“Last night I presented at the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call in Washington DC on LGBTQ Homeless Youth with Jeff Krehely, Director of LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress and AndrÃ© Wade, Program and Policy Analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Jeff and AndrÃ© outlined the policy issues that currently affect LGBT homeless youth and I talked about ways that pastors and congregations can listen to, interact with and advocate for homeless youth in ethically and faithfully responsible ways.
Jeff and AndrÃ© shared alarming facts and stats that are compelling. I was shocked to learn that the US only spends $200 per homeless youth each year, which is supposed to pay for their education, housing and reconnect them with healthy families. Yet, this amount doesn’t even cover their food needs. They also talked about their work with Sen. Kerry, who for the first time is introducing a bill that earmarks funds for LGBT youth.
I shared that in San Francisco, there are estimated to be 5,300 homeless youth, 40% of which have diverse sexual and gender expressions. Last Saturday, at an event called the Great San Francisco Sleep-In, in partnership with the National Operation Shine America event that drew attention to queer homelessness across the country. I marched, listened to, sang with and slept on the streets with more than 300 homeless youth in San Francisco’s Castro district. You can read more about the event here.
This event was part of my Doctorate of Ministry work, supported by funds from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, studying the Vanguard youth from the ’60’s and the methods the pastors who supported them used to empower the young adults. Over the past two years, I’ve not only been studying the past, but also listening, working with and being a pastor to the queer youth who live in San Francisco.
These young adults inspire me with their ability to survive. They remind me that my call to work with individuals in poverty and to be a moment of hope in lives that usually only hear “no” and experience darkness is exactly the work that I am called to do. They broke open my heart and made it impossible for me to not advocate for them.
One of the most powerful moments for me was when a member of First United Lutheran dropped off some leftovers from a fancy dinner in the midst of the pouring rain. The young adults, some as young as 12, called the bags of prime rib and gnocchi “rich people food” and consumed it with the typical hunger of a teenager. But when offered plates and silverware, the youth looked with confused eyes and remarked that they hadn’t eaten with plates for years because all their food came from garbage cans. So, we all ate together without plates, with our bare hands that were washed clean from the rain.
This moment made me thankful for ELM and all the support I’ve had over the years, to do what I do best; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and to listen to those who are lonely. Your support has enabled me to live a life that inspires others and helps me to preach stories that unveil the humanness, fragility and heart of poverty, faith and community.
Tomorrow, hundreds of people of faith will join me in telling their stories about the things that move their hearts and drive their passions. If you follow ELM’s work, I trust that you value the ways that integrity and honesty can change culture, politics and the church. You may not have it in you to sleep on the streets or to make the trip out to Capital Hill, but you can talk to those in your congregation, family and join email lists (like HRC‘s) that will make it easy to email or fax your politicians during key time periods or for important votes.
If you’re shy like me, and not the kind of person who is likely to speak out or become active on your own, or if you get overwhelmed by the number of causes that need a voice, I remind you that, we as Lutherans’ owe our faith and culture to a man who was a loud mouth. He shouted his ideas from rooftops, posted them on doorways and printed volume upon volume of his thoughts – they weren’t all good, unbiased and sometimes they’re not even nice. Yet, without Luther speaking out what would we believe? What kind of faith would we have?
So today, I encourage you to speak out for LGBTQ issues, homeless youth and for the other issues that move your heart. Speak as if your voice is the one that will shape the faith of future generations for centuries to come.
We follow a loud mouth God whose voice booms from clouds, burning bushes and from the still small voice inside of us. May we be people who go and do likewise.”
Rev. Megan M. Rohrer is a nationally recognized leader on issues of homelessness, gender, sexuality and faith. Executive Director of WELCOME – a communal response to poverty in San Francisco, CA, Pastor Rohrer is an activist, advocate and educator who speaks and preaches nationally. She is a member of Proclaim and a long time member of the ELM community. She will be writing about Clergy Call throughout the week, so check back.