We Laugh Together

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Finding New Perspective at Pendle Hill. Photo by Amalia Vagts

by Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director


The ELM Board of Directors gathered March 9-12,2017 at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center just outside Philadelphia, PA. We spent the bulk of our time engaged in work that board member Mike Wilker referred to as, “discerning where God has led us in the past and where God is calling us in the future.”

The time was rich, collaborative, challenging, and clarifying. One piece of our work was creating what our facilitators Lisa Negstad and Michael Bischoff referred to as “Simple Practices.” Almost immediately, we changed the heading to “Explicit Practices.” We like to turn words on end. And the new name seemed more “us,” which was the purpose of this exercise.

Of the seven or so practices that made it into the final working list, the one we all agreed on immediately was this: “We laugh together.”

It struck me, as it has many times in my work with the LGBTQ+ faith community, that laughter and joy are so often at the center of our work. Our work is often not easy. At times, it is completely discouraging. The journey has been long. Sometimes the future is unknown. And yet – time and time again, we find ourselves breaking into laughter, into song (and oh yes, even into dance thanks to the Fitness Marshall).

And it seems fitting that if someone happened upon a document that said “Explicit Practices of LGBTQ+ Lutherans,” they’d open it to read “We laugh together.”

Our time together spanned four days. We were thankful and encouraged by an afternoon in conversation with Lenny Duncan and Rev. Lura Groen, co-conspirators from #decolonizelutheranism. Lisa Negstad and Michael Bischoff guided us during a day-and-a-half session about the future direction of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. In addition to the Explicit Practices, we worked with our belief statement to make sure it better reflects our current work. We were nourished by the wonderful surroundings and people of Pendle Hill and each other. We were led by God. We spent a significant amount of time discerning where God is calling us – a direction Mike described as, “beautiful, compassionate, and fierce.” This important work continues and we’ll invite you into conversation with us as it unfolds.

We look forward to more work – and laughter – with you.

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Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, has been known to laugh in the face of adversity, and, on occasion, at totally inopportune moments. She does not plan to cease this behavior anytime soon.



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