Next Sunday, we will have an opportunity here in the Charleston area to gather at an Ecumenical Table for World Communion Sunday. We are grateful that the Rev. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church in New York City, will be preaching.
Forbes will challenge us to do what we can to care for poor and hungry people — through our local and international missions, of course. He also will call us to urge the leaders of our country to exercise fiscal management that does not diminish human dignity and compassion for the most vulnerable among us.
We warmly invite our ecumenical brothers and sisters to join us at the table as we express our faith and solidarity with the least of these who are hungry.
Rev. Forbes will preach Oct. 6 at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian’s 9:45 and 11:15 a.m. services. Another service will be at 4 p.m. at St. James Presbyterian Church on James Island. It is hosted by the Rev. Charles Heyward, pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Gary Bullard, pastor of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, along with Bread for the World.
We pray for our country. As we write this, the House of Representatives has just voted by a slim margin to cut $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) over the next 10 years. Our country is polarized by ideology, and poor and hungry people in the U.S. and around the world are suffering.
We pray for children in schools who struggle to concentrate and to learn because they don’t have a good breakfast — or any breakfast at all — in the mornings. We pray for parents who struggle to provide food for their children, skipping meals at times, so that their children can eat.
On World Communion Sunday, many Christian communities celebrate our unity in Christ.
It’s not an accident that it is at a meal, his last meal, that Jesus established his covenant with the disciples, one that is a continuation of the covenant God establishes over and over again throughout the Bible. In this covenant, God promises to love and forgive us, asking that we just follow.
We can debate what that means, but for us it is a call to love God and to love our neighbors. The story of the Good Samaritan invites us to be good neighbors, not just to the people who look like us or live next door, but also to people we would call “other.”
The story of the feeding of the 5,000 who were hungry after listening to Jesus for hours, invites us to address the basic needs of people and not just to preach the gospel.
The story of Jesus feeding his disciples and performing miracles on the Sabbath critiques the establishment religion for not caring for the poor and vulnerable people in their midst.
As we gather at the table together next week, we will reflect on how it is that we, the establishment religion, care for the poor and vulnerable people in our midst, for those who are hungry. We will be thinking of the food pantries and soup kitchens that we support and of all the missions we do overseas.
But domestically, our private donations comprise merely 1/18 of the support for hungry families. The government does the rest. And with the upward of $40 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years, churches and charities would have to double our efforts to cover the losses.
We hope you will join us and continue to pray for our country and for all who are hungry and poor. For more information, please contact Rev. Nancy Neal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rev. LaMarco Cable (email@example.com).
— The Rev. Dr. Charles Heyward is pastor of St. James Presbyterian. The Rev. Gary L. R. Bullard is senior pastor of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian.