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Archive for November, 2016

A day for giving

Monday, November 28th, 2016

It’s our first #GivingTuesday!

On this day, individuals are giving across the globe to causes and organizations they love. We welcome your gift in support of Giving Tuesday Photothe public witness of LGBTQ pastors, deacons, and seminary students. These leaders enrich and transform our congregations and communities.

Their witness is a path to those who will follow. Here are some powerful words from the Rev. Katherine Fick at St. Olaf College about this:

“We counsel students regularly who are LGBTQ and been hurt by the church or their family, some of whom have even self-harmed or attempted suicide because of these conflicts between who they are and what they have been told and experienced in faith communities. To be able to share with them ELM resources, particularly Treasure in Clay Jars, helps them see that there are faithful people out there like them, and communities beyond our college that would not only welcome them but empower them to be leaders. I have experienced firsthand that ELM resources help save lives, because they help people with their understanding of God, the nature of the Christian faith and community, and themselves.”

Rev. Katherine E. Fick, Associate College Pastor at St. Olaf College

Your gift to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries provides community through Proclaim (a community of 240 LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians); support through Candidacy Accompaniment; and connection to LGBTQ-led ministries through Ministry Engagement. You make it possible to create and share resources (like Treasure in Clay Jars mentioned by Katherine) and advocacy for LGBTQ people in ministry.

Thank you for making sure we can do all we can to affirm and support the public witness of publicly-identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders.  Thank you for all you do.

Make your gift. 

Three Things

Thursday, November 24th, 2016
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Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

“On this day, and on every day, we give thanks for you – those of you who believe in the extraordinary ministry of LGBTQ rostered leaders.”

 

by Amalia Vagts
Executive Director

In the poem, “Three Things,” singer-songwriter and poet Carrie Newcomer writes about her practice of saying out loud three things she is grateful for from her day – “. . . Fine rain, A good friend, Fresh basil . . . ”

It’s a practice my pastor preached a sermon about a couple months ago, and something my partner and I have attempted to keep going regularly in our own lives.

Newcomer’s poem begins this way:

Three Gratitudes

Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.

On a day when we often take time to say out loud the things for which we are grateful, it’s good to remember there’s no reason to keep this practice to one day.

I thought about this again this past week as we received donations that included little notes of thanks with the gift. These notes are so meaningful. I even have a file folder labeled “Sweet Correspondence” where I keep them. I wanted to share this one with you today:

It’s about time I signed up for monthly giving to an organization that supports me as a gay seminarian and candidate for ordination in the ELCA. Thanks for all you do for me and all Proclaimers.

And this one too:

Great to meet Asher at #decolonize16. As a result of our conversations in Chicago with Asher and ELM members, I became aware of this wonderful ministry in the Lutheran church. I am sharing your resources via FB and with anyone looking for an accompaniment ministry of this kind. Thank you for your good work. In these difficult times we need to support one another more fully as the body of Christ.

On this day, and on every day, we give thanks for you – those of you who believe in the extraordinary ministry of LGBTQ rostered leaders. Thank you for your wonderful support throughout the year and for many years. Thank you for the way you share our work with your friends and colleagues. Thank you for encouragement you give directly to LGBTQ people pursuing or considering rostered ministry.

May today and your coming days be full and sweet.

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Amalia Vagts has been sleeping much better since the last words she speaks at the end of the day are ones of gratitude rather than the last outrageous thing she read online.

 

 

Join us. Give in support of faithful & fabulous LGBTQ people whose public witness as pastors, deacons, and seminarians is enriching and transforming our church.

 

This is Not Normal

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

“Tension is a sign of life, and the end of tension is a sign of death.” – Parker Palmer

by Amalia Vagts
Executive Director

It is hard to know what to say these days. This week, we had intended to share a guest post about the community gathered in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. That will come. In the meantime, you may want to read Bishop Eaton’s statement here, where she shares why “we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

Instead of the guest post, I first decided to write about my visit to Pacific School of Religion last Friday with Greg Egertson, as we made the first donation of our organizational documents to the Center for LGBTQ & Gender Studies in Religion Archives Project. That is a story I will share with you soon.

But as I tried to write, two phrases kept coming back to me. First, from last week’s Gospel reading from Luke, “This will give you an opportunity to testify.”

