This Lent, a Chicago church congregation is gaining national attention for their decision to “fast from whiteness,” and the pastor says they're receiving “white supremacist backlash.”
First United Church in suburban Chicago has been displaying this message on its front lawn’s signpost during Lent 2022: “Fasting from Whiteness.”
The online announcement describing First United’s fast says, “For Lent this year, First United is doing a mix of “giving something up” and “taking something on.”
"In our worship services throughout Lent, we will not be using any music or liturgy written or composed by white people," the church’s website continues.
Reverend John Edgerton, the church’s lead pastor, said in a statement, "In keeping with the Lenten spiritual discipline of fasting, our intent was to lay aside our usual frames of reference and open ourselves to hearing the Gospel message through the voices of Black People, Indigenous People, and People of Color."
Edgerton told ABC Chicago that "fasting from whiteness” is about promoting more love and celebrating diversity in their community.
"We at First United love the diversity of this community in Oak Park, we love the racial and economic diversity, the bringing together people who are not the same, and that is what America is supposed to be about," Edgerton said. "For us, Lent is all about loving more people, loving more of the ways that Christian music blesses our life, and loving more of our neighbors.”
The local church’s Lenten fast has gained national publicity, but not without criticism. Edgerton said First United has received over 1,000 hateful messages and backlash from white supremacists.
The lead pastor and his congregation are focusing on the joy of other Christians engaging in conversations about Lent and the beauty in celebrating diverse music, ABC Chicago reports.
"This has been a season of the best church that I can remember. Our music has been beautiful. The prayers have been wonderfully crafted and the spirit in the place has been amazing," Edgerton said.