Fanning the Flame

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Asher receives gifts for his ministry with ELM. (Photo: Rob Flynn)

Last week, I was part of a group of people who gathered on a Sunday afternoon in western Los Angeles to install the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan as program director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Asher has been serving in this role since last August and in the Lutheran tradition, we most often think of installations as a service a congregation hosts for their new pastor.

So why were we installing Asher?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recognizes that ministry happens in a variety of places. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has a long history of engaging in street, hospital, nursing home, and community ministry. Together, we celebrated Asher’s synodical call to specialized ministry among the LGBTQ+ community as program director of ELM. It was a glorious and significant day as Bishop Guy Erwin, other leaders from throughout the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA, and friends of ELM gathered to recognize Asher’s call.

We honored the extraordinary nature of the day through expansive language and a variety of tools for ministry for Asher (like a pea plant to recognize the Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Engagement programs of ELM!). The Southwest California Synod has recognized Asher’s work as part of his call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Asher’s ministry is not one of place, but of creating space. It is not a ministry with a building, but rather one that is about building a ministry.

I gave the sermon and had quickly honed in on the phrase “rekindle the gift of God within you” from 2 Timothy. Shortly before the service, lector Jason DeRose (ELM Extraordinary Friend and frequent internship committee member for Proclaim interns at St. Paul Lutheran in Santa Monica) checked in with me to see if I was using anything from that reading. Jason planned on using another translation.

It turns out one of the phrases that was worded differently was the very one I’d chosen as a “refrain” for my sermon. Instead of “rekindle the gift of God within you,” this translation read, “fan the flame of God’s gift.”


Lutheran Church of The Master throws an excellent reception! (Photo: Peg Schultz-Akerson)

The day was made especially beautiful thank you to open-hearted hospitality by the people of Lutheran Church of The Master in Los Angeles, who hosted the service and threw a fabulous reception in honor of Asher’s installation and my upcoming departure from ELM. Lutheran Church of the Master has long supported the work of ELM and Proclaim pastors. We give thanks to interim Pastor Peg Schultz-Akerson, the many service participants, and all who threw such a lovely reception! Thank you also to Bishop Guy Erwin for presiding and for all who attended the service – the offering of $475 will go towards the Proclaim Gathering Scholarship Fund. (You can make your own gift for this fund right here).

May we each through our own vocation fan the flame of God’s gift.

Amalia Vagts, who at present is changing nearly every aspect of her life and is mostly keeping up, serves as executive director of ELM until July 31, 2017.


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