Thank You For Being Extraordinary!

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director


To all of our friends and supporters – thank you for a fabulous 2017!

Please click on the image above to watch a short highlight video from all of us at ELM.

For those unable to watch the video – the text from the video is below.

Happy New Year!




Video Text:

2017 has been a year of big changes and big celebrations for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Our programs continue to grow:

This year we gained 44 new members of Proclaim from Atlanta, Georgia to Regina, Saskatchewan.

33 of our new members are Seminarians.

4 are pastors, 2 deacons, and 5 are either retired or awaiting call

Overall our membership has reached 283 people – that’s 283 LGBTQIA+ leaders of our church publicly witnessing to the the transformational love of God and boldly proclaiming the good news of the gospels to communities across our country.

Over 85 volunteers, many of them Proclaim members themselves, help to strengthen our programs by serving as first-call coaches, local contacts, and synod assembly table hosts, to name just a few of the capacities in which they serve.

This year, we said farewell and thank you to Amalia Vagts for her years of dedicated and creative leadership – and welcome to Rev. Amanda Nelson who serves as our new Executive Director

Over 40 individuals and families have joined the ranks of those who support ELM financially – providing gifts annually or monthly to strengthen our ministries and lend their support to gender and sexual minority leaders of the Lutheran Church

Through it all, the gifts you have made of time and finances have been a blessing for many: You’ve connected new seminarians into the community of Proclaim. You’ve equipped call committees to open their processes to Gender and Sexual Minorities. You made the 2017 Proclaim Gathering possible and meaningful for the 70 Proclaim members who attended. You’ve helped to make ELM who we are today – and give us hope for who we can be in the future.

To all of you who have supported ELM this year, we say “Thank you”

Thank you for your gifts of time.

Thank you for your financial gifts.

Thank you for believing in LGBTQIA+ leaders.

Thank you for being Extraordinary!

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Amanda is deeply grateful to all who have made her first five months as Executive Director so meaningful! She looks forward to meeting more friends and supporters of ELM in the New Year – so invite her to your congregation!

Go Tell It on the Mountain

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director


Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

It seems that from the very beginning, followers of the faith have been asked to publicly proclaim and boldly witness to the good news that grace has come on earth in the form of a vulnerable, non-conforming person named Jesus.

While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night
Behold throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light

As my family and I get ready to stand on the mountain tops again this Christmas to joyfully proclaim Christ’s birth, I am thinking about all of the Proclaim members who will lead their congregations in these celebrations this year!

Pastors who have helped to make sure that every detail of the Christmas Eve service – or, in many cases services – reflects the awe and wonder of that first nativity.

Deacons who labor to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, rehearse choirs and special music for their congregations, and corral the children in their pageant costumes (pictures of which will haunt them for years to come!).

Interns who have offered their own pieces of flare to their congregations’ celebration of the season while learning what it means to have to “work” the holidays and spend the time away from home and loved ones.

Seminarians and those who are awaiting and in between calls who dream of the ways they will contribute to a congregation’s experience of these holy days while resting in the hope and anticipation of Advent.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

I am in awe of these public proclaimers who take heed the calling of this hymn and the Holy Spirit to boldly witness to the joy of that grace come to earth in Jesus; and, who do so in witness to the fullness and holiness of their gender and sexual identities.

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our saviour’s birth

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

From all of us at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries – we wish you a very, merry Christmas!

Amanda loves Christmas and especially Christmas music. During this season you will find her sitting by her Christmas tree, drinking glogg, and snuggling with her partner and dog watching Christmas movies.

Blessings for the Longest Night

Photo by Analyse Triolo

by Analyse Triolo
Proclaim Member

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

This time last year I was on internship at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, in New York City, preparing my very first “Service of the Longest Night” and writing a post for this very blog joining my experiences with that of other Proclaim members as we awaited the Advent of the longest night of the year. We each prepared for that night with a service for people who, like many of us, feel the sting of loss more acutely at this time of year.  For me this became therapeutic as I grieved the recent loss of my mother, Diane, who had passed four months earlier.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

