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Picture description: a snowy scene of evergreen trees with the peak of a church poking through.
By Jon Rundquist
As frigid winds across the prairies blow
And birds have left the northern Midwest climes
The church upon the hill collects the snow
Around the door and lot just like old times
And I with wife in hand and child in arm
Head out into the drift with dragging skirts
The snow lets up before the bell’s alarm
We leave with hope, and yet, my heart still hurts
With yearning pulpit dreams akin to grief
It’s been so long since I have been up there
The peace I had was stolen by a thief
A thief with Bible-twisted fear and glare
Of course, the conscience-bound are always right
They steal the dreams of queer and trans alike
The joy of Advent mired by hate and spite
Uncomfortability is giv’n a mic
“I’m sorry” so they say. “Not ready yet”
“Just give us time, okay?” How long to wait?
Awaiting Baby Jesus, Advent wreaths are set
For love to break the walls of fear and hate
As frigid winds across the prairies blow
We pray for opened minds from Advent’s themes
Embrace us all to fill your hearts and sow
The seeds of all our hopes and pulpit dreams
Jon Rundquist (he/her/theirs) is a non-binary trans/genderqueer rebellious preacher of the rural Northwoods, where they are a stay-at-home parent and an occasional electronics team member at Target. Jon has many loves, including his wife and two children, and an affinity for sci-fi/fantasy Star Trek/Wars/Gate. Yes, that’s six slashes. She hopes to one day serve in ordained ministry for the God and Church she loves. Rebellions are built on hope after all.
Emily Ann Garcia and Matt James
Board Members who were present included Matt James (Co-Chair), Emily Ann Garcia (Co-Chair), Margaret Moreland (Secretary), Emily Ewing, Jeff Johnson, Kelsey Brown, Margarette Ouji, Jessica Davis, JM Longworth. ELM staff who were present included Amanda Gerken-Nelson, Olivia LaFlamme, Lewis Eggleston and Ivy Ellis. Board members absent from the meeting included Jan Peterson (who joined via video when available) and outgoing board member Matta Ghaly.
This past October, ELM’s Board of Directors met for one of two annual in-person meetings at the beautiful Nicholas Center in Downtown Chicago. As we do in each meeting, we reminded ourselves of who Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is by reviewing and discussing our Belief Statement, Strategic Directions and Explicit Practices. At this meeting, we were able to engage deeply around what moves us in the daily work and what it may be time to revise or let go of as we continue to move forward with the work of ELM. As these conversations continue, we will be delighted to share more with all of you.
As part of our commitment as an organization and as a board to take anti-oppression seriously, all board members read Rev. Lenny Duncan’s book, Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the United States in preparation for the meeting. This led to fruitful discussion about the diversity of experience in the room. How do you know you belong here? In what ways does ELM need to repent for being part of an unjust system? What could it look like for ELM to offer reparations? What do you hope ELM will do tomorrow? These are just some of the questions we took on as part of this discussion, and the answers we are moving toward will deeply influence the direction of the organization as we grow into the future.
The board also got the opportunity to engage with ELM staff members around their goals for 2020. Staff has done an incredible job diving into their work and the goals they’ve set for 2020 were both impressive and inspiring. The board split up into groups to talk with Amanda, Olivia and Lewis about ways the board and board members can help support their goals over the next year. We won’t speak for everyone here, but the Executive Team’s conversation with Amanda was very exciting!
All of these conversations will guide the board’s and staff’s work in the coming months as we live into our dreaming. The board room holds a lot of energy for this work and we are very much looking forward to what the next round of conversations will bring!
The ELM Board’s next meeting will be a conference call in December. The next in-person meeting with be held March 19-22, 2019 in Pennsylvania at the Pendle Hill Retreat Center.
Questions or concerns you may have for the Board may be directed to Executive Director, Amanda Gerken-Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will pass them along to the Board’s Executive Committee.
Remembering Rev. Richard Andersen
A Creator of Things. Richard and I met in an Irish bar on the Riverwalk in San Antonio in 1992. Neither one of us was Irish nor from Texas, but a work conference and a night of frivolity brought us together to sing drunken Irish tunes. What we did have in common was having Midwest roots, strong spiritual backgrounds, and being gay men.
At the time, we were both financial advisors for the same company, struggling to build viable practices that served clients in the greater Lutheran community based on a model of care and generosity. I remember traveling to O’Hare at the end of another work conference in Chicago, when I picked his brain for ideas of how to organize and build my business. I focused on him, I think, because I knew he was smart, yet more importantly, he was wise. I was seeking guidance, not just ideas.
Sometime in the following year, his wisdom, along with vision from his business partner, culminated in a handshake where my life partner, Brian and I became business partners. From that weekend on I referred to Richard as my “Buddha” or “wise-guy”. He had a quality of knowing, yet with deep humility.
Any of you who spent time with him know he was good hearted and engaging, but you probably also came to see his handy work as well. He built things – walls, roofs, buildings, things of substance. Kind of macho things when I think about it. He knew how to use a hammer, as they say.
He also created other kinds of things: beautiful healthy food, usually Danish, connections with countless people, and amazing support for the institutions he loved. His creative spirit drew people together. He was an attractor, as I call it.
His ability to attract others made him an ideal board member. Thus, he served the ELM board for many years. I don’t think of him as one who was at the forefront of the movement for sexual equality within the ELCA or greater church, but one who supported and advised those who were. There was something about his natural traditional sense that didn’t put him out front on this issue. The arc of his own public coming out supports this idea. He grew into his role as an ordained, gay Lutheran servant. It took time. He described the journey this way: “My life has revolved around being gay and acknowledging my call to serve the church.”
On a walk in the Italian woods in Tuscany, we had a talk about the end of our lives, what would it be like, where did we hope our lives would be at the final point? I remember discussing the desire to be “all used up”, having it all “left on the road” as a runner would say. Richard’s sudden death this summer was stunning, it felt too soon. He seemed to be at the apex of his knowledge and sense of serving the world. He was lovingly walking through the days with his now husband, Patrick. It was good.
And then God said, it is finished.
Richard had told me of a visit with his own father at his deathbed many years earlier. His father, a good Dane, of course, and also a Lutheran pastor, was ministering to his son, Richard at that dying moment. He said, Richard, I love you, but most importantly, in your baptism, remember you are a beloved child of God.
Its easy to love an attractor, they are made for it. It’s harder to say goodbye to one such as this, for the connection, the glue that binds us, is so strong. Yet, just as Richard’s father reminded him, we are called to who we really are in our baptism, and we know we will not ever really have to say farewell.
Greg Jahnke is a wealth advisor with Thrivent Financial and resides with his husband, Brian Richards in San Francisco. They are active members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. They are both appreciative of all the efforts that have brought the church to its present stance on sexual minority issues. They too hope to PROCLAIM God’s goodness by welcoming everyone fully into the life of the church. In 2020 they will retire and move to Ashland, OR.