WASHINGTON — The Presbyterian Church (USA) is inviting all Presbyterians to participate in a monthly church-wide fast for “repentance, reflection, and coordinated actions” to empathize with those suffering from hunger and famine around the world.
Over the next year, the denomination will study aspects of the world hunger crisis, including trade policies, climate change and the rising cost of food. It will release its findings along with scriptural studies during each fasting period.
Starting on the first Friday of every month and ending the next day, individuals will abstain from food for 40 hours. The fasting will end with a communal meal and a time for people to respond to the crisis by donating time and money to the cause.
“We hope that people will understand the food crisis in a much bigger way,” said Ruth Farrell, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. She believes the spiritual discipline of fasting will spark creativity with how people will respond to the crisis.
“They can respond by changing their lifestyle,” she said. Buying from local farmer’s markets and being aware of how trade agreements affect other countries, she added, are ways that people can help.
The first weekend of the fast will focus on trade agreements and food costs around the world. “Food and water should not be treated like commodities subject to trade agreements,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
“Food should be separate and treated differently because lives are stake.”
Bartlett hopes the monthly fasting will be a catalyst for change.
“We are open to God's guidance,” he said. “Our strength in numbers and our collective discernment will bring us to a different place than where we would have been before.”