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Archive for February, 2013

In Memoriam: Pastor Paul Brenner

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
Paul Brenner

The Rev. Paul Brenner. Photo by Vince Donovan.


Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries celebrates the life and mourns the loss of the Rev. Paul Brenner, who passed away on February 24, 2013.    We remember Paul as a joyful member of Historic ELM Roster and Proclaim.  We think on his warm hugs and megawatt smile; and we remember all who grieve his death.

The following is re-posted from the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA:

In Memoriam: The Reverend Paul Brenner
November 2, 1939 – February 22, 2013
The Rev. Paul Brenner was born November 2, 1939 and died February 22, 2013. He was 74 years old.

Pastor Brenner received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Church Music from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and his Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He was ordained on June 12, 1966, in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and later approved for Word and Sacrament ministry by the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.

He was approved for transfer to the ordained ministry roster of the ELCA in May, 2010. He served as Interim Pastor at St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA from 2005 to 2006 and was called by the Sierra Pacific Synod Council to Interim Ministry in June, 2011.

His first parish call in the LCMS was to Grace Lutheran Church, Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as pastor from 1966 to 1976. He went on to serve as Interim Pastor of Guardian Lutheran Church, Mandarin, FL, from 1976-1978.

Feeling called to specialized hospice ministry, Pastor Brenner left the parish, and eventually the roster of the LCMS, to go on to serve as CEO of Hospice Northeast, Jacksonville, FL; CEO, Hospice of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, FL; CEO, Montgomery Hospice Society, Rockville, MD, CEO of Jacob Perlow Hospice, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City, NY; and Program Consultant, Children’s Hospice International, Alexandria, VA. During those years he continued in Word and Sacrament ministry in the Episcopal Church.

In his hospice work, he developed the first hospice inpatient facility in Florida and a residential facility for persons without caregivers in Maryland, the first program of care for Alzheimer’s patients, the innovative national Program of All Inclusive Care for Children and Families, the first hospice program for the deaf, the first hospice program to be licensed as a CPE training site, and led in the development of the first Department of Palliative Medicine, integrating hospice care and palliative care. He was active nationally and internationally and was published.

Pastor Brenner is survived by two adult sons, Paul Martin Brenner and Matthew Jason Brenner.

He died peacefully at his home under hospice care.

A Memorial Service will be held at:
Monday, March 4, 2013
St. Mark Lutheran Church
1111 O’Farrell Street
San Francisco, California

Lunch reception will follow

Blessed be the memory of this servant of God!


Guest Blogger: Cary Bass

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Guest blogger, Cary Bass is a member of Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  Cary shares his Ash Wednesday experience below.

Pastor Steve on the 66 Quintara bus

Ashes to go.

This past Ash Wednesday, I had a real experience with public on-the-street street ministry on behalf of my internship congregation, Christ Church Lutheran.  For the first time in the life of the congregation, Pastor Steve Sabin (at right) decided to try Ashes to Go on the street in San Francisco.  It was an interesting experiment in being public witnesses to God’s call.

We started out from our midday service, and without removing our vestments we waited for the 66 MUNI bus.  Even before the bus arrived a woman asked for imposition of ashes.  Steve performed the rite, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” and blessed her and she went on her way.

Distributing ashes at 9th and Irving

When the 66 bus arrived we hopped aboard it and traveled to 9th and Irving Street (at left) in the Inner Sunset, a district with trendy shops and eateries adjoining the UCSF Medical Center.  As we arrived we started to stand on the same corner that some people who were getting signatures for a petition.  We decided it would probably be better to move to a different corner so as not to create too much competition among those looking to engage the public in some manner or another.

Surprisingly enough, one gentleman who was signing people up for Greenpeace crossed over to our corner to engage us in conversation about what we were doing.  Although he wasn’t interested in receiving ashes, he was familiar enough with the practice, having been brought up Roman Catholic.

Our reception was phenomenal.  Over the course of an hour and a half, we had over fifty people come up to us to receive ashes in the form of a cross on their forehead. People from all walks of life, young and old, men and women, of all different colors. Roman Catholics as well as non-Roman Catholics, people who weren’t sure they were going to make it to worship services later, people who hadn’t been to church in years.  A number of people who chose not to receive ashes made it a point to inform us that they were happy to see us there.  A few people who didn’t receive it thanked us for reminding them that it was Ash Wednesday and they would be making it to worship services later. People were also surprised that we were there, not looking for something in return but in order to give something out.

We certainly garnished a lot more attention than those looking for petition signatures on the other corners.  And by the time we left 9th and Irving at 2:45, the other corners had cleared out.

Distributing ashes at Castro and Market

After that, we made our way to Castro and Market to try our luck in the heart of San Francisco’s historic “Gay district.”  There were no small number of people who were skeptical about our presence there, especially in a place where the presence of clergy in public traditionally meant that they were going to be yelled at in public to repent of their sins or face certain damnation.  Nobody, was, however, outright hostile, and there were at least twenty people who came by in the Castro to receive ashes from us as well.  One woman who had already had a cross on her forehead even mentioned that she had gotten it at St. Francis, my home congregation!

