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Churches rally against racism

Posted: July 21 2021 at 09:03 AM
Oak Park Rally

Members of First UMC in Oak Park hold a rally against racism in front of the church after Sunday worship on July 18, 2021.

Stepping outside their church buildings with signs and noisemakers, many United Methodists across the Northern Illinois Conference participated in the first-ever DIY Rally Against Racism conference-wide campaign on Sunday, July 18, and several others are planning events later this summer.

First UMC in Oak Park reported that 30 people rallied after Sunday's worship service outside on the church steps and then lined the sidewalks. In addition to the purchased signs reading, "United Methodists Stand Against Racism," they displayed homemade signs reading, "HONK for Racial Justice," "Praying for Racial Justice," and "LOVE your neighbor as yourself; ALL your neighbors."

This rally was not the church's first demonstration against racism in this community. Still, organizers say it was a special opportunity to join with all the Northern Illinois Conference in a joint UMC witness. 

"Lines of cars on Oak Park Avenue slowed, honked, gave a thumbs up, and one passenger even blew us a kiss," said Liz Gracie, First UMC member. "Before we left, the newly appointed Rev. Adonna Reid challenged us to start planning a follow-up activity."

Members at First UMC in Mendota also rallied after Sunday worship at the town square's Veteran’s Park and raised nearly $400 for the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race. 

"We wanted to be part of the denominational effort to raise awareness of the sin of racism," said Rev. Mary Bohall. "Because we are a rural community, we knew it was important to design an event that suited our context. We wanted it to be educational, motivating, and low-risk because it was our first time as a church directly addressing matters of race. We believe that loving our neighbors the way we're called to do so means learning to hear the cry of our neighbors, hold ourselves accountable, and work compassionately to participate in bringing them justice."

Around 40 members of First UMC in Elmhurst gathered on the church lawn on July 18, located on a busy street in town, to rally against racism. 

"With our United Methodists Stand Against Racism banners proudly and prominently displayed, we joined together to sing songs, listen to speakers, and sign the United Methodists Stand Against Racism pledge," said Lisa Rogers, First UMC's Dir. of Youth Ministries. "Our speakers covered topics including the history of racism in the UMC, an overview of the anti-racism initiatives of the Northern Illinois Conference and our congregation, next steps, and local election information."

In addition, organizers set up a children's table with crafts promoting peace, justice, and anti-racism and a library and resource table offering anti-racism materials that anyone could check out.

"The event was an excellent opportunity for members of our congregation and community to recognize the great work United Methodists are doing and to recommit to Standing Against Racism," said Rogers.

Other churches that participated included North Shore UMC in Glencoe and Friendship UMC in Bolingbrook, which reported that quite a few cars blew horns during their rally. Someone suggested the church do this every second Sunday after church.

Grace UMC in Lake Bluff held their rally Sunday morning on July 18 after their morning worship service with about 13 people in attendance. "We held an open discussion, heard a report on the church's major initiative to assist our neighbor communities, discussed news topics concerning race and what we might do in future to combat race," said Grace UMC member Len Gusafson.

St. Andrew UMC in Carol Stream is planning a future event. 

If your church would still like to participate, visit umcnic.org/rallyagainstracism for more details.

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