ELM COVID-19 Reflection & Response

by ELM Executive Director
Amanda Gerken-Nelson

As a child, my grandparents introduced me to the great musician and comedian, Victor Borge.

In one of his shticks, Victor steps up to the grand piano on a stage with great formality and sits with the posture of a professional. He seems to fumble a bit not knowing which hand goes where before switching the order of the music sheets in front of him (getting a good laugh from the audience). 

He begins playing this vibrant pattern of descending notes with almost staccato-like punctuation. The tune isn’t familiar to the crowd. Without missing much of a beat, Victor flips the orientation of his music upside down and begins playing once again. This time, you can clearly tell that the piece in front of him is the “William Tell Overture.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have flipped and switched the orientation of the scores our hands – and bodies and voices – are used to playing.

 Adapting to, even fighting, an invisible enemy feels like being blindfolded and swinging the bat at a pinata just as it bends and weaves in a different direction – swooosh!

 And yet, coming into conflict with invisible enemies is not an unfamiliar situation for Christians. 

 This is not where I introduce some concept of evil in the form of a Devil – rather, it’s when I remind myself and others of the enemies of institutionalized racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, poverty, colonialism…

 Claiming these things as “invisible” enemies diminishes the real experiences of hurt, pain, damage, degradation, and death that is done in the name of those vile institutions. Just as COVID-19 is very real to those who have contracted the illness and those caring for the ill, so too are these injustices realities – and they do require us to behave differently.

 “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation” sings Mark in Jonathan Larson’s highly acclaimed Broadway musical “RENT” – a musical that engages many of these “invisible enemies” at a time that feels like the end of the world: the AIDS crisis and the end of the 20th century.

 The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation. The opposite of racism isn’t a welcome statement, it’s radically seeking justice and reparations. The opposite of COVID-19 isn’t health, it’s life and livelihood.

 In response to COVID-19 we must social distance. We must shelter in place when directed. We must care for the under- and unemployed, the isolated, the multiply marginalized and all who are vulnerable to the adverse effects of capitalism, especially in these unprecedented times.

 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me.” – Matthew 25:35-37

 The voices, leadership, and ministries of the marginalized are to be lifted up in this moment of crisis for we have something to offer in these times.

 At ELM, we strive to center the most marginalized in our community and base our work and efforts and responses around those needs.

 In study, discernment and collaboration, the ELM Staff and Board of Directors have taken the following actions:

 2020 Proclaim Gathering Canceled –  The Gathering has been a space for Proclaim members to come together and replenish themselves for the work ahead. The very real fears and concerns raised by the COVID19 pandemic interrupt and even threaten our ability to gather with our usual sense of joy and delight. Without knowing when the need for social distancing and sheltering in place will end, we would like to focus on what we can do now rather than postpone and hope for the best.

 Assistance Grants for Proclaim Members in Need – The ELM Board of Directors has decided to redirect the money raised for scholarships to attend the 2020 Gathering to instead be used to support the immediate needs of our Proclaim community through an emergency assistance micro-grant program. Grants are available only to Proclaim members and may be used for personal or professional costs. (Click here if you are interested in donating to this fund).

 Making Space to Connect – ELM has long used web conferencing tools to do our national work remotely. During this time of crisis, we will be opening up a specific Zoom line to be made available to Proclaim members for any need. Whether it be connecting with family members who live far away or hosting online worship services, Proclaim members can work with the ELM staff to schedule events on this line without having to purchase a license personally.

 It is true that we do not know how long the physical and social isolation and concern over COVID-19 will last; and, while it persists we must be prepared for the overwhelming grief at the loss it will bring. Our marginalized siblings will have wisdom and guidance to offer in these areas as well. 

 Just as when you look into the wrong end of a telescope things that are far off can seem even further away, a crisis like COVID-19 can make us feel farther from our community, or even our God, than ever before. But, if you turn the telescope around, things that were once far off are brought near. 

 Let’s turn the telescope around and see the community and the wisdom that surrounds us.

Amanda Gerken-Nelson, (she/her/hers) is social distancing and working from her home in Portland, ME with her wife and their dog. Amanda finds herself turning to the wisdom of prophets like Joel Workin in this time of heightened anxiety and is finding comfort in daily walks, lighting candles in prayer, and demolition projects in her new home (see bio photo).

