grain seed operation. Half my childhood was in the garden, and half in the fields.
Planted Addendum: Do you have a feeling that your family was “called” to the land?
Tim: I was the 4th generation of our family on the farm; my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father, had all worked hard to clear the land, to develop the land, to nurture the land and there was a sense of stewardship of this resource, and we needed to care for it and be creative in managing it well so that it could be fruitful. There was also a lot of long hours! And that was the hard part—as a teenager, when I wanted to go out with my friends, we would be working until 10:30 or 11 at night. Unless it rained, I couldn’t go out in the evening. So I became a master weather predictor! When I thought it was going to rain, I’d phone my friends, around 4 o’clock, and say, “I think it’s going to rain! Let’s plan to do something tonight.”
Planted Addendum: Fun fact—What’s your favourite food? Your deathbed wish, as it were?
Tim: I love scalloped potatoes. I’m an easy man to please!