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Profile of a Faithful and Joyous Giver

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Amalia Vagts, Clyde Walter, and Dick Tribble.

Amalia Vagts, Clyde Walter, and Dick Tribble.

by Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director

It is easy to have fun when you’re spending time with Dick Tribble.

We met when I was just starting out with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, in the midst of the ONE VOICE campaign. I was immediately at ease thanks to Dick’s warm and open smile, and easy-going manner. He eagerly committed to becoming a major contributor to the ONE VOICE campaign and shared his own passion for faithful and generous support for the church.

Dick has continued to be a faithful supporter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. In 2008, he led the effort to help us open our office in Chicago by providing a seed gift for the rent and office expenses.

This year, I met with Dick to tell him about the way our programs are growing thanks to our new program director, Jen Rude. Dick responded by making his most generous gift yet to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries in support of our new programs. He shared with me his excitement for ELM’s mission and the importance of giving generously to support causes that you care about.

Press

The large press at Anderson-Shumaker illustrates Dick’s Swedish pride.

Last month, I had the chance to visit Anderson-Shumaker, an open-die forging company started in 1902 by Dick’s great-grandfather. Dick gave Clyde Walter (ELM Development Committee member) and me a tour of the company – there were several moments where we thought we’d been transported back to the early 20th century as we watched the ancient art of pounding metal into forms. As Dick put it, “There’s only ever really been one way to form steel – you heat it up and pound it into the shape you want.”

Next year, Dick has agreed to be part of Faithful & Fabulous Chicago – a way for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to connect one-on-one with supporters who want to invest in the ministries of LGBTQ leaders. Dick is already leading the way by becoming one of the founding members of “Extraordinarily Faithful & Fabulous Friends,” those generous folks who give $2,500 or more annually in support of the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

A life-long Lutheran, Dick learned to be generous from his parents. Dick writes, “When we give of ourselves, our time, talents, and treasures, God is with us, and there is no darkness at all, and through those gifts, God completes our joy! That is always in my heart.”

Giving thanks today for Dick Tribble, and for all the dear people who give of themselves, their time, talents, and treasures to support LGBTQ ministers and their ministries.

Amalia Vagts

Amalia Vagts

 

Meeting with faithful & fabulous friends of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries like Dick Tribble is one of Executive Director Amalia Vagts’ greatest joys. She also enjoys reasons to wear a hardhat and safety goggles, which remind her of her favorite role at Holden Village – feeding the wood chipper.

Want a Better Body? Proclaim Retreat 2015

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Maybe winds will blow
Maybe seeds will fall
Who knows what love can grow
When those seeds are cracking open
-from “Wild Acre” by Trish Bruxvoort-Colligan

Check out this 2 minute video from the 2014 Proclaim Retreat!  Be inspired by the pictures and words of LGBTQ leaders while listening to the fabulous song “Wild Acre” written and performed by Trish Bruxvoort-Colligan, who along with Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan, served as musicians at the 2014 Proclaim Retreat.

“Who knows what love can grow when those seeds are cracking open” – planting, nourishing, and cracking open seeds of love, justice, vocation, collegial support, and renewal is part of what happens at the annual Proclaim retreat for LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians.  This yearly gathering is part of the sustenance of ministry for so many.  As Rev. Mark Erson says, “It is so nourishing to spend time with hope-filled, excited colleagues who are on fire about the ministry to which they have been called.”  This year Mark is helping to fuel the fire by serving on the 2015 retreat planning team.

Our 2015 Proclaim Retreat theme is Building Up the Body - to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).  Through training, workshops, worship, small groups, spiritual renewal, and recreation, we’ll seek to build up our tools and skills as we are equipped and seek to equip others to live as the body of Christ.  Our church needs strong, grounded, faithful leaders.  The Proclaim retreat strives to offer that life-giving nourishment for these LGBTQ leaders in service of our whole church and the body of Christ.

