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Sharpton brings forceful message to Aurora church

The Rev. Al Sharptspeaks Sunday morning St. John Church Aurora. | David Sharos~For Sun-Times Medi

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks Sunday morning at St. John Church in Aurora. | David Sharos~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 11, 2014 6:24AM

American Baptist minister Al Sharpton has never been one to mince words about his feelings regarding race and the positions he has taken on it and other issues over the years.

But a forceful message was what organizers at the St. John Church in Aurora were looking for Sunday as Sharpton was the featured speaker at a service held at 9:45 a.m. The former candidate for Democratic nomination for the 2004 presidential election delivered an impassioned message for 45 minutes Sunday, in which he touched on a variety of topics from today’s music to finding a cause.

Sharpton stayed away from political issues in general and chose to focus on Scripture as well as living a life for a purpose other than oneself and material objects.

“People aren’t remembered because of how much money they had or the car they drove or the big house they lived in, but rather if you lived for something that was more than you,” Sharpton said as many of the congregation spoke in affirmation throughout most of his remarks. “Two minutes after you’re gone, people are only remembered for what they’ve done for more than themselves.”

Sharpton challenged the congregation to action and said that when people die and “go to their rest,” the sentiment is false.

“We don’t need to ‘go to our rest’ — we’ve been taking a rest down here, and you don’t need a rest from rest,” he said. “Where is the cause? What do you stand for?”

Sharpton spoke harshly about today’s music as compared to the soul and gospel music of generations ago, and he warned that today’s profanity in lyrics reflects how people have lost their way.

“You become that which you put rhythm to and become what you proclaim,” he warned. “Musically, many blacks have been sedated into total inferiority.”

Sharpton also spoke about challenging experiences in life and said he would rather be with someone who had been knocked down, persecuted, scandalized and rejected rather than a person who had never faced adversity.

“I fly every day around the country, and I don’t worry about the weather or things like that,” he said. “The only thing that bothers me is if I’m in a plane with a pilot who has all his training and licenses but he’s never flown. What’s he going to do when he gets up in the clouds and there is turbulence? We need folks who have been through stuff.”

Staff member Sybil Luster said the church was looking “for a controversial speaker for its ‘political Sunday service’ and found it in Sharpton.

“We are holding services on various topics each Sunday as part of Black History Month,” Luster said. “Today is ‘Political Awareness Sunday,’ which will be followed by a ‘Community Awareness Sunday’ and then an ‘Educational Sunday’ where we’ll be looking at historical black colleges.”

Luster described Sharpton as being “very popular in the black community,” adding that “most people are aware of who he is.”

“He’s a well-known person and is outspoken,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon was invited to attend Sunday’s service and said beforehand that she was looking forward to “Political Awareness Sunday” and hearing Sharpton. She spoke about the need for voices for the black community today.

“There is always plenty of room for leadership and those seeking to achieve faith-based long-term goals,” Simon noted. “This should be an exciting Sunday.”

Sharpton appealed even to youngsters such as Naperville resident Taylor Demming, 18, a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School. Demming said her grandparents watch Sharpton every day on TV and “have been inspired by his words of wisdom.”

“I want to call them after I’ve seen him and tell them about it,” Demming said. “I think for blacks today the message is to stay positive and true to who you are. Our generation wants to be educated and help others out and hopefully get to where someone like Mr. Sharpton is at.”

Church member Candice Richardson of Naperville said Sharpton’s words “resonate with today’s society and are appropriate for where we are.”

“He is the voice of the common person, and he had traction in all communities,” Richardson said.

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