Oak Park First United Church ‘fasting whiteness’ for Lent, despite ‘massive white supremacist backlash’

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) — As the Christian season of Lent draws to a close, the senior pastor of First United Church in Oak Park speaks out for the first time about his congregation’s chosen Lenten fast.

“For us, Lent is about loving more people, loving more how Christian music blesses our lives, and loving our neighbors more,” Reverend John Edgerton said.

Edgerton said promoting more love and celebrating differences was the inspiration behind the title of a sign on her front lawn: “Fasting from whiteness.”

“At First United, we love the diversity of this community in Oak Park, we love the racial and economic diversity, bringing together people who are not the same, and that’s what America is meant to be.” , did he declare.

The senior pastor said the meaning of the bold title was inspired by love for his diverse community. The sacrifice forsook a traditional observance of Lent to exclusively showcase the voices and music of black, indigenous and other people of color.

The decision of the little church has since lifted them from a local stage to a world stage.

“As a local church, we could never have dreamed that our proclamation of the gospel would reach a national audience, an international audience,” Reverend Edgerton said. “We are thrilled that there are so many Christians joining the conversations about the meaning of Lent.”

Edgerton said the season of Lent also means taking on something, but in this case, that included taking some backlash. In a statement, the church said it received “white supremacist backlash”, including more than 1,000 hateful messages.

But the reverend did not choose to focus on that, but rather on the joy that resulted.

“It’s been the best church season I can remember. Our music has been beautiful. The prayers have been beautifully crafted and the spirit of the place has been amazing,” he said. “It’s been difficult in all the best ways and comforting in all the ways we need to come out of this pandemic.”

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