Registration for this event opens in January. ELM has just received a generous grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation which will provide retreat scholarships for at least 25 attendees who are in seminary or without call!  Your gift of $385 ensures a full scholarship for a seminarian, candidate awaiting call, or another member of our community who would otherwise be unable to attend.  Your gift of any amount makes this event possible. Thank you for your support!

jen 2013 retreatBy Rev. Jen Rude, ELM Program Director.  Jen recently began brewing her own Kombucha, an ancient fermented tea dubbed “the elixer of life” which contains vitamins, enzymes and probiotics.  Jen’s spiritual body is well nourished through her home congregation of Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, IL.

Walking the walk – through a food labyrinth

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Today we hear from guest blogger, Diaconal Minister Lauren Morse-Wendt. On the eve of Thanksgiving, we wanted to highlight and share a wonderful idea from the extraordinary congregation Edina Community Lutheran Church

Food Labyrinth

Food labyrinth at Edina Community Lutheran.

by Lauren Morse-Wendt, D.M.

At  Edina Community Lutheran Church we are always seeking new and active ways to engage in justice, so during this season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this as a simple and powerful activity for other congregations to try as well.

Our congregation is committed to mission and justice, and we often hear from parents and grandparents that they seek more opportunities to connect their children to these values.

But, most volunteer organizations are have a minimum age limit, so we’ve stretched ourselves to come up with opportunities accessible to all ages.  Throughout the month of November, we reminded the congregation to donate food and hygiene items to our regular food shelf partner.  By Christ the King Sunday, we had a hallway overflowing.

It took only twenty minutes to  transform the sanctuary into a labyrinth, turn on some meditative music, and invite babies to crawl, toddlers to toddle, and children and adults to prayerfully walk through the labyrinth praying about hunger and our part in both creating and ending it.

Our faith, our worship, our call to seek justice are intertwined…but sometimes we need a tangible reminder.  Physically moving the altar following worship, building a prayer labyrinth out of donated food, and prayerfully walking through the food itself was a physical reminder for what we as Children of God are called to do in this world.

Morse-Wendt_LaurenProclaim member Lauren Morse-Wendt is a Diaconal Minister serving as the Mission and Ministry Developer at Edina Community-Lutheran in Edina, Minnesota.  When she’s not joining her faith community in advocacy acts…she’s at home with her wife advocating for their 2 year old to go to bed before 9 p.m.

 

The Ministry of Justice, Activism, and Weeping

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Guest blog by Asher O’Callaghan

Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

It’s been about 4 years since I came out as transgender. I’ll always remember the first vigil I participated in as a part of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). This day has been observed annually on November 20th since 1998 to honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-trans* violence during the past year.

I had only been out for less than a month when I attended my first vigil and the experience was jarring. The event was held at a church building in a warm room with lots of candles and we sat in chairs forming concentric circles. As is typical at these vigils, each of the names of people who had been murdered was read. Even though I went into it aware of the heavy nature of the event, I was disturbed.

That year I was unsettled by several things I noticed about the names and people we were commemorating. Most of the people who had been lost that year were transwomen of color. We couldn’t pronounce many of the names. I will forever remember a comment my girlfriend made as we were driving home: “They butchered so many of the names.” It was true. Most of the people we were commemorating that year were from Central or South America. Yet most of the people gathered for the vigil (including me) were monolingual English speakers. I’m still glad the vigil was held, but the facilitators’ inability to correctly pronounce the names (and my own inability to do any better) spoke powerfully to me about how far my own experiences and privileges were from those of other trans* people around the world.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is important because we still live in a world where hate crimes happen based on gender identity and gender expression. The most basic of all human rights is the right to live. While coming out certainly did feel scary for me, this vigil and the others I’ve participated in since have been reality checks. Though I may worry about my right to marry, or the prejudices I may occasionally encounter, I feel pretty safe in public on a daily basis.

Some progress has been made towards trans* equality. Much has yet to be made.  Surely God grieves over this world in which some of God’s children are not safe to live their lives as themselves. We are all called “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Mic 6:8). For me, part of this call to ministry has meant bringing my whole self and all my experiences into the ministry I do: my gender identity, my sexuality, my cultural background, my privileges. At times this call to ministry has been a call to activism. At other times, it’s been a call to listen to the experiences of others. Sometimes a call to ministry means remembering to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

If you’re interested in participating in a local vigil, you can find one nearby here: http://tdor.info.

