A Regretful Way

I really like Wendy’s baked potatoes and chili, especially on a chilly day. But I haven’t had them in years. I am really grateful for the way the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has done terrific work through their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiters. They help children like my grandchildren, who came to us through foster care and adoption. Wendy’s seems to really care about kids.

Except the kids of farmworkers.

Not only has Wendy’s turned its back on the farmworkers who harvest its produce, but it has taken steps that directly undermine the transformation that has been brought about by the Fair Food Program.  Here’s how:

  1. Wendy’s has not only refused to join the Fair Food Program (FFP), but has stopped buying tomatoes from Florida since the implementation of the FFP there. Rather than support an industry setting new standards for human rights, Wendy’s took its tomato purchases to Mexico, where workers continue to confront wage theft, sexual harassment, child labor, and even slavery without access to protections.
  2. Instead of joining the FFP and its widely-acclaimed, uniquely successful worker-driven model of social responsibility, Wendy’s released a new supplier code of conduct that contains no effective mechanisms for worker participation or enforcement. Wendy’s new code represents the very worst of the traditional corporate approach to social responsibility driven by public relations rather than human rights.
  3. Wendy’s stands alone as the last of the five major fast food corporations in the country not part of the FFP: McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum! Brands and Subway are all doing the right thing and participating in the Program. By refusing to join, Wendy’s is deriving a very real cost advantage over its competitors, while continuing to provide an alternative market for less reputable growers.

It is unconscionable that Wendy’s refuses to support one of today’s most promising models to end poverty and human rights abuses in low-wage industries across the world.


Those farmworkers kids are at risk if their parents can’t make a safe living in the fields. Those juicy tomatoes (now sourced outside Florida) don’t pick themselves. The conditions under which they are picked mean the everything to low-income families. Will they have access to sanitation and shade? Will they be sprayed with pesticides? Will they be paid for their labor? Can they work without the fear of sexual exploitation?


Wendy’s has repeatedly refused to join other food companies in agreements that would guarantee worker conditions and safeguards. Are these farmworker kids somehow less important than little white girls with red braids?

So, regretfully, I am boycotting Wendy’s. Last week, I took part in a rolling fast by clergy to try to pressure this company to do the right thing and join other responsible food vendors in protecting those who work in harsh conditions for low wages. I didn’t eat any tomatoes. But I had water to drink and a clean bathroom, and I didn’t spend the day looking over my shoulder in fear. At the end of the day, I got to giggle with my grandbabies on the phone. I want that for everyone’s mother and grandmother. I want that for everyone’s children.

I hope you will join me in this boycott, and in raising awareness of the needs of those whose labor feeds us every day.



By The Wayside

When I was in Austria many years ago, I was fascinated with the little roadside shrines that dotted every small town. They are all different; some dedicated to the memory of a loved one, others to a patron saint, others to commemorate a tragic event. Wherever you went, there were these little reminders of faith along the way. roadside shrines Austria

At this point in my life, I aware of being on a spiritual journey. We use that term frequently in my tradition, but it usually means that we are on a trip toward something. Unlike walking the Camino de Santiago or preparing for ordination, the end of this journey is not a destination. But it is not an aimless wander (as lovely as those can be!), just a movement from 30 years of parish ministry to whatever is next for me.

My first thought, when I left my last call, was to jump into another parish. My entire Christian life has been in the heart of congregations to which I belonged, as a lay member or clergy. And I will likely do that, but not just yet. Until I learn what I need to learn, I am a “freelance Christian”, putting together a spiritual life from the bits and pieces of church experience, education and wider culture to see what fits.

Some of this is practical; I do work some Sunday mornings, so I can’t be in worship every week in any one place. But it is also part of my looking forward into the future of the church I love so much. Having been constantly front and center, I don’t think I could see what was really going on the church I served.

So this Lent, my spiritual practice has been to watch and notice.

The first thing I noticed was my relief. I was way more tired than I realized, and needed a few days when all I did was rest. The second thing I noticed was joy. Freed from the preoccupation of “running” a parish, I was surprised by all the little alleluias in my life.

The third thing I noticed was that I missed “the stuff” of Christianity as much as its practice. Although I have a million criticisms of church buildings, I find myself yearning for them. I miss the smell of candles and the way the light is refracted through the windows. I was a little surprised that this “low church Protestant” was so attached to holy places, having taught all my life that the presence of God makes anyplace holy. And that’s true, but I still find myself longing for a location that puts me in touch with the Divine.

