Fasting & Feasting in a Pandemic

I submitted the following article for the Riverview Reflector's Spring Issue:

In the church we are currently in the season of Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter during which we are encouraged to either fast from something or take on something for the purpose of spiritual renewal. Fasting (giving up something that we enjoy), giving of alms (contributions to help people who are in need), and times of focused prayer are all common practices that are encouraged during Lent. Most years.

This year, as we continue to navigate the pandemic, I have to wonder if those same practices are the best practices to bring about the intended result of spiritual renewal. Certainly alms giving is always a good practice, both for the giver and the one who receives. And this year the needs are many and everywhere. In our congregation we continue to explore what the needs are (globally and locally) and how best we can respond to them. Likewise, focused prayer is always a good practice.

At the same time, the pandemic has forced all of us to give up so much during the past year. I have a hard time endorsing “giving up” in a year when we are already living with such great loss. Perhaps this is the year to give up “giving up” during Lent. Perhaps our spirits will be better renewed in extending generosity and compassion to ourselves and to each other than in giving up our favorite comfort food or beverage.

I’ve come across a resource that seems more fitting for Lent in a pandemic. It was written by William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) an American motivational writer, teacher and pastor. It is titled Lenten Litany on Fasting and Feasting*. He suggests, among other things, fasting from complaining and feasting on appreciation and fasting from suspicion and feasting on truth.

Ward’s suggested fasts and feasts are ones we could not only practice for 40 days but take on as life-long habits. They are habits of the heart, mind and soul that will bring about not only spiritual renewal, they will, if committed to, have the potential to bring about societal and global renewal.

Ward’s practices of fasting and feasting are ones I can heartily endorse to my congregation in time of pandemic and always.

Wilma Wiens is Minister of Pastoral & Spiritual Care at Grace Bible Church, 366 Oakwood Ave.

* Lenten Litany on Fasting and Feasting

Photo credit - Kyle Head

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