++

What does the asterisk stand for in trans*? The asterisk is meant to symbolize that the term is being used as an umbrella to include a broad diversity of gender identities. So this term is meant to include not only people who identify as transgender or transsexual, but also people who identify as genderqueer, non-binary, gender fluid, third gender (just as a few examples). To read more on this, click here.

Asher is a faithfully fabulous bisexual transguy. He’s a Proclaim member, a candidate for first call, and is serving on ELM’s Board of Directors. In December, he’ll be graduating from Luther Seminary. Asher is excited to have been assigned to the Sierra Pacific Synod. He’s from the gloriously gorgeous land of Colorado and looks forward to spending lots of time doing outdoorsy things in another lovely part of the country.

What I Learned in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

By Jen Rude, ELM program director

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.  1 Peter 4:10

Fritz Fowler, Jen Rude, Robin Fero outside the Chapel at Gettysburg Fritz and Robin are Proclaim members at Gettysburg Seminary

Proclaim members Fritz Fowler, Jen Rude, and Robin Fero outside the Chapel at Gettysburg Seminary.

They really needed to hear what I had to say. And I needed to hear their stories. Last week I visited The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. 

On both campuses I was able to meet with students, staff, and faculty – to develop relationships, share resources, and listen to folks who are committed to celebrating and lifting up the gifts of LGBTQ people called to ministry.  It’s clear things are shifting and becoming more open, but there continue to be significant challenges for LGBTQ people called to ministry.  Challenges I heard about include finding an internship congregation, coming out in a conservative congregation and wondering if you’ll lose your call, finding field ed and clinical pastoral education sites that are supportive of LGBTQ students, and waiting longer than straight candidates for first call and wondering if there will be a place to serve at all.

Whether folks knew about ELM or were new to our ministry, there was an overwhelming sense that what we offer to LGBTQ ministry leaders is a lifeline and a source of hope.  Several straight allies came to conversations on campus and said both that they didn’t quite realize some of the challenges their LGBTQ peers were facing to follow their call and that the gifts these LGBTQ leaders bring are desperately needed in our church.  

Through our work at ELM we are supporting and affirming LGBTQ people called to ministry, and helping the church live into a more inclusive vision of the diverse community of God, so that all the gifts God gives us are shared in service of the church and world.

I am honored to be able to connect with folks all over the church on behalf of ELM.  What we are doing is important work and we need to keep sharing the good news!

Thank you for your support that helps make these connections possible.

 

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

By Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director.  As a preschooler Jen’s predicted profession was “Cruise Director.”  She is thankful that she gets to use many of those cruise directing gifts in service of ELM.  And she feels old when people don’t know who Julie McCoy is.

Can I Sit at Your Table?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

eucharistI felt like I was in the junior high school lunchroom again.

Remember that nervous feeling as you reach the end of the cafeteria line and then turn to face a room full of tables filled with people talking and laughing. Where do you sit? Will you make a new friend? Will you trip on your way across the room?

This feeling came up last month when ELM program director Jen Rude and I attended the ELCA Conference of Bishops. In fact, it happens several times a year for me when I attend the ELCA Conference of Bishops and ELCA Church Council meetings. I don’t mean to suggest that anyone throws a milk carton at me or slides their books over so I don’t sit down next to them (okay, that did happen once). But the unavoidable sense that I’m on my own comes up time and time again.

People do often ask, “Why are you here? The 2009 decisions were ages ago. Why do you keep coming back?”