I guess what I am seeking is a shrine. Historically, Christianity has had holy places where you could offer a silent prayer, light a candle or listen to water falling without having to interact with a large group of strangers. These holy places were available not just for an hour on Sunday morning, but all through the week, to just stop in. The places were familiar, even when you didn’t know another soul by name. Shrines are not only attached to Roman Catholic and Orthodox parishes. One Protestant church I served had a bench in a

photocredit Patrick Rogers at Canterbury Center

garden outside the church. One had a peace pole and a walkway. Another had a cemetery. Without having to commit to a full Sunday morning, you could stop by for ten minutes and feed your soul. Those Austrian roadside shrines reminded me that God was all around, that someone else had found God in this place, so perhaps I could too.

And so, this week, I am looking for shrines.

Later today, I found these.

The Wizard of Oz post-election

Last night, we happened upon a showing of the “The Wizard of Oz”, a movie so familiar to our generation that we are now free to notice scenery and props and throwaway lines.

What I noticed first was how much plastic was used in the Oz sets. In 1939, it surely would have been cheaper to bring in real plants and flowers to surround the Munchkins. Instead, the filmmaker chose something that was exotic to the viewer. Now, of course, we just see it as cheap; a substitute for the real thing, kind of like the Wizard.munchkinland

Charlatans are standard characters in literature, but Professor Marvel is a benign sort of con man; you always had the feeling that he would go straight if he could figure out how to do it. But he certainly has figured out the Big Con; he has the cool house and the fear factor down pat. Unlike most modern con men, he readily admits that he’s a good man but a bad wizard. The Witch of the West however, is really evil. As many times as I have seen her green face fill the screen, her anger and sadistic pleasure in terrorizing others still scares me. Her last line about “beautiful wickedness” tells me that unlike Professor Marvel, she believes in the evil she does.

So as we look at the political scene this Advent, who plays the parts of these classic characters? Who is the Scarecrow who will figure out what to do in a crisis? Who will, like Toto, drag the curtain aside to reveal the source of the smoke and mirrors? Who is the woman brave enough to slap the lion’s nose? And perhaps most importantly, who is merely pretending to be someone they are not, just to get by, and who is truly evil?

lions-and-tigers-and-bears-from-wizrd-of-ozThe moral of this movie is not that silly little homily at the end of the movie, as Dorothy is surrounded by her family. It has nothing to do with “home”. It has to do with what is real and what is fake, both in the plastic world of Oz and in our own. There are lots of people who will show off their fake wisdom, their meaningless “love” and their trumped up courage. Professor Marvel says so himself with his gifts from the black bag. But who has the brains, the heart and the courage to lead us out of this dark forest and stand up to trickery and downright evil? Get out the skywriter – we need to find Dorothy!

Waiting in 2016

All over the world, clergy and Christian educators will tell congregations that Advent is about waiting, if they talk about it at all. The blue and the purple will come out, and clash with the “real” colors of the season, making those who care about color palettes cringe. And candles, of various colors and with various names, will be lit.

Advent is an intrusive season. At a time in the year when everyone is being urged to be jolly, Advent is introspective. Just when we have decided to buy things that we hope will bring big smiles on December 25, we are told what really matters is the Second Coming, date unknown. Just when we have started to look at end of the year financials, Advent ushers in a new church year before we are ready.

Waiting for something wonderful to happen is not such a hard sell. Little kids know that the Big Day is coming, so we help them get ready with “visions of sugar plums”. Healthy women waiting the long nine months have time to get the nursery ready and rest up for sleepless nights ahead. Choirs practice extra hours in anticipation of nighttime services and favorite music. We can wait, because after all, at the end of it, Baby Jesus gets born.

But what if we don’t actually know how things will turn out? What if we are the little kids who wonder if there will be any Christmas gifts, or even food on the table? What if we are the prospective parents who have been told that their child has serious birth defects? What if the future for which we wait is dependent on a government far way or a twist of fate?

Matthew 24:36-4436“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

These words at the end of the gospel of Matthew are words for this time and this season. What will the country look like under a new administration? What changes will terrorism bring to the world? Who will benefit from a new regime in Washington and who will lose? How will the church respond to world in which the concept of “Advent” itself is regarded as quaint and irrelevant, even by other Christians?

We are not waiting in anticipation for a joy we know. No matter what we think of the direction in which the world is heading, it is clear that this year will bring change. Some of it will certainly be joyful, some not. But we are warned by this passage to be ready. We do not have the luxury of just “waiting it out”. Like the householder who gets word of an impending break-in, we must be vigilant.

What we do know about this Advent is Christ. We don’t know how or when Emmanuel will come. Will it look like hope or peace or joy or love? Or will the coming of Christ be as confusing as the conversation of angels with terrified teenagers and low income farmworkers? We dare not miss it, this inbreaking of the Holy into the mess of our busy lives. Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming – sometime. And then we’ll see what is “real”.

This song expressed my hope today: