The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, voted last year by Lifeway Research as one of the top 10 most influential living pastors, now will use that influence at a groundbreaking workshop coming to Athens in February.
Taylor, a professor at Piedmont College in Demorest will lead a two-day conference, called "Saying Grace: Food, Justice and Sustainability," on faith and food in the modern world.
"The idea came about because every year Piedmont tries to think of something of common, current interest to the whole community that we might get into and offer a chance for people to get together and talk about," Taylor said.
"Where we live in rural Northeast Georgia, eating locally, organic gardening, all the ramifications of eating well and thinking about people who don't eat well, and keeping farmers in business ... all of those things seemed really compelling and very local to where we were and, yet, of global significance".
Workshops during the weekend will examine "faith and food" issues in relation to God's world with a number of speakers.
Representatives from Duke Divinity School, Koinonia Partners, Heifer International and Georgia Organics will conduct workshops during the conference on topics ranging from the ethical, social and practical issues related to what we eat.
"Norman Wirzba, I met him last year at Duke and he's a fascinating person," Taylor said. "His title is research professor of ecology, theology and rural life. He's so knowledgeable, committed and passionate about his work.
"Tim Hudson is a religion and philosophy major (at Piedmont). He is Jewish, an Eagle Scout who serves as chaplain at a summer camp, and is a great cook and very attentive to how a great cook needs ingredients from a healthy earth."
Wirzba and Hudson are both scheduled to speak at the event.
Sarah Pendergrast will speak from Koinonia Partners, which is a Christian farm community near Americus founded in 1942 by Clarence Jordan and also where Habitat for Humanity was founded.
Ed Taylor from Georgia Organics, a member-supported organization promoting sustainable and locally grown foods, will also speak. Rashid Nuri will be in hand to represent Truly Living Well, a local Atlanta community with organically grown vegetables and fruit direct from their own certified natural Atlanta farm.
The conference will also include a concert by Mississippi singer-songwriter Kate Campbell.
The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor will deliver the keynote address on the topic "Is the Bible Green?"
"There is lots in scripture and faith traditions about eating, about justice and about what happens around tables, whether it's communion or sharing what we have or being hospitable," Taylor said.
"All the way from the Beatitudes, when Jesus talks about those who are hungry and thirsty, to the Last Supper," she said. "When we are talking about food, we are talking about something everybody can get on board with - we all need it, we all like it - especially if we see ourselves as a larger global community. "
To Taylor, it just makes sense to come together and talk about food, religion and sustainability in an educational setting.
"What we eat is who we are. If we have a wounded earth, we have wounded bodies," she added. "Preachers are beginning to see that this is not a political issue, this is local community (issue). It's about health and God's creation.
"The Bible never asks the question about the environment - earth is where you live and rain is where you get water, sun is how your food grew. The human was so embedded in creation that it would never occur to think of us as separate from the environment."