by Meagan McLaughlin
I flew to Chicago with my wife Karen feeling both excited and apprehensive about the Proclaim Gathering: excited to delve into the theme, Healing from Violence. Excited to have Karen experience Proclaim. Excited to welcome new Executive Director Amanda Nelson, and bless outgoing Director Amalia Vagts as she starts seminary. And of course, excited because . . . . FABULOUSNESS!
Apprehensive because, to be honest, after nearly two years of seeking a first call, it can be difficult at times to celebrate the joys and challenges of ministry with others when waiting, interviewing, hoping, and rejection leave me discouraged, and worn out.
And so, excited and apprehensive, we arrived. We joined with 68 other Proclaimers and Spice (spouses and significant others of Proclaimers)—18 of which were on full scholarship, thanks to our generous donors—for three days of workshops, worship, fellowship, and fun.
Healing the Violence was incarnated by Chicago area ministers and
leaders. Rev. Rebecca Anderson, storyteller, and Rev. Julian DeShazier, rapper, entertained and educated us. Community Renewal Society shared their ministry forming and organizing neighborhood leaders around issues of justice. Leaders of La Red challenged us to consider our own participation in violence affecting the Latinx LGBTQIA community. We explored community participation in the sanctuary movement. Proclaimers led conversations on the balance between prophetic and pastoral preaching, and we had the Queerest Text Study Ever—some had to preach when we got back!
Affinity Groups provided connection with others in similar circumstances—those serving in their first call, Sparkle (trans, gender non-conforming, and gender queer), Bi/Pan/etc, regional groups, and Spice gathered for conversation and support. I joined the Awaiting First Call group, and the weariness in me began to fade.
Proclaim business was carried out . . . We celebrated Amalia and Amanda, and spent time sharing stories with ELM donors and supporters. We thanked outgoing Chaplains Rev. Amanda Nelson and Rev. Brenda Bos, and welcomed new Chaplains Rev. Chris Wogaman and Mandy Achtenberg (Rev. Jason Clifton and Rev. Susan Halvor will be staying on for one more year, and Amanda is of course moving on to become Executive Director). Amalia and others shared wisdom and enthusiasm around the impact that contributing to ELM has on their faith, and inspired us all to grow in our abilities to encourage stewardship.
And all along the way, Worship, Worship, Worship! Sermons, music, prayer stations, ritual, and communion were shared, all balm for the soul.
And then there was Fellowship, Fellowship, Fellowship! We explored neighboring restaurants and coffee shops, tie-dyed t-shirts, socks, and hats, walked by Lake Michigan, played games, and shared stories and laughter.
I left the Gathering grateful for learning, spiritual renewal, affirmation and encouragement in my journey. Grateful for those who let me ramble (you know who you are!). Grateful for those who shared their sacred stories with me. Grounded thoroughly in the queer community that is Proclaim.
The Gathering next year is August 5-8 next year in Baltimore! Fabulousness awaits!
When she is not interviewing, providing pulpit supply and pastoral care, serving on (yet another) committee, or camping with her wife Karen, you will find Meagan in Minneapolis cuddling with her cats and binge-watching The Great British Baking Show.