Roots and Wings

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by Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director

On Tuesday of this week, I was in Tacoma, Washington as Proclaim member (and former ELM program director) Rev. Jen Rude was installed as University Pastor at Pacific Lutheran University

IMG_4478As we waited for the installation service to start, Rev. Jeff Johnson, also in town for the service, handed me a copy of PLU’s Mast Magazine. There was Jen on the cover with the headline “PLU’s first openly queer Campus Pastor preaches a message of diversity, intersectionality and activism.”

It is fantastic to see your support in action as Jen and other LGBTQ people in ministry lead many different parts of church and society.

It wasn’t long ago (on June 30) that ELM and Grace friends gathered at Grace Lutheran Evanston to say goodbye to Jen and Deb Derylak, Jen’s spouse.

Rev. Daniel Ruen (pastor at Grace) and I co-emceed the IMG_4096evening, which included a blessing from Rev. Gordon Straw (member of Grace and the ELM board), friends from Grace, a group prayer led by Rev. Erik Christensen, a rewrite of the song “Jackson” (“Tacoma,” of course), a few other good-natured jokes at Jen and Deb’s expense, and many heartfelt tributes. The ELM Board sent Jen and Deb off with a care package of future experiences in their new hometown and a great deal of gratitude. ELM Co-Chairs Rev. Elise Brown and Rev. Brad Froslee both attended as a surprise to Jen and Deb. ELM friend Jim Kowalski organized the event, with the help of many volunteers from Grace and ELM.

We ended the evening singing the song “Roots and Wings,” a favorite song of Jen and Deb’s.  “Two feet on the ground / two hands in the sky,” goes the chorus.  “You can have roots and wings, at the same time.”
(L-R): Rev. Jen Rude, Bennett Falk, Nancy Rude, Margaret Moreland, Amalia Vagts, Rev. Tim Feiertag, Deb Derylak, Rev. Jeff R. Johnson
(L-R): Rev. Jen Rude, Bennett Falk, Nancy Rude, Margaret Moreland, Amalia Vagts, Rev. Tim Feiertag, Deb Derylak, Rev. Jeff R. Johnson

This is an important message for Jen and Deb as they soar into their new lives, firmly grounded in the love that embraced them in Chicago and at ELM. It is also a message for all of us called into new ways of being church – together – new ways of loving our history and our future.  You can “know where you’re from,” and “still want to fly.”

As I gathered with members of Jen’s new community at Pacific Lutheran University, I couldn’t help but think about all the ways Jen has left her lasting impact on ELM – and of the incredible ways she will affect the Tacoma community and beyond in her new call.



Amalia Vagts is grateful for a community that is filled with people who are remarkable – and who induce much needed belly laughs. She also thinks her bitmoji (cartoon) may come to life at any moment and take over. 


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