A Devotion For The Lonely

By Margarette Ouji

We are living in strange and wild times. Times that many of us have never experienced before. Many are living alone, seeing few people, and the people they are seeing are their neighbors who give them the occasional nod, and the grocery store clerk that has been working since the pandemic hit hard in March of this year. The first few weeks of “sheltering in place” weren’t too bad for me, personally. I remember seeing memes that read, “I didn’t know my preferred state of being was called quarantine.” I am a homebody and didn’t mind working from home and only going out to walk the dog and for grocery store runs. 

It is now March 235th and I feel differently. I feel lonely and worried and afraid for the future and I’m sure so many of us do. Especially for those of us with histories of trauma, living through an in real-time trauma can exacerbate our feelings of loneliness, isolation, sadness, and worry, just to name a few. One place that I find solace, where I can go to regulate my emotions, my body, and my spirit, is music. It’s also where I’ve always found God. Listening to her music made me feel like I was being wrapped up in God’s arms. Her words and voice made me feel seen in a way I had never known. In 2003, my mom took me to see Cher perform with Cyndi Lauper, a real dream come true. When Cher sang, “A Song for the Lonely”, I felt the closeness of God and all of her majesty. 

So let it find you
Where ever you may go
I’m right beside you
Don’t have to look no more
You don’t have to look no more, oh no

Her prayerful words in this song have once again found their way onto my “How to Survive A Pandemic” playlist and they continue to bring me comfort and I continue to find God in her captivating voice. I pray that you find comfort in these times of unknown and fear and worry. May God in all of her glory come to you in the mysterious and surprising ways she always does. 

Margarette (she/her/hers) has spent these months during quarantine learning new crochet patterns and moonlighting as a Logistics Specialist for a plant-based meal delivery company. This summer she served as a camp counselor with Queeranteen Camp and participated in a 6-week workshop for queer/trans Iranian-Americans. She will begin her final year of seminary as the Vicar at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA. Margarette is a board member of ELM and was part of the planning team for the 30th anniversary of ELM. She lives in Richmond, CA, with her wife, Abby, and their dog Luther. They’re excited to share that they are expecting their first (human) child at the end of this year! 

Shame on You

by Carla Christopher Wilson
When I came out in 1996 I went on a crash-course epic journey of lesbian fashion tropes. I spent a sweaty New York Pride season in high femme rockabilly, a festie folk Pride in rainbow-striped bandana head wraps and bohemian skirts with ankle bells, and a Pride in gayboy sidekick mode looking like a misplaced Anime character. “Shame on You” was the anthem of my blue jean Pride summer. Retro t-shirts, faded denim, and the inevitable Birkenstock sandals didn’t matter that year as much as the music. Those years in the late 90s saw movement in creation care and planet activism, immigration as a human right touchstone, and a resurgence of feminism in a Womanist reconceiving that embraced Black and Latinx women and femme voices (or at least finally started trying to).
The song “Shame on You” was the lesbian song of the summer, not because it unabashedly celebrated the hard work and divinely sparked humanity of undocumented immigrants while highlighting their contributions to American life, but because it was “a bop”. The song is joyful, upbeat, and imminently singable. It’s infectious, pop-flavored beat is inviting, playful, and irrepressible. Today, in the year of rapid-fire apocalypse aka 2020, I realize how prophetic that vibe was for a sustainable revolution.
In Nehemiah 8:10 we read “The joy of the Lord is your strength” and know we are called to live in such a way that we bring pleasure and joy to God, but think of those who you love in this life. Your partner/s, your care circle or family, your children, and dear friends…what can they do that makes you the happiest? What makes me happiest in my relationship is my spouse’s happiness. Her smile, her playfulness, her relaxation, her satisfaction, her JOY is my joy. If joy comes from love and love is of God then is our rampant, wanton, wild joy perhaps amazingly pleasing to God? Does God giggle and spontaneously clap with a delighted bounce when we are filled with joy? I think it is Biblical to believe so. In Psalm 65, 96, 98 (and countless others) the same earth that God clearly claims as good sings and shouts for joy. God “delights” in the prophet Samuel and King David. Our God is a HAPPY God, and at no time does that make God any less powerful or capable of miracles.
Pride was, and must continue to be, a revolution. It is a deliberate stand against the status quo and a blatant refusal to alter our personal truth for the comfort of those perpetuating or being complicit in our oppression. We are doing powerful and serious work. As the public demonstrations just in 2020 have shown us, from vigils to shut down immigration detention centers, to marching for healthcare as a human right during a pandemic, to standing with Black Lives Matter, there is still a lot of work left to do. If we approach the intersectional and myriad struggles of this broken world without joy, how sustainable will we be?
Pride is a revolution, and no less so because it is also a party. We WILL free slaves with Moses and Miriam and Aaron and then, like them, we will have a karaoke dance party to celebrate it. We will praise God in a revolutionary way by naming and affirming the beauty of God’s creation, namely, each other. We will look at each other and say “It is good”. We will, like Amy and Emily of the Indigo Girls, tell our immigrant siblings “they shine like the sun” AND we will fight for their freedom. We will wash off our sins in the river even as the river playfully sings “lalala”. We will confront police brutality, gentrification, internalized shame and identity struggles just like The Indigo Girls do AND we will wear fabulous clothing, dance, and spend time with our beloved friends like they do in the same song. 
Our joy, in a world that actively seeks our oppression, is a defiant act of resistance. 
Take Sabbath, be happy, practice love of self and others. It’s Biblical. It honors the saints of Stonewall. It’s healthy self-care for a sustainable movement. It’s, simply, fun. And that is good. Let’s pray.
God of every good thing, thank you for the gift of joy, echoed in creation and Pride anthems. Strengthen us for generational journeys toward equality, that our memory and music will be an inspiration to generations. In the beautiful name of Jesus, Amen.