The truly high point of the day was when we boarded the final bus to take us the last stretch of the trip back to church.  The driver saw us and right away asked for Steve to provide him with the rite, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

ELM has provided this grant to enable this congregation, a fairly high liturgical one with a relatively small attendance, to have an intern, and I am learning so much about parish life by being the Vicar at Christ Church Lutheran.  But my spirit truly soars when I am out in public on the street doing public ministry.  Ashes to go is a great witness on the street to the public of what being Christian is all about.

Cary Bass is a 46 year old Candidate for Ministry with the Sierra Pacific synod, and currently serving as Vicar at Christ Church Lutheran.  Prior to his clergy life, he worked as the volunteer coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization behind Wikipedia, and as a writer, having published two short stories.  He lives full time with his spouse, Michael in their home in North Oakland, and Banjo, an 11-year old Staffordshire Terrier/Boxer mix.

ELM Ministry Grant update: EcoFaith Recovery in Oregon

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013


One of the six ministry grant programs Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is supporting this year is EcoFaith Recovery.  EcoFaith Recovery nurtures faith-based recovery groups and relational leadership networks to help individuals, communities and institutions emerge from our intoxication with consumerism to recover our relatedness to God, ourselves, one another, and the entire Earth community.

What is EcoFaith Recovery up to these days?

– Lenten devotions:

EcoFaith Recovery leaders are writing Lenten devotions on diverse areas related to faith-based recovery to a more sustainable way of life on their blog.  Pastors, community organizers, rank and file lay members, and interns will be offering their perspectives.  You can directly subscribe to the blog here.

A sample of Rev. Robyn Hartwig’s devotion-

As I shared in my sermon at St. Andrew Lutheran (Beaverton, OR) this morning, this Sunday’s Gospel reading reminded me of an experience I had on a week-long retreat of all of the fifth graders at my elementary school. Students were divided into groups that were each assigned to a different teacher for an exercise in orienteering. We were given compasses and told to use a map to find various checkpoints attached to trees or rocks in an unfamiliar landscape on the edge of the camp. Full story here.

– Hosting a workshop and lecture:

On Friday April 12 EcoFaith Recovery is hosting a full day workshop with Ched Myers and Matt Guynn, at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Beaverton, OR.

The workshop is called:  Is Jesus for the Birds? A Workshop on Economics, Ecology and Discipleship.  Ched will activate imaginations with his biblical and theological work on economics and ecology, while Matt will activate  imaginations about what discipleship might look like in light of Ched’s insights and our local context.


– Internship Projects:

EcoFaith Recovery has a team of interns working on a number of special projects ranging from leading a youth camp to developing a community cafe.  The five interns are pictured to the right sharing a meal.

Turtle Farahat’s project had her spending the summer interviewing healthcare practitioners who are using alternative economic models in their practices.  Turtle recently wrote about her project here.


For more on ELM’s Ministry Grant program go to:

Internship Grants and Other Resources for LGBTQ Candidates

Thursday, February 7th, 2013
2013 retreat poster

LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians gather every year for community and learning.

There are many resources available to LGBTQ Lutheran seminarians through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  Check them out – for you or someone you know.

INTERNSHIP GRANTS:  Congregations hosting a Proclaim intern in 2013-2014 can apply for up to $5,000 in funding from ELM.  We have limited funds available.  The application deadline is February 28, 2013.  The process is very simple.  Access the application by clicking here

WORKIN SCHOLAR:  Each year, ELM names at least one Workin Scholar.  This is a seminarian who embodies the legacy of Joel Workin, one of the first openly gay Lutheran seminarians.  The application is due in May.  We will be posting details and an application form soon. You can learn more here. 

PROCLAIM RETREAT:  The annual Proclaim retreat is a vital gathering for all LGBTQ rostered leaders, but especially for seminarians.  About 30 attended last year.  Scholarships are available to cover registration for the retreat.  ELM supporters can help by donating to the scholarship fund.  Access the scholarship application here.

PROCLAIM:  Proclaim is a program of ELM.  It is a professional community for Lutheran rostered leaders and candidates for ministry.  It is a very beneficial community for those who are in seminary. Proclaim provides crucial support and networking at this time of ministry exploration and discernment.  Learn more about Proclaim and how to join here.

ACCOMPANIMENT:  This is another program of ELM.  A national network of resource leaders provide a wide range of accompaniment to LGBTQ people in Lutheran candidacy.  We provide this support to those in Proclaim and those still in the process of coming out.  Learn more about Accompaniment here. 

Please use and share these resources.  If you want to support this work, please consider making a secure and tax-free contribution to ELM.  LGBTQ candidates need our support and we need yours to give it.  Contact ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts at director(at) if you have questions about using or supporting this part of ELM’s mission.