Second, from political commentator/comedian John Oliver on a recent segment of his show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, “This is not normal.”

What to do?

While our country has long prided itself on the peaceful transfer of power, many are cautioning against normalizing the current state of affairs.

For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center is currently reporting 437 incidents of hateful speech and harassment since the election. The most common setting for these incidents was in our K-12 schools.

Some in our church are speaking out and acting up against hate and fear and racism, sexism, misogyny, classism, and homophobia in our communities and in our denomination. Some are inviting members of their congregations and community together for reflection and conversation. Some are laying out more specific plans. Some are amping up their engagement with social media. Some are taking a “Facebook break.”

Spirit of Wisdom, Spirit of Counsel

Last week’s reading from Thessalonians included these words: “Do not be weary in doing what is right.”

But which of these is right? It seems to me that all of them are.

Parker Palmer writes in his book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, that “tension is a sign of life, and the end of tension is a sign of death.”

We have much to learn and teach one another in the days ahead.

Because you believe in our ministry, we were here last week to host two video gatherings for members of Proclaim who as LGBTQ+ rostered leaders had to sort through their own reactions to the election while preparing sermons and services for their congregations. And in the days, weeks, and months ahead, you will help us continue supporting LGBTQ+ pastors, deacons, and seminarians. We will also be here to initiate healing conversation and to speak out against intolerance and hatred. Thanks to you, we will be here to bring good news to those who need to hear it.

At the end of the Proclaim calls last week, those on the call were offered this blessing adapted from the baptismal liturgy:

Loving God, stir up once again in your child the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forevermore. Amen.

In a week that seems filled with many more uncertainties than certainties, I look to reminders like these words that we will share in worship this coming Sunday, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Or to summarize my neighbor Megan’s approach: resist normalcy while living fully.

May each of us be strengthened in doing what is right in troubling times.

amalia-with-frameAmalia Vagts is getting out of bed and getting a hammer and a nail. When she is not helping steer the ship of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and needs a moment of grounding and refueling these days, you can find her writing, walking, reading, or hanging with Shannon, Feathers, Cadillac, and Tom Cruise on Planet Unicorn. She also suggests a daily dose of this. (the dance, not the green juice)

Join us. Give in support of faithful & fabulous LGBTQ people whose public witness as pastors, deacons, and seminarians is enriching and transforming our church.

Butterflies and Power

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

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“I’m thinking about getting carried away.”

by Christephor Gilbert
Communications and Development Coordinator

A little over a year ago, on the drive home from work, I stopped a block from my house and, looking up and out the passenger window, noticed a little boy with what appeared to be his parents.  He was overjoyed and so surprised seeing a butterfly in some grass.  He stumbled while he dizzily watched the colorful fluttering, then looked back to the adults in amazement.  They encouraged him to move into the green, to see the diaphanous object.  There was no hesitation on their part—he was free to investigate.

The traffic light turned green and I was off and running again, caught up in the momentum of life on the brink of change.  That was just a few months before my partner and I sold our house, quit our jobs, and moved to Chicago so that I could pursue a calling toward ordained ministry with the ELCA.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the momentum—the surge and the rush!  We are surrounded by it, in the world and in our church, and it has real, embodied implications—like being picked up and carried along by the enormous crowds at Wrigley right after the Cubs won.

When the velocity of life takes ahold of me it is unbelievably exciting.  Hurtling forward—peripheral vision turning to so much blurry light.  In an instant, the future we see on the horizon becomes the now—and then it is gone before the next big thing sneaks up on us.

It feels good—but sometimes I find it is important to acknowledge that I am caught. I try to turn my head or move my arms; I can’t shift my weight back.

In light of what has happened with the recent election in the United States, I’m thinking about that boy with the butterfly. I’m thinking about getting carried away.

And I’m also thinking about stillness.

And power.

And responsibility.

And I’m wondering what it means to be called and chosen by God.

This question makes me think of a well-known line from the movie Spider Man.  Upon the death of his beloved Uncle Ben, Peter Parker remembers something his uncle said to him earlier in the film:  “With great power comes great responsibility.”  In Luke 12:48 Jesus says almost the same thing:  “For everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.”  I talk about being called by God to serve the church.  Our forebears in the nation of Israel were called and chosen by God.