The Rev. Carla Christopher Wilson (she/her) is a redevelopment pastor serving a congregation in Lancaster, PA. Also the co-chair of Lower Susquehanna Synod’s Racial Justice Task Force, Carla is a queer femme Black (and a little Latinx) warrior for self-care and mental health. A former Poet Laureate of York, PA and a published writer, Carla continues to side hustle as a poet until her latest book, Black Catechism, is released later this summer.

“Send me an Angel”

By Austin Newberry

Like a lot of gay men of my generation, I did not even begin to explore what it meant to be gay, much less come out, until my mid-thirties. Unlike most of them, I arrived on the scene directly from a monastery rather than a relationship with a woman. But, like them, I was the proverbial kid in the candy store. A quarter of a century later, (twenty of those with my spouse), I am sometimes tempted to look back on those years with shame. A committed monogamous relationship wasn’t on my agenda.

I was looking. In the words of a song I often heard on my first forays into the bars, I was looking for an angel. I needed angels right then who would tell me that I was desirable. I needed angels to be patient with my inexperience. I needed angels who would help me find a new sense of belonging.

I prayed in sync with the hypnotic beat of “Send Me an Angel”. And, I believe, my prayers were answered with flesh and blood angels, genuine messengers of God. Mostly sweet, patient, generous, loving men, each of them angels unaware, who are all a part of who I am today, including and maybe even especially, the pastor part. When I am tempted to be ashamed of me in those early days or, worse, to see those men as themselves tempters, I remember my song from those days and the men who were an answer to my prayer. Perhaps you have your own angels whom you wish to remember. In this particularly devastating and yet hopeful Pride season, we stand in the midst of a great company of angels, praising God and joining in their song: “Holy, Holy, Holy!”


Austin Newberry (he, him, his) is serving in his first call as a pastor with the community gathered as First Lutheran Church in Louisville, KY and lives with his spouse in Columbus, IN.



Reed Fowler, 2020 Workin Scholar

The Joel R. Workin Scholarship Committee is thrilled to announce that the 2020 Workin Scholar is Reed Fowler!

Reed Fowler, 2020 Workin Scholar

Reed Fowler (they/them) grew up in rural Vermont and completed seminary coursework at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in May 2020, focusing on arts integration in ministry and expansive pastoral care. Previously, they studied theater at NYU Abu Dhabi and worked as a dog and cat groomer. Reed will begin their internship year at St. John’s Lutheran Church, NYC in August. They will be accompanied on internship with their dog, Ari, and cat, Gizmo. In their downtime, Reed knits, sews, and watches competition cooking shows.

