First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St. | Photo courtesy

In the midst of a Holy Week from hell, First United Church members experienced a moment of repentance and reconciliation.

With security concerns after backlash to its “Fasting from Whiteness” Lent theme went viral, the church, 848 Lake St., was looking for an alternative location to hold its Maundy Thursday service.

“It was a matter of coincidence,” explained a letter to members of Oak Park Temple, “or, as Rev. (John) Edgerton put it, ‘a small, or perhaps a medium-sized miracle’ that Rabbi (Daniel) Kirzane had a prearranged coffee date with the pastor last week. During that conversation, we learned that security threats were causing them to look for an offsite location for their Maundy Thursday dinner and service – and despite the difficult history of this particular holiday and the Jewish community, Oak Park Temple offered to help.”

That help came in the form of Oak Park Temple, 1235 N. Harlem Ave., offering space in its synagogue to members of the beleaguered Christian church.  “Oak Park Temple,” the letter continued, “enjoys a strong partnership with First United Church, whose lead pastor, John Edgerton, is the president of the interfaith Community of Congregations. That relationship strengthened this week as we welcomed the church to celebrate Maundy Thursday in our synagogue.”

The members of Oak Park Temple who attended the Christian service used words like “haunting” and “beautiful” to describe their experience.  Pauline Coffman, a member of First United who attended the service, pointed out the overlap between the Jewish and Christian holy days by saying, “I think the emphasis on Jesus’ concern and for care for those who are oppressed was the theme of the service, and we can all relate to that.” A “blessed” coincidence of the act of hospitality is that the setting for the Maundy Thursday story is Jesus and his disciples sharing a meal prior to the celebration of Passover.

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