A Chicago-area church is making headlines for purportedly making a Lenten pledge to stop any music or liturgical elements “written or composed by White people.”
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First United Church of Oak Park’s “fast from whiteness” is being observed during Lent, the 40 days commemorating Jesus’ fast in the desert. Lent runs this year from March 2 through April 14.
The church’s controversial move — described as a “mix of ‘giving something up’ and ‘taking something on'” — has sparked local and national media attention.
“In our worship services throughout Lent, we will not be using any music or liturgy written or composed by white people,” a statement on the church website purportedly reads. “Our music will be drawn from the African American spirituals tradition, from South African freedom songs, from Native American traditions, and many, many more.”
The statement continued, “For Lent, it is our prayer that in our spiritual disciplines we may grow as Christians, united in the body of Christ with people of all ages, nations, races, and origins.”
A Facebook post on the First United Church of Oak Park published March 29 advertises one of the church’s “evotional” reflections, which are also tackling these issues, and acknowledges the so-called “fast from whiteness:
The church also reportedly has a sign on its front lawn that reads “Fasting From Whiteness” and includes text noting that the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color will be the basis of “worship life” during Lent, TP USA reported.
In a video uploaded on March 6, 2022, to the church’s YouTube page, a woman identified by The Washington Times as the Rev. Lydia Mulkey, associate pastor of education at the church, reportedly explained the purpose of the fast.
While she said it might at first seem strange, she offered reasons why the church decided to dive into it.
“We are fasting from whiteness. … Now, in this fast from whiteness, of course, I cannot change the color of my skin or the way that that allows me to move through the world but I can change what I listen to, whose voice I prioritize,” she told the congregation. “And so that is kind of the plan for our worship services, through Lent, that we would fast for a time from prioritizing White voices and that we would use the music and poetry of black, indigenous and people of color and see what the spirit might do among us.”
Watch at the 9:30-mark:
The Rev. Craig Howard, the executive presbyter of the United Church’s Chicago district, told The Washington Times he was unaware of the fast, but, based on what a reporter told him, he understood the intent.
“I find it’s like a reversal of the racialized reality in which we live, where, in this reality, the assumption is that what is to be known, is what the majority culture, the White culture, determines or says these are the rules,” Howard said. “It sounds to me that they’re kind of flipping it, saying instead of making the majority voice the loudest voice, we’re going to listen to the minor players [who have not] been heard in the past, and make them the primary players again.”
Read more about the story here.
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