A prayer for the times by Alfi

Let us pray.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Great Healer. Be with those who are effected by COVID-19. Be with them as they seek to find healing for their sickness. Open their ears and hearts to listen to medical professionals as they seek to control the virus as much as possible. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Great Physician. Be with medical professionals that seek to treat people. Use them for the good of your creation and give them strength and peace in these troubling times. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Great Innovator. Be with those who seek to find a vaccine for this virus and push science forward for the world that You so love. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Great Comforter. Be with all who lose someone due to this virus. Encircle them in your everlasting presence. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Giver of Life. Be with those who are isolating themselves for the sake of their neighbor. Allow them to feel your community while they are alone. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the One who draws children near. Be with the children in unsafe situations due to the isolation measures that have been taken.  Protect them. Love them. Provide Your presence. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are our Ever-loving Creator. Be with transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, agender, and queer identifying people who are in unsafe situations due to isolation measures. Remind them that they are beloved by you and that you see them for who they are, their names and pronouns included. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Great Leader. Be with the leaders of our world as they seek to navigate the unknown and the fears that go along with it. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
O Holy, Most Gracious God, You are the Great Controller. Be with us as we attempt to release the need for control to You when we struggle with our own fears and the unknown. Lord in Your mercy, receive our prayer.
Into Your hands, O Holy, Most Gracious God, we place all our concerns in this turbulent time knowing that You see us, love us, seek us, and will always be present through Your Son, Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit we commend these prayers to You.

Alfi (they/them/theirs) is currently a final year seminary student at Wartburg Theological Seminary and has been approved for ordination. They currently await a call to serve the church and they are a member of Proclaim.

an untitled poem in response to Psalm 81

morning light presses against the window pane and

     slips through the slats of the blinds
     promises of more to come
     muted tones now
     greys hint at the color of things in actuality 
     the morning is slow
soon I’ll rise
I’ll fling wide those blinds
     draw them up
so they impede no longer
     the technicolor world
     the rush and noise of life
          a world of possibility
          of wonder
          of hope
I’ll fling wide those blinds to see all things 
     becoming new
God at work
     ever creating
and we
     the continual work 
         of God’s hands

Pastor Anna Gordy (she/ her/ hers) is a resident of San Antonio who grew up in the Deep South and who moved regularly across the continental United States as an adult.  She is grateful after a lifetime of searching to finally be able to call Texas “home”.  Mother, grandmother(!), artist, spouse, lover, pastor, and friend are her callings, and she believes the call we share is to be neighbor to all the world.

Second Sunday in Lent: A Reflection by Sergio Rodriguez

Second Sunday in Lent: A Reflection by Sergio Rodriguez

Creator, Keep us

From Familias torn up

Deja y Vete


The words of promise from God to Abram lessen not the sting of having to leave home for a new home. This movement from Familia to better pastures is triune for person@s who make this journey during this Lenten season; away from tierra(country), hogar (home) y Dioscito. The pain is a triune mystery; pass the loaves around, tears abound. Creator, May the Forces that Defy you and tear apart our familias be kept away from us.


O Slumbering Shade, 

Keep our Swiping left or right

Ahora, Siempre. 


And so, where does help come for those on this three-fold journey? It is a camino towards encountering life and love in the digital age. Our Shade slumbers, our profiles move left and right, and we are kept not in everlasting serenity but in an uneasy tension; in love and community. Our identity and place in our communities dubiously go in and out of sync; out going out and coming in predicated on human caprice and prejudice. Wake up, slumbering Shade, and rise up for rest and life stand ever so on the ever-moving ground of evil. Amen. 


Heaven and Earth keep

Record of so-called progress

Humans born in bits. 


The cosmos itself stands as a witness against the very working of principalities and powers in nulling our common life and existence as we race towards the point of no return. No longer shall our communities vacillate between the law and gospel, promise and wrath but between singularity and humanity. Our bodies, our Queer progeny, the very promise of land, all these realities continue to be fragmented by the principalities and powers with the promise of a new age of conformity. Not with a particular land, creed, identity and familia but in the white-washed promise that we shall call into existence the silicone things that do not exist. God of our ancestors, may your creation reveal to us the principalities and powers that struggle against our life in the cosmos that you may give life to we who are dead in the winding turns of this camino.


Hills and Paris Burn, 

Love blows, fluids gush out, 

…“From or where it goes”



The Pain of leaving behind, of love lost, of the struggle against principalities and powers, burns deep in our communal life. Yet amid this pain, the breath of life, the gift of love from above, comes into us. New life trickles down into the very communities that burn in the fires of the forces that defy God and births a radically different way of being. No fragments, no torn Familias, no false promises but the tender whispers of our teacher gushing out into our hearts. Words of love, Word of life. 

Sergio Rodriguez (he/him/his) is the Pastoral Intern/Campus Minister-(Rice University) at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, TX. He is a final year student at Wartburg Theological Seminary. He is originally from McAllen, TX.