I like to have closure when I say goodbye – I try to find the right words and often exchange a hug. Sometimes after going through the process, I’ll realize I left something in the house and have to return. Or sometimes you just happen to see the person again on the street moments after you say goodbye and you have to ask – do we do this again? Do we hug again?
I have been saying goodbye to this community over the last few months. And because we are a dispersed group, there have been multiple opportunities. And then we all realize I’m not actually done yet, and we have the awkward moment of trying to decide if we say goodbye again.
Of course, there really isn’t a need for saying goodbye as I’m only leaving a specific role. I’ll be continuing as an avid ELM supporter and will soon become part of the Proclaim community. But relationships are changing. And so, I wanted to take a few moments today to say a final farewell and some words of gratitude as I prepare for my last day in this role, Friday, July 28.
It’s been wonderful this week to be with folks at the Proclaim Gathering. We’ve taken time to look back at the work we’ve done together and also forward at what is to come. It’s been especially good to be here with the Rev. Amanda Nelson, who will step into the role of Executive Director on August 1. Amanda’s gifts, passion, and experience for this next call have been readily apparent time and time again this week. I can’t wait for you to get to know her! And it was a joy to work with my colleague in ministry, the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan as he directed his first Proclaim Gathering – an exhausting and complex role that involves myriad moving parts and people. I’m so grateful for Asher’s steady presence during this time of change for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
On Sunday evening, as we kicked off the Gathering, we did something I’ve always dreamed of doing and invited supporters of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to join us for dinner and worship. A few folks shared incredibly humbling words about my work and I had the chance to thank our supporters, board members, staff, and the Proclaim community for their partnership in our mission. I was also able to give two personal thank yous. First, to Jim Kowalski, who has been my mentor in learning how to talk about giving and who along with his husband Bruce Jervis, have been passionate and joyful givers to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Second, to my dear friends the Rev. Daniel Ruen and Clare Tallon Ruen, who in addition to being generous givers and evangelists in their congregation about our ministry, have also been my Chicago home away from home. I have spent countless nights in their home and they have provided the kind of deep, nourishing friendship that we all need in our lives. At the end of the evening, I received a beautiful piece of art from the community and Board of Directors, which features a quote from Joel Workin that has been so central to me. And there was a most fabulous cake!
It feels right to be saying goodbye to this role now, knowing that the work is in excellent hands. I plan to focus on my candidacy and long-distance studies at Wartburg Seminary and my family and congregational life in Decorah. I’m looking forward to being present with my beloved spouse, David, and our family. David has been an incredible partner to me in this role, which has included a significant time away from home. I’m honored and grateful to share that I’m a recipient of an ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship, which will fully cover my seminary tuition for the next three years. This is powerful statement about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries because (as I’m sure anyone reading this will know) my ministry with ELM was a central part of my application. I look forward to joining the Proclaim community and David and I are grateful to continue as enthusiastic supporters of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
This last decade is one words could never fully describe. I’m endlessly grateful for the experiences and friendships that have grown from this work. There could never be words to cover it all, so I will turn to the wisdom of Dag Hammarskjöld:
For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — yes.