By Meagan McLaughlin
This is the 4th liturgical Advent of my own personal Advent, otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. This year, I am spending Advent and Christmas as a Synodically Authorized Minister in a congregation—Halleluia!—
while I am in the midst of what my Admin has called my “6-month job interview.” (Fun!!)As much as I have learned about being present and doing what is in front of me to do, none of that compares to what I have already learned in the few weeks I have been at Bethel!
A play in three scenes…
Scene 1: Grandmother of a baby about to be baptized, described as “handle-with-kid-gloves-altar-
guild-president,” whose daughter is adamant that her child be baptized by a beloved former pastor of my congregation on a Saturday, approaches me after worship. We talk for a few minutes about the baptism and her daughter and grandchild, and she says, “Oh this was so good!” and asks for a hug.
Scene 2: Council member who initially offered to let me stay in her extra bed and bath (paid for by Bethel) approaches me and says, “I wanted to let you know I am not comfortable with you staying with me.”
Scene 3: At a table with several congregants in the Fellowship Hall, one asks how the commute is going, and says, “I have an extra bedroom in my apartment, you can stay with me anytime!”
As I drove home, I reflected on how easy it would have been during that Sunday after worship to have climbed onto my mental boogie board and struggled to ride the waves. I thought about how seasick I would have been, even if I had managed to succeed! But somehow, by the grace of God, I instead found myself in those few moments able to stay grounded and watch the waves swirl around me. I actually felt a sense of calm and peace in the midst of the storm.
One significant lesson I am learning right now isequanimity—steady presence and calmness, especially when encountering challenging situations. More than anything else I can do for them, my anxious, excited, hopeful, fearful congregation needs me to practice this, especially when they are attempting to ride and conquer waves of congregants coming and going, community members questioning the efficacy of the town’s first LGBTQ pastor, and the uncertainty of finding themselves in an unplanned extended time of pastoral transition.
Advent is a season of waiting, and also preparing. Reflection, and also action. With the waves swirling around me, and so many unknowns and wonderings about my call and living into who I am as a pastor, I am committing myself to waiting in hope for whatever is to come. Meanwhile, showing up each day to joyfully be my people’s pastor for this season. Really, that’s all I can do anyway. Thank our loving God for the Advent season that calls us to remember their loving promise!
After nine years of working at The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Proclaim member Meagan McLaughlin (she/her/hers) studied at Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary and graduated with her M.Div in December of 2015. She is currently serving as a Synodically Authorized Minister (SAM) at Bethel Lutheran Church in Little Falls MN while eagerly seeking first call. Meagan, her wife, Karen, and their three cats live in Minneapolis, and when they are not working, they enjoy hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with their two nephews and niece.
I am excited to share with you the good gifts that were given during our #Proclaim300 Campaign and Celebration! ELM has been blessedly overwhelmed at the abundant support it received as a result of this campaign.
Working with all of you, we were able to raise friends, raise funds, and raise up in celebration the growth we are experiencing in our Proclaim community and the growing impact LGBTQIA+ leaders are having on our congregations and communities. I give God thanks for such an incredible community and thank you for your participation and action. Here is just a brief snapshot of all of the good work we were able to accomplish together.
From the kick-off of the #Proclaim300 campaign at the annual Proclaim Gathering in August of this year to the final day of the campaign on Reformation Day (October 31st), ELM had over 200 new “likes” on ourFacebook page and celebrated the launch of our new Instagram accountwhich highlights LGBTQIA+ leaders in the church and helps spread the word of our extraordinary ministries.
In September, ELM hosted a #Proclaim300 Week on social media. During this week, we asked friends and allies to weigh in about the gifts they see in queer church leaders and asked Proclaim members to reflect on the challenges they experience in the church, the gratitude they hold for those who accompany them, and their dreams for the future. To see some of the posts, go to Facebook and Twitter and search the hashtag #Proclaim300.
On September 20, 2018, ELM announced its 300th Proclaim Member,Sergio Rodriguez and since then has welcomed members 301-319!
In October, ELM marked National Coming Out Day (NCOD) by sharing the stories of 19 LGBTQIA+ ministers and candidates in a special “Story Share.” Throughout the day, ELM staff and Proclaim members were filmed live, sharing their experiences, concerns, joys, and wishes for a better future.
And, over 300 individuals and families gave over $25,000 to celebrate #Proclaim300! Abundance certainly abounds!
Now, as we anticipate the birth of embodied love and grace, we cannot express enough our joy and appreciation for all of the ways you helped make this campaign a success. As a member of the ELM Development Team and co-creator of this campaign, please accept my deepest thanks for your enthusiastic support!
Peace to you,
Rev. Ben Hogue
Ben Hogue (he/him/his) is #blessed to serve as Associate Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Thanks in part to the work of leaders across the church and in the region, Pastor Ben is the first openly LGBTQIA+ clergy person to be called by a congregation in the Metropolitan D.C. Synod. This time of year, Ben enjoys eggnog lattes, Christmas cookies, and making sure people are aware that yes, in fact, Mary did know.
By Rev. Lenny Duncan
It is a clarion call to the whitest denomination in America. A warning shot across the port bow of the inherent white supremacy of this church. More practically, it’s the follow-up to the first film I co-directed with Jason Chesnut and Ankos films called “Do Black Churches Matter in the ELCA?” That first film, which is available on YouTube, dealt with the historical and systemic conditions that Black Lutheran churches have been under since our very first Black Lutheran church (St. Paul’s, in Philadelphia PA). In “Young, Gifted, and Black in the ELCA” we wanted to draw a comparison of #blackjoy #blackqueerjoy and #blackclergyjoy against those same realities.
There are two Proclaimers featured in the film, myself and Kelsey Brown (she/her/hers). If you have never noticed that I’m a part of the Proclaim community, there are two reasons for that. A: I have only recently joined and B: it’s an overwhelmingly white space. White spaces center whiteness and will do that overtly or inadvertently and it doesn’t matter about the intent or the hearts of the people in the community. Unless there is a specific intentional effort to dismantle whiteness in a white space it is dangerous for people of color (PoC). That’s the cunning thing about white supremacy, it doesn’t need you to be actively racist to operate or function; it actually prefers if you aren’t because then it is less likely to be exorcised.
This film is an attempt to center stories in the ELCA of young black leaders. I thought it was important to have a 2-1 ratio of Black women to Black men. Did you know that a woman of color waits, on average, over half a decade for a call in this church? I thought it was important to embody their stories, their sincere love for this church, and the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Honestly, that is impossible to do with just three stories, but our hope is that we are pointing towards a larger and often silenced narrative within the ELCA and mainline progressive churches in general. So we offer this small glimpse into three lives of those who, despite all that has happened and all that’s been thrown at them (us), are still here.
We are still here and willing to spill our lives out for the community we love.
Lenny Duncan (he/him/his) is a follower of Jesus Christ and is in a passionate love affair with Grace. March 2018 he was issued a call to serve the people of Jehu’s Table from the Metro New York Synod of the Evangelical Church in America as a mission developer (church planter.) He is also a frequent voice on the intersection of the Church and the cries of the oppressed. He pays special attention to Black Liberation movements in his work, but lifts up the frequent intersection with other marginalized peoples. He believes that the reason the ELCA has remained so white is a theological problem, not a sociological one. He holds a Master of Divinity from United Lutheran Seminary.