I couldn’t have known at the time just how impactful my experiences leading a “Service of the Longest Night” would be. After our service concluded with Jan Richardson’s “Blessing for the Longest Night,” I spoke with a member who shared with me their experience of profound loss, and how they felt disconnected from the joy of the Christmas season even years after losing their loved one.  I was so scared of leading a service like this because I didn’t think I’d be able to control my own emotions while holding worshipers in their own grief. What I learned is that I didn’t need to be strong enough. As we each named our saints and placed a white rose on the altar for each, all we needed to do was walk that hidden road together, in the company of one another.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

Within days of that service we lost my paternal grandfather, and several months later my grandmother as well. As I led each of their funerals, some of the longest nights of the year for my family, I kept coming back to Jan Richardson’s words in this blessing and others from A Cure For Sorrow.  In these words, we found solace in the knowledge that we aren’t alone in our grieving.  Nor is any of us as we traverse this road together, trusting that it is always darkest before the dawn.


Poem “Blessing for the Longest Night” from A Cure for Sorrow by Jan Richardson.  Emphasis added.

Analyse Triolo (she/her/hers) has found herself in the long, drawn-out Advent otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. Struggling to be patient, she accepted a job as a Math and Science teacher at a local Elementary School. (Who says Science and Religion can’t coexist?!)  She holds a Master of Divinity from the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, a Masters of Arts in Ministry from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and is told she’s a Master Crafter too! Her new favorite hashtag is #CallMeMaybe.

Proclaimin’ Reformation

by the Rev. Emily E. Ewing

Proclaim Program Convener

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? Today’s post is the last of our series of reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQIA+ leaders.


What a year!  Throughout this year, we have been celebrating and commemorating the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  We have talked a lot about what pushed Martin Luther, Katharina Schütz Zell, Argula von Grumbach, Marie Dentière, and other early reformers to Proclaim Boldly the Good News of God’s grace, which prompted and sustained the Reformation.

Not only that, but this year’s Reformation Day marked 10 years since the merger of ELM’s predecessor bodies to form Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  There is a lot to look back on as we recognize that the Reformation never ended, and yet we are looking ahead to more great upheavals–many of us with excitement (and maybe a little trepidation).

Proclaim makes me excited for the new church to be born.  This year Proclaim has continued to grow, with 5 of the 43 new Proclaimers so far this year identifying within the trans umbrella (as transgender, nonbinary, agender, and gender nonconforming to name a few options).  We have 11 people awaiting their first call, we’ve had 7 ordinations, and 10% of seminarians at ELCA seminaries are in Proclaim!  What joy and celebration there is at the people who are excited and willing to serve God and follow Jesus as deacons and pastors in the ELCA!!

Our annual Proclaim Gathering in Chicago this year dug deep into the violence that we continue to witness and experience, with profound worship opportunities, presentations, and workshops to name the violence and move towards healing and wholeness for ourselves, our communities, and for the whole world.

We also gathered throughout the year regionally, thanks to funding from ELM, which created space both for those of us in more isolated contexts and for those of us who couldn’t make it to the Proclaim Gathering to spend time in queer community.  These regional gatherings continue to grow and give life to our community and our work together in ministry.

Proclaim has also been more active online!  Not only have we been publicly sharing some of our stories on this blog (check out the blog posts throughout this fall for stories of internships, specialized calls, and reformation connections), but we’ve also been diving deep together in our private Facebook group–seeking and receiving support, prayers, advice, and ridiculous eye-rolling stories.  This has been in large part thanks to our amazing chaplains, who seek out and share prayer requests, quotes, images, and inspiration.

As we grow larger and more diverse, our language has also been growing.  As gender and sexual minorities, we know the importance of language–what we say and how we say it–and so we as a community continue to grow in what it means to name our own and each other’s experiences. Our community continues creating space to learn about more letters in our queer alphabet soup.  This is one of the many ever-changing aspects of our Proclaim community and of ELM’s prophetic ministry that I cherish.  There is certainly more I could gush about, but for now, I am dwelling in this space and, as one of many ongoing reformers, Dag Hammarskjöld, put it, “For all that has been – thanks.  For all that will be – yes!”



Rev. Emily E Ewing (they/them/theirs) is the Proclaim Program Convener for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  They recently moved to Des Moines, Iowa and are enjoying the diversity of food and people and being closer to their best friend.  Emily is excited to get to know the area and get to know congregations through doing pulpit supply!




Photo Credits: Emily Ann Garcia