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries made an organizational commitment in 2009 to be present at these meetings in order to be a visible witness of LGBTQ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians in the church. Over the years, I have developed wonderful relationships with Bishops, Church Council members, and Churchwide staff who, like me, are committed to living out God’s work. I have witnessed powerful conversations about faith, the future of the church, and spirituality. I have deepened my own sense of compassion for those different than me. On a couple of occasions, I have been invited to speak to address questions about LGBTQ rostered leaders. At other times, I have experienced again the deep, biting, pain of exclusion that caused me to step away from the Lutheran church years ago. It has been a deeply challenging and spiritually enriching part of my work.

There have been times when I have been one of a handful of openly LGBTQ people in a room full of people discussing the future of LGBTQ people in our church. It is most often the case that my colleagues from ReconcilingWorks and I sit at the back of the room and observe conversations about our community happen around us. It’s true that the people having the conversation are the appointed and elected leaders of the church and we are visitors. It is also true that without even our silent presence, many of these conversations would likely be very different.

ELM invests in this work. Caring ELM donors contribute funds to pay for my travel so I can be present at these meetings. We believe that it is vital that we are present when the church invests time in talking about matters impacting LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians.

I am extremely grateful for the surprising and new conversations I’ve had with the leaders of our church. I have not forgotten a single time that a person looked up and smiled as I crossed the room and invited me to join their table.

When I think back on junior high, I often remember some of my darkest and most devastating days. I also know that I learned who I was in those days, and have never forgotten those who valued me for who I was.

I give thanks that I am able to do this work. I’m heading off to attend the ELCA Church Council this coming weekend and invite your prayers for the Council and others engaged in the work and life of the ELCA. And the next time you see someone looking for a place to sit, consider the good that might come from you offering a smile and the chair next to you!

Amalia VagtsAmalia Vagts, Executive Director of ELM, promises not to steal your cookie if you sit next to her at lunch.

 

Enrich & Transform: New Resource for Call Committees

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

By Jen Rude, program director

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.   Romans 12:2

Rev. Angela Joy Nelson.   Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Rev. Angela Joy Nelson. Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Is your congregation open to LGBTQ pastors?

Do you need help beginning that conversation?

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is thrilled to be sharing a new resource with you – Enrich & Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process.

ELM’s Ministry Engagement Team has been working hard gathering wisdom and insight from call committee members, LGBTQ pastors, synod staff, and bishops in an effort to develop a useable resource for call committees to become more open to the full diversity of gifts and people that God has called, including LGBTQ persons.  It’s inspiring, colorful, practical, and faithful.  And I’m going to keep this blog post short so you can get right to it.  Check it out HERE!  And help us get it out there – send it to a congregation looking for a new pastor in your area!

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ wonderful friends made this resource possible through their contributions. Your continued support will help us identify and produce more tools for ministry. You make ministry happen!

 

By Rev. Jen Rude.  Jen is enriched and transformed by the bold and faithful people that are connected with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  Today this especially includes all the voices and stories that are represented in this resource and the Ministry Engagement Team convener, Dr. Margaret Moreland, who was a champion on this project.

 

Coming Out, Being Proud

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
ELM Board

The ELM Board is thankful to lead the way in giving to ELM.

Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director

October 11 was International Coming Out Day. For some, this is a day to help make the decision to start coming out about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, the day becomes an annual ritual of “coming out” again. Visibility leads to understanding, to acceptance, to celebration.

Now we’re inviting you to come out and be proud about your support for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  Many people say they support LGBTQ leaders in the church. We want to celebrate you for investing in these leaders and their ministries. 

We’ve launched new Friends Circles to bear witness and give thanks to the wonderful people who sustain this ministry. These circles give us a chance to say thank you, and give you a chance to celebrate your work with ELM. We encourage you to share the good news of your support for ELM.  We’ll thank our friends in our 2015 Annual Report and in new ways throughout the year.

  • Extraordinary Friends – those giving $10+ monthly
  • Faithful Friends – those giving $300 yearly (or $25 monthly)
  • Fabulous Friends – those giving $600 yearly (or $50 monthly)
  • Faithful & Fabulous Friends – those giving $1,000 yearly (or $84 monthly)
  • Extraordinarily Faithful & Fabulous Friends – those giving $2,500+ yearly

Matthew 6:21 states it so beautifully: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I also like the version in The Message: “It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

When you invest your treasure in Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries…

You tell me it feels great to support this work. One long-time wonderful supporter was excited to find out they were now “Faithful & Fabulous Friends.” She told me, “I’ve been faithful before, but I’m not sure I’ve been fabulous!” We are thankful for ALL our friends!

