Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy, opposing cuts to programs that help the hungry in the U.S. and abroad.
The statement, For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy, calls for fasting on the 21st of each month through December 2018, at which time the 115th Congress will conclude.
The 21st of each month is targeted because by that time each month, 90% of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits have been used, thereby causing the last week of the month as the hungry week in America.
The fast will launch with a group of national and local leaders doing a three-day fast together May 21-23. These leaders include Presiding Bishop Curry, Presiding Bishop Eaton, and leadership throughout the Episcopal Church.
Video: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Calls for Prayer, Fasting and Advocacy
Joint Statement: For Such A Time As This
We are coming together as leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church to oppose deep cuts to programs that are vital to hungry people struggling with poverty. We make this call in anticipation of the May 21 Global Day of Prayer to End Famine. We highlight the importance of foreign assistance and humanitarian relief as members of the World Council of Churches.
We also make a call to pray, fast, and advocate not just on May 21, but throughout the 115th Congress. At the invitation of Bread for the World, we join with ecumenical partners and pledge to lead our congregations and ministries in fasting, prayer and advocacy, recognizing the need to engage our hearts, bodies, and communities together to combat poverty. As the call to prayer articulates,
“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger. We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change. We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation. We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP, who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”
Domestically, Americans throughout the country are struggling with poverty, and many government-funded programs allow them to care for and feed their families. As we look overseas, we must acknowledge that foreign assistance and humanitarian relief can help to address regions confronting famine and food insecurity, including South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lake Chad Basin. We will challenge proposals to eliminate or defund proven anti-poverty programs, at home and abroad.
The story of Esther provides encouragement for our fasting, prayer and advocacy. Esther, a Jew, was the wife of the Persian king. When plans were made to slaughter all the Jews in the empire, Esther’s cousin Mordechai pleaded with her to go to the king and use her voice to advocate for them, even though this might place her life in danger. He urged her not to remain silent, as she may have been sent “for such a time as this.” Esther asked people to fast and pray with her for three days to fortify her advocacy before the king, resulting in saving the lives of her people.
God’s intention is the flourishing of all people and we are called to participate in God’s loving purpose by standing with our neighbor who struggle with poverty and hunger. Following the Circle of Protection ecumenical fast in 2011 to fortify the faith community in opposing cuts to vital anti-poverty programs, we may have also been prepared “for such a time as this”. We commit ourselves to and invite our members to one day of fasting every month to undergird our efforts to convince our members of Congress to protect poverty-focused programs.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Episcopal Church
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
About the Fast
When does the fast begin? We will begin a three-day fast on Sunday, May 21. We will continue by fasting for one day a month—the 21st of each month—through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. We fast on the 21st of the month because that is the day when 90% of SNAP benefits run out for families.
Whose fast is this? Make it your own. We hope that many faith communities and other organizations will promote the fast. Different organizations are welcome to promote it among their communities in their own ways. Bread for the World will serve as a facilitation hub for creating resources and sharing ideas and happenings. We hope you will keep the focus on protecting programs to help hungry people struggling with poverty and that you will encourage a monthly fast on the 21st.
Who will be the public face of the fast? You are the face of the fast! Several leaders have already committed themselves to the fast, including David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Jim Wallis, convener of Sojourners; Lawrence Reddick, presiding bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; and Tony Hall, executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger. We expect many other leaders at the national and community levels to step forward to be the face of the fast as well.
How do we fast? We are calling for prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Fasting is an effort to clear our bodies, our hearts, and our minds from the distractions around us so that we may draw closer to God. Fasting from food is one option that many will choose. But we invite people to take on the discipline of self-denial, which will help them rely more fully on God. Some may fast from technology, social media, or television.
These days of fasting should also be days of advocacy to oppose cuts to public programs that help hungry people living in poverty. Individuals or congregations who participate in the fast could also write letters to Congress or make financial offerings to support advocacy on days of fasting. Support for a candidate for public office can also be a form of advocacy.
Are there symbols for the fast? We invite people to wear burlap to represent the sackcloth worn by the Jewish people in their time of lamentation. It might be a strip around the wrist. Pastors might wear a stole made of burlap on Sunday morning.
How do I join? Call 800-822-7323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will welcome you.
Video Message Transcript
The transcript of Presiding Bishop Curry’s video message follows:
There is a wonderful book that was published some years ago titled Eat, Pray, Love. I want to invite you to fast, pray, and love by advocating for those who have no one to advocate for them.
On May 21, I am going to join with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and many of our ecumenical friends, in fasting for the day, and beginning a fast on the 21st of every month, continuing until the end of the year 2018, when the 115th Congressional session comes to an end.
Here is the reason for that fast: That time of the month, around the 21st of every month, is a very difficult time for people who are on public assistance and have received their assistance earlier in the month. So we will fast and pray, to pray that our government and our leaders will find a way to do what is just and kind and compassionate in the best of the American spirit.
But we will not only fast and pray. We are asking you to join with us in advocating in a variety of ways for the poor, for those who need public assistance for children who are the primary beneficiaries of most of the forms of assistance that our government provides. We are asking you to join with other Christians and other people of goodwill to help our government reflect the best of the American spirit by feeding the hungry, caring for our children, and making sure that everyone has the opportunities for life and liberty not only in our country, but in our world.
There is a story in the Bible, in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the story of the people of God who found themselves in some tough times, and there was a woman named Esther who rose up and accepted the challenge at some risk to herself. A challenge to save her people when they were in jeopardy. At a moment of decision when she was trying to decide whether or not she should enter into the work to save her people, someone named Mordecai sent her a word, and said, “Perhaps Esther, you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
Maybe we are Esther. Perhaps we in the Episcopal Church, perhaps we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, perhaps we who are Christians and people of faith and goodwill have come to the kingdom for such a time as this, to help our country make sure that no child goes to bed hungry.
Eat, Pray, Love is a wonderful book but I want to invite you beginning on May 21 to fast, to pray, and to love by advocating for our children.
God love you, God bless you, and you keep the faith.
Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry
The Episcopal Church