See below to read Committee Chair, Michael Price Nelson’s, congratulatory letter to Reed!


Dear Reed, 

I write to inform you that the Joel R. Workin Scholarship Committee of ELM has selected you as this year’s Workin Scholar. It was our unanimous conclusion that your essay (reflecting on “Oh, You Shoulda Been There” by the late Joel Workin), was an impressive and moving  reflection on the cross; two pandemics, AIDS and COVID -19; and, our own responsibility as Christians living through such challenging times.

“It suddenly feels much closer to the HIV/AIDs crisis. Where identities and cultural backgrounds are blamed for a virus. Where government response (or lack thereof) decides that some people are disposable. Decides that essential workers, low-wage workers, people without healthcare, people with preexisting conditions, Black and brown communities, undocumented communities, are disposable.

But those decisions are not of God. Those commemorated with a Quilt square were not disposable. Those who are dying of COVID are not disposable.” 

You moved us as you described your own struggle to make sense of, or piece together, if you will, the brokenness of this moment:

“Liminal spaces often feel like fractured spaces. These days, I am longing to stitch pieces of life and experience together into a cohesive whole, into a cohesive narrative. I have been longing and dreaming towards a patchwork quilt where each square is worn, but bound together. Bound together with memory, grief, loss, and joy. Yet that is not how trauma works. Trauma breaks us into pieces. Into fragments … It feels like every time I stitch a piece of my past into my present, I notice even more floating fragments. Is God also fragmented? Human, Divine, Spirit, flesh, Creator, wounded? “

And what a beautiful answer you offer to the question!

“Yes, and no. Always yes, and no. God dances in the Trinity, weaves us together through the Holy Spirit, pushes us to endure the birthing pains of restoration. Death and victory are entwined, cross and tomb are entwined.” 

You concluded with an elegant prayer, a plea to God and a call to action and I quote only a small part of  it here:

“Surround us. Enfold us. Hold us as we weave together our own stories of resurrection, and resistance, and life. We pray this through our breath, through our heartbeats, through the wounded Christ and the joyful Spirit.”

On behalf of the committee, Reed, I congratulate you on your achievement!

Joel R. Workin Scholarship Fund

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins
Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees. Thanks to a generous endowment started by Joel’s friends and family at the time of his death, and with the support of other ongoing contributions, this award comes with a $6,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available to members of Proclaim.

Gimme All Your Love

By Kayla Sadowy

So much is going on, but you can always come around. Why don’t you just sit with me for just a little while? Come and tell me, what’s wrong? Gimme all your love, gimme all you got. When I hear these lyrics, I clearly hear God’s cry for God’s people. I hear instructions for care and concern for each other. But when I take the time to listen deeply, I hear the many nuances and risks behind the words embedded in the music. I hear a divine embrace of the queer experience.

So many highs, so many lows both in register and volume. Different tempos, layers of instruments at different times, all sorts of textures, all contained within four minutes. Most popular music would not dare touch all of these elements in one song, but the Alabama Shakes do it with minimal lyrics and maximized emotion. 

See, in Gimme All Your Love, there is no mistaking the contrasts and adventures in sound which relay a pronounced intensity open to the listener’s interpretations. Is Brittany Howard’s androgynous, raspy voice lamenting? Celebrating? Seducing? What are the Alabama Shakes trying to say with those four big notes followed by sparseness? What do we do with the open instrumental section in the second half? To me, these refreshing deviations from predictable pop music scream the queer experience. The rich textures of our voices carry the complex wisdom of life experiences. Taking risks for expansive, life-giving experience is something queer people know well. One second we are high on our own freedom and liberation, and the next we know the pain of phobias and -isms meant to trap us. So I am left wondering, are we hearing the music of our communities? And, what is the music of our own words?