Amalia Vagts

Amalia Vagts

Amalia Vagts, Executive Director, is thankful for a faithful and fabulous spouse who took part in a serious stewardship conversation and decided that he felt “extraordinarily” good about their decision to increase their monthly support.

Potlucks, Pumpkins, Provoking – Proclaim Pops in October

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

By Jen Rude, program director

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25

chicago proclaimThis past Sunday, on a crisp but sunny autumn day in Chicago, a group of Proclaim members and their families gathered in the home of Rev. Michael Fick and his husband Charlie.   What a delight to be together, to catch up, to encourage each other, to talk about our work, our families, transitions, new adventures and more – all of this enriched by the delightful tastes of pumpkin and apples and other fall treats at our potluck.

As part of the evening, we shared briefly a few things that are going on in the Proclaim community and it’s exciting! This month Proclaim members are connecting as part of a book group reading Patrick Cheng’s Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality and Spirit, gathering to talk about Advent worship planning, and hosting conversations for those navigating being a single seminarian or rostered leader.

Although the annual Proclaim retreat is the largest gathering of the Proclaim community, this year we’ve been trying to connect in person regionally as well.  Since a lot of the work we do together is via video and conference call or email it is always so nice to see each other in 3D.

Next month I’ll be in Philadelphia gathering with Proclaim members at the home of ELM board member Jim Kowalski and Bruce Jervis, as well as connecting with students at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.  Your support helps make these connections possible as we seek to support and affirm LGBTQ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians as they faithfully serve God in our church and world by proclaiming God’s love and provoking one another to love and good deeds.

jr photo

By Rev. Jen Rude.  Jen loves a good potluck and for this Proclaim gathering made a delightful avocado-lime purple cabbage and apple slaw (okay, so mostly her partner Deb made it).  She also delights in the funny mid-western tradition where no one will take the last piece/bite/scoop/slice during a meal.  

Pockets of Extraordinary Goodness

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

by Jen Rude, program director

Three Proclaim Seminarians at Wartburg: Paul Andrew Johnson, Becky Goche, and Gus Barnes, Jr.

Three Proclaim Seminarians at Wartburg: Paul Andrew Johnson, Becky Goche, and Gus Barnes, Jr.

A Monday morning email inbox.  You know the feeling, right?  But sometimes there are surprises.  Yesterday morning I got a delightful email from Rev. Amy Current.  Amy is the the Dean for Vocation at Wartburg Theological Seminary and she is also an ELM Seminary Advocate.  Through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Candidacy Accompaniment program we have connected with a staff or faculty member at each of the 8 ELCA seminaries and several divinity schools to serve in this role. They serve as allies for LGBTQ students in the seminary process, as a connector between ELM and the campus, and as people who are committed to the educational and vocational development of LGBTQ students.

In this Monday morning email Amy was letting me know that she had shared ELM’s Candidacy Guide with an LGBTQ student on campus. This student then shared the resource with their candidacy committee and now the whole committee is meeting together to discuss how they can be the best advocate for this student and for other LGBTQ students in the candidacy process in their synod.  The ripples are spreading.

It’s a wonderful thing to think about all the little (and big!) pockets of goodness that exist seeking to support and affirm LGBTQ leaders in our church, and to celebrate their unique gifts.  In fact, it’s extraordinary! If you are reading this blog, it’s because we consider YOU one of these pockets of extraordinary goodness.

 

jen 2013 retreatby Rev. Jen Rude

The little pockets of extraordinary goodness that Jen celebrates today include – warm fall sunshine in Chicago, the now 168 members of Proclaim, winter squash and fall apples, all those who worked to put together ELM’s resource for candidacy committees, and the special people who read the ELM blog –  all the way through to the end.