Queeranteen Camp & Relying On Community

Have you ever had the Spirit move you when you least expected it?

I am a candidate for ministry in Word and Sacrament in my final semester of seminary. I’ve been assigned to a synod, but have not yet been called to a parish. And I’ve been wondering what my life might look like after all this pandemic business ends (if it ever ends.) 

Will churches be able to afford a full-time pastor?

Will churches want to call a queer, transgender pastor?

These are questions I’ve asked myself already prior to COVID-19, but find myself asking them more nervously as we shelter in place on a global level.

I was having a cup of coffee with my partner one afternoon. She has three kids, two of which identify as queer. We were talking about how hard life would be if, during this time of lockdown, you were surrounded by folks that didn’t understand you, or, worse yet, did not accept you. This was a reality for some of her kids’ peers. 

I asked colleagues and friends if they knew of any spaces online for youth that intersected faith and queerness. 

They did not. 

I felt the Spirit calling me in the way she does sometimes when we least expect her to. Urgent. Poking your side. Loud. 

Watching the youth around me try to seek meaningful community in a pandemic is hard to watch. I knew I needed to answer the Spirit’s call. 

We began to dream about creating a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth to foster community, hear from LGBTQ+ leaders, and have some fun. 

One verse in the Hebrew texts that’s stuck out to me in the last few months is הנה אנ׳, “Here am I.” 

I think this is a way of saying, “Okay, Lord. I believe you are limitless. Give me the strength to do this and I will go and do your work.” 

Queeranteen Camp was born. It was born in community conversations with the youth that surrounded me. 

Queeranteen Camp is a free, online, interfaith camp for LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-19. Originally we thought we’d make a fun flier and maybe 20 youth would sign up.

As of April 22nd, there are 153 campers, cabin counselors, and helpers registered from around the world!  

I recognized immediately that this would require a community to work. 

I was reminded that God is a God of community and that possibilities are realized among all of us working together.

People from all over the country have reached out to me, offering their help and resources. I asked in the Proclaim Facebook page and was immediately met with a handful of emails from friends and colleagues offering assistance. 

Proclaim! A word of declaration. A place where new things are breathed into being, a place where community gathers to embrace the way the Spirit is moving. 

 How am I handling COVID-19? I’m scared. I’m tired. I’m uncertain.

How am I handling a rapidly growing response to a new ministry? I’m scared. I’m tired. I’m uncertain. 

Yet, in both, I am sure of one thing. That God has not left me, that God’s Spirit is moving, and I am being called to a new time and space. 

It is now, perhaps more than in the last month, that I am seeing that I am not alone. 

I am relying heavily on people I have recently met online, folks who have been doing this work for years, and those I have known for years. 

I am relying heavily, vulnerably on my community. 

At the end of the day, that’s all we really have, right?

I have my community. I have God. Through both of those, we can do amazing, shocking, beautiful things.


Drew Stever (they/he) is in his final semester of his Master of Divinity studies at Luther Seminary. Originally from St. Paul, MN, he is currently located in Southern California. Two of the greatest purchases he has ever made in an attempt to deal with COVID-19 is rice pudding and a pink onesie. 

Hospital Chaplaincy During COVID-19

by Rev. Susan Halvor

In the years I spent as a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) chaplain, I was struck by how when I looked at NICU parents, I saw amazing individuals who were learning and doing things they never could have imagined – changing the diaper of a baby that weighs less than 2 pounds. Navigating complicated medical terminology. Learning the subtle cues of a micropreemie. Spending hours at a hospital bedside, and still somehow managing to accomplish other daily life tasks – bills, parenting other children, household responsibilities, jobs. They are my heroes. And yet often all they saw in themselves was a terrified new parent, unable to fully protect the little one under their care from the dangers of life outside the womb.

I’ve been thinking about those NICU parents as I’ve tried to navigate what it means to be a leader – specifically, the manager of a hospital spiritual care department – in a pandemic. In the early days of March, I simply felt overwhelmed. I was trying to make sure my chaplains were safe and were able to provide desperately needed care, while also trying to support other leaders and hospital caregivers, manage the intense flow of rapidly changing information, and, because life is what it is, watching my beloved elderly dog Jack let me know that he was nearing the end of his days. The weight of my decisions was heavy. The world felt dangerous and unpredictable.

Now, today, there are still plenty of overwhelming moments. But I hope I’m remembering what I learned about those NICU parents. That the small steps I take make a difference. Advocating for reflections at the beginning of every hospital meeting, because people are hungry for meaning-making, and to be reminded that they aren’t alone in feeling scared or overwhelmed. The lessons I learned coming out as a queer leader in the church still hold true – that my vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. That my loving is the heart of what keeps me connected to others, and those connections that bond us will help sustain us. That I am not alone, in so, so many ways, and neither are you. Endless virtual meetings have never been what bring me joy, but holding space in a virtual debrief for suffering nurses or in a check-in for our peer support team reminds me that even if we’re not “in person,” we can still connect and be recognized and loved. When I can be gentle with my own vulnerable moments, it makes it easier for my chaplains and other colleagues to be open about their own tender places.

And there are sacred moments all over – taking a break to laugh and play ping pong with my team, listening to an overwhelmed parent, and taking the space for my own heart – stillness, writing, walking, connecting with my partner. The more I am connected to those sacred moments, the more able I am to lead from my heart. And then I can see myself beyond the overwhelmed and scared individual with little control – I can see the woman who is vulnerable and loves and grieves and needs rest, and laughs and leads, connecting others and holding space for hope and healing to grow.

 

Rev. Susan Halvor (she/her/hers) has lived in Anchorage, Alaska for 20 years, after being raised in the Pacific Northwest. She will celebrate the 20th anniversary of her ordination to Word and Sacrament ministry in August. Her heart is most alive in the holy moments of hospital chaplaincy. She currently manages the spiritual care department at Providence Alaska Medical Center, and spent 11 years as the Children’s Hospital Chaplain. She and her partner Holly look forward to the days they can travel again, and in the meantime, are grateful to live in a place where they can look forward to hiking, fishing and backpacking this summer.