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Fasting from Communion, Fasting for Love
2 WINTER 2020
   By the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of the General Assembly
I officiated at a celebration of Holy Communion twice during the first week of March 2020—once with the folks at Fallingbrook Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Ont., and then with the Life & Mission Agency Com- mittee and staff at church offices. Af- ter that, it was seven months before I could stand once again at the Table of the Lord to break bread and offer the cup of blessing to the gathered Christian community.
Yes, we had a few conversations about doing something online, either by live streaming worship or by video conferencing. But it didn’t feel right to me. With the live stream option, I thought about people watching later on (as many do every Sunday) and participating in the holy meal at a separate time or on another day. That didn’t seem like communion to me. And although a video conference of worship would gather people togeth- er virtually at the same time, it would also leave many people out who were not able to connect in that way. In ad- dition, I had a sense that the celebra- tion would be deeply impoverished by the reality that we would not be able to serve one another.
And so we fasted. It wasn’t really a fast that we chose, but one imposed upon us by the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we fasted nonetheless.
I have to admit that I have never seriously considered taking on the spiritual practice of fasting. I am amazed when I think about Jesus fasting and praying in the wilderness for 40 days before he began his min- istry. It reminds me of how uncom- fortable, grumpy and complaining I get when a single meal is delayed by a few hours.
This summer, I witnessed another young man fasting and praying for 44 days. Tristen Durocher began walk- ing 635 km from Air Ronge in North- ern Saskatchewan to Regina where I
live. A teepee was set up on the lawn in front of the provincial legislature, and Tristen observed a vigil there, fasting and praying for the victims, families and communities of those impacted by suicide—especially In- digenous and young people who are ending their own lives at an alarming rate in Saskatchewan because they have no hope.
Tristen’s vigil was political, as he fasted 44 days for the 44 MLAs who voted against a proposal for a robust suicide prevention plan that would be proactive in addressing the root causes of depression and despair among young people in northern communities. But it wasn’t a hun- ger strike intended to put pressure on the politicians. It was a spiritual discipline with the purpose of draw- ing attention to the terrible suffering and urgent need of young Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.
Although the government wasn’t convinced by his witness, taking him to court in an attempt to get him to leave the legislative grounds, many in the broader community had their eyes opened to the concerns he was raising. Folks visited the site, prayed with and for Tristen, and joined in the movement advocating for a bet- ter suicide prevention plan. A coali- tion of faith leaders in Saskatchewan made a Joint Statement on Suicide Prevention, praising Tristen Duro- cher’s efforts and appealing to the government to respond positively. Provincial Court Judge, Justice Grae- me Mitchell, upheld Tristen’s consti- tutional right to carry out his peaceful prayer vigil on the land, and called for amendments to the bylaws that would prevent him and others from doing so in the future.
These impacts were cer tainly less than Tristen would have hoped for, but they were significant. His fasting was not just about personal deprivation or self-imposed suffering. It was an of- fering of love and a call for justice that people began to hear and heed.
It makes me wonder about what good God was doing through our months of fasting from Holy Com- munion. Even without our having chosen this fast, might God’s Spirit have been working in us as we ex- perienced that spiritual hunger? And what more might God do through our times of enforced fasting once we accept these periods as the reality and attend to what God may do in and through us because of them?
One thing I noticed during the months of lockdown was that I be- came more aware of the members of our community who are regularly homebound and unable to attend wor-
The Rev. Amanda Currie leading communion.
ship and communion services at the church. Even when we know about them and bring home communion services to them occasionally, some of our members may go many months between oppor tunities to share the Lord’s Supper, and they continue to be completely cut off from the full gath- erings of the Christian community. I hope that we can remedy this when most of us return to regular celebra- tions of the sacraments.
Every time we would have been hosting a communion service, I found myself reflecting on the ways the church is called upon and equipped to become the body of Christ in the world. Although we could not sit together and pass trays of bread between us, I preached often about how we could continue to serve one another and our neighbours in love, offering ourselves and our gifts to sustain the weary ones around us.
And I watched with joy as members of our community enacted that call- ing. They dropped off groceries for elderly neighbours and phoned, en- couraged and visited (when possible) those who were alone. They thought creatively about how to suppor t health care workers, essential service work- ers and families with extra challenges. They responded to arising pandemic needs in our own community and
around the world, and continued to give generously to the mission and ministry of the church.
By the time we were approaching World Communion Sunday on Oct. 3, 2020, my congregation had begun meeting again in person for worship. The preparations for the sacrament of Holy Communion were detailed and careful, with much consultation with the COVID-19 Provincial Guide- lines for Places of Worship and atten- tion to how we could share the meal both safely and meaningfully.
I noticed that among the elders and other leaders who planned with me, the desire to truly serve one another was paramount. Even when it came time for the minister to drink from the cup, the elder who could not pick up the cup (as I had already touched it) gestured toward it warmly, inviting me to take and drink as Jesus had invited me to do.
I also became intensely aware of the spiritual communion that we share with Christians around the world, not only with those who were gathered around the Table that day, but most especially with those who could not gather. While I gave thanks for the communion that we share with many churches around the world, my heart hurt as I thought about the ways in which that communion is broken by
conflict, doctrinal divides, cultural and racial tensions and more.
Since we continued to live stream the service, I prayed for those mem- bers of our community who shared with us spiritually, while continuing their fast. As I remembered those watching and praying with us from their homes, from different cities and countries, and those whose hunger was yet to be filled, the words of the prayer took on new depth of meaning:
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these your gifts of bread and wine, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ. By your Spirit unite us with the living Christ and with all who are baptized in his name, that we may be one in ministry in every place. As this bread is Christ’s body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world.
I hope that we will continue to be able to celebrate Holy Communion in my congregation regularly from now on, but I believe that the enforced fast from the sacrament did open up some new ways for God’s Spirit to work within me and my community. Let us not forget those who continue to be hungry, and let our lives and ministries feed and bless our com- munities and the world around us.

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