What did that mean?  God is clear that the continuance of the covenant with Israel is based on a commitment to the ancestors, and more importantly because of God’s Love (Deut. 8).  Israel was not the biggest, nor the most powerful—in fact God is quick to point out that they “were the fewest of all peoples” (Deut. 7:7).  So why?  Being chosen has nothing to do with anything they have done—it has to do with what God has done.

God has decided to call us, to liberate us from the death-dealing ways of the law and the finality of death.  And we get this gift because we have faith.

Sometimes you have to let the momentum take you until you see the clearing up ahead—the end of the roller coaster, that small space between two people at the edge of the crowd where you can use a little muscle and make your move.

Released, you step back and watch the sheer force of it all move past.

Now I have the space to wander, child-like, into the arms of the other—into the arms of God—and see a different way that is off the beaten path, floating quietly in the wind.

I realize that I am that boy with the butterfly, mystified with hope, encouraged by the dangerous grace that is the church of today.  With new realizations about what a community of faith can embody, girded with truth and standing beside my siblings, I can imagine doing what is required.

No matter where you stand today or tomorrow you are called by God to be in and with the world.

You have great power.  And great responsibility.

Together, we can be the church for children who like to chase butterflies, and for kids, like all of us, whose hearts are stirred by wonder.

 

christephorChristephor Gilbert is the 2016 Joel Workin Scholar, and when he isn’t in the library or in front of a computer, you might see him—a blur in your peripheral vision–somewhere on US HWY 30, between Chicago where he is in seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he, his, partner, and three cats now call home.  Wave if you get a chance!

On “being there.”

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
Proclaim members gather at #decolonize16. Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Proclaim members gather at #decolonize16. Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

“The day was filled with new and renewed connections, learning, sharing, dreaming, disillusionment, honesty, and hope for what’s to come.”

by Amalia Vagts
Executive Director

In his essay, “Oh, you should have been there!” Joel Workin wrote about a question which had been haunting him, “What does it mean to proclaim that “death is swallowed up in victory” to a community that is swallowed up in death?”

Joel was writing in the middle of the AIDS crisis in the late 1980’s. He had just returned from the 1987 March on Washington. A friend wanted to hear the stories – not about the numbers of the crowd or the speeches or the liberation that comes with such an event. She wanted to hear about the  Names Project – AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Joel went on to write, “The God of the march is the God of the quilt. The God of the resurrection is the God of the cross.”

Questions Then, Questions Now

This essay came back to me as I have been reflecting on the inaugural #decolonizeLutheranism gathering just over a week ago in Chicago. I’ve been thinking about what it means to “be there.” Death, suffering, liberation, resurrection. How do we find liberation in the middle of all this pain? I heard stories of suffering and shared some of my own. I experienced the unsettling feelings that come with being in a boat in turbulent water – better to lay down in the boat? Better to take over the rudder? Better to stand up and dive in the water? Better to reposition myself and others for better balance?

Throughout the day, we dwelled in the uncertainty of these questions. The day was filled with new and renewed connections, learning, sharing, dreaming, disillusionment, honesty, and hope for what’s to come.

Together We are the Church

I was happy and not at all surprised that there was a strong showing of Proclaim folks present on the planning team and as participants. Fabulous! We managed to get most Proclaim folks together for the photo above.

Last month, we invited the Rev. Tita Valeriano to share some thoughts in advance of the gathering. Tita was on the #decolonize Lutheranism organizing team and part of Proclaim. If you missed her post, you can read it here. I also invite you to read more about the movement here and check out reflections from two of the organizers of the event. Both are reposted below with permission from the authors – Francisco Herrera and Lenny Duncan (who, by the way, is the vicar at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church where Proclaim member Bryan Penman is pastor – and the featured congregation in our Enrich & Transform video!)

What It’s All About
by Franciso Herrera – Ph.D. student, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Dear Church:  #DECOLONIZE16 Happened 
by Lenny Duncan – Vicar, St. Marks Lutheran Church

We’re all in this boat together. Or in the water. Or somewhere in between.

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Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, is into protesting, reforming, and Mutual Invitation.