By Egan Millard
Episcopal News Service

Read Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s 2020 Lenten message and you may notice something different from previous years. For one thing, the tone is noticeably solemn, with phrases like “profound division,” “genuine crisis of national character” and “great national concern and urgency.”

But there’s also an invitation from Curry to join him and a group of other Christian leaders in weekly fasting on behalf of the United States as it grapples with “violence, discord, and confusion,” in the words of the Prayer for Our Nation found in the Book of Common Prayer, which Curry invokes in his message.

Curry and the same group of diverse leaders from evangelical, mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches released the “Reclaiming Jesus” statement in 2018. This year, in light of what they see as a worsening political and cultural crisis in the U.S., those leaders are committing to fast every Wednesday from Ash Wednesday until Advent.

But why fasting? And why now? Episcopal News Service sat down with Curry at the Executive Council meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 15 to talk about what led to this statement and invitation. The conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ENS: Many people today have come to see fasting as a sort of archaic form of self-punishment. What does fasting mean to you?

There are a lot of ways that people can fast. Abstinence, giving up something, is a modified form of fasting. Some people fast by giving up food – but you drink water, no matter what – until sunset, and then there’s just the 24-hour fast.

Part of fasting is a spiritual practice that, when I’ve done it, makes me realize how dependent I am on the habits that I have. We need food to live – that’s not the question. I’m more dependent on the excess that is beyond what is necessary for living. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that! So it is not punishment; it’s just kind of a calling back to what is essential, both biologically and spiritually. What do you really need to live? And that is quite liberating.

Read the rest at ENS.

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