Woke Chicago church ‘fasting from whiteness’ during Lent

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A church in suburban Chicago is “fasting from whiteness” during Lent by putting a pause on any hymns by white musicians.

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For the 2022 Lenten season, the 40-day period that precedes Easter, the First United Church of Oak Park announced on its website that it would do 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. Our music will be drawn from the African American spirituals tradition, from South African freedom songs, from Native American traditions, and many, many more,” reads the note.

“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.”

In a YouTube video posted by the church on the first Sunday of Lent, the Rev. Lydia Mulkey explains why it chose to abstain.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

“In this fast from whiteness, of course, I cannot change the color of my skin or the way that allows me to move through the world but I can change what I listen to, whose voice I prioritize,” Mulkey said.

“And so that is kind of the place for our worship services, through Lent, that we would fast for a time from prioritizing white voices.”

The Rev. Craig Howard, the executive presbyter of the United Church’s Chicago district, told the Washington Times that he had not been made aware of First United’s “fast” but he supported the church.

“I find it’s like a reversal of the racialized reality in which we live,” Howard said. “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 surmised: “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.”

He added: “They did not say, we’re going to ignore the white voice. We’re just going to now just tone it down and see what voice has come to the top and see what message we may get from those voices.”

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