A Fort Wayne pastor has decided to live on water alone for 40 days as a statement against the spate of gun violence that has claimed the lives of 15 city residents this year.
The Rev. Bill McGill, pastor of Imani Baptist Church, told the congregation Sunday he would fast for 40 days beginning Wednesday and ending May 19, the Christian holy day of Pentecost.
His aim is to point out the preciousness of life and empower fellow Christians to act as agents of change in their environment, he said Monday.
Two of the dead were relatives of congregation members, McGill said.
Having seen yard signs that promoted 40 days of fasting and prayer to end abortion, he adapted the message, McGill said.
I thought 40 Days for Life – why not 40 Days to Defeat Strife? McGill said.
Fasting to combat extraordinary circumstances has its roots in Scripture, he said.
Jesus fasted in the wilderness, tempted by the devil, for 40 days to prepare himself to start his ministry.
And, Jesus told his disciples, when they were unable to cast out a resistant demon, that the problem could not be resolved except by prayer and fasting.
Jesus is our example, McGill said. You know, he made some claims that we would do greater things than he. If he is going to be our living example, we ought to be able to do this.
McGill decided to end the fast on Pentecost because it commemorates the day Christians believe the disciples received extraordinary powers of healing and speaking in tongues.
At 56, McGill said this is the second time hes turned to a prolonged fast for spiritual direction. About 25 years ago, he fasted before beginning an HIV/AIDS ministry, he said.
He suffered no ill effects then, and, at 180 pounds and 6 feet tall, he is healthy now, he said.
Nonetheless, McGill has enlisted the guidance of family physician Dr. Charles Coats of Fort Wayne as a precaution.
McGill plans to drink at least two quarts of water daily, while monitoring his blood pressure at least weekly.
If he becomes too weak, he said, he will turn to a liquid nutrition supplement.
Both Elijah O. Freeman, 17, shot dead in the 900 block of Hugh Street near South Hanna Park on April 3, and Montez Brooks, 19, a former Bishop Luers High School football player, shot and killed during Easter weekend, were nephews of Imani members, McGill said.
He has challenged the congregation to give up one meal a day and use the time to pray for the community. He also has publicized the fast to other clergy in the hope of inspiring sacrificial acts by others.