In a world starving for liberation, God calls us to deeply listen to all of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those living with layers of oppressed identities. We have the capacity to turn up the volume of these voices and listen for the many textures shaping them. We can make sure our words are more than words, that they are backed up by the act of making sound and the perpetual motion of tempo. We can take a back-up role when necessary, while also understanding when it is our time to be featured. We can also remember that we are part of one absolutely fabulous band, bound together by the music we make.

Let us pray…God of all sound and music, widen our capacity to listen. Sustain our voices when they proclaim the liberation found in Christ. Give us the breath of your Spirit to sing for justice. Bless the queer voices we bring to witness. Amen.

Kayla Sadowy (she/her) is a bi-vocational seminarian based in Philadelphia. Her work as a music therapist has proven the power of music to be a force for transformation and new life, especially to oppressed people. Kayla’s public witness seeks equity over equality, justice over fairness, and aesthetics over beauty. She loves cooking anything from scratch, hiking with her partner, and experimenting in ever-elusive urban gardening.

“You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”

by Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer

CW: mention of White Supremacy Culture, Police Violence, Transphobia

Who makes you feel real?

I invite you to actually think about that. 

Are there two, maybe three people in your life who help you feel acknowledged, loved, understood, and safe? Oh, and also affirmed in who you REALLY are? 

We all deserve to be acknowledged and loved for who we really are, but for many, that is not the reality. Though we are known and loved by our Creator, human systems do not always follow this example.

George Floyd was lynched by Minneapolis police just over a month ago, on May 25. Two days later, Tony McDade, a trans man, was killed by police in Florida. Initial reports of his murder misgendered him.

White Supremacy relies on dehumanizing black and brown people, distancing from Blackness. Transphobia relies on willfully ignoring the trueness of affirmed selfhood. Both rely on denying the real personhood- the real Good-ness of another. That can look like questioning if a Black person suffocated under the knee of the state somehow “had it coming” or “should have listened.” That can look like valuing buildings and possessions over people. Or in Tony McDade’s case, it can look like malicious reporting and simply less coverage overall: erasure.

White Supremacy (which we know is intertwined with the social sins of Imperialism, Capitalism, Heteropatriarchy) reproduces itself by valuing buildings, property, and merchandise over Black lives. I defer to Sonya Renee Taylor, divine black Woman scholar-prophet, to help us understand: “As long as capital is more important than black bodies, black bodies will need to disrupt capital.”

But God, who knit us in Their womb, knows we are real. Knows each one and knows each one in their divine Blackness, Transness, Queerness, Made-Good-ness.

From my Christian perspective, I choose to- have to- believe in Good News. The Good News from the Gospel of Sylvester: “You make me feel mighty real” can be a prayer to the One who dwells within us, the Constant One- our God. And this Source, this Creator knows, through Jesus, what it is to be fully human- to be “real” in the way that we understand it in our corporeality. In fact, Jesus (a brown man) also knows what it is like to suffocate on the cross at the hands of the state. 

Sylvester was an out, Black, Gay man who excelled in drag, raised Pentecostal, and remained a Christian throughout his life. His gender presentation was expansive and glam. Sylvester contracted AIDS in the late 1980s, and the 1988 Castro Street Fair in San Francisco was titled “A Tribute to Sylvester.” He is quoted as insisting: “I don’t believe that AIDS is the wrath of God.” At his funeral a few months later, he had full makeup, dress, and sermon, and choirs at his church, Love Center. He bequeathed his future music royalties to local AIDS support organizations.

Social sins of White Supremacy and Transphobia attempt to make us believe that others are less than, less real. Hold tight to those who “Make you feel mighty real,” tell them you thought of them when reading this blog, and know that to our mighty God, through the gift of grace, you are always already beloved- and mighty, mighty real.

PS: I invite you to learn more about Sylvester through:

Recent Pride 2020 Documentary: ”Love me Like you Should” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3q-cKZX2Og

Biography: The Fabulous Sylvester  https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780312425692

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvester_(singer)#cite_note-FOOTNOTEBrogan201269-146

BBC (CW dated language around gender): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SsQhJiAm20

Short Music Doc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3lww-USS7Y

Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer (she/her/hers) is a white anti-racist queer woman seminarian in the ELCA by way of Seattle University (yay Jesuits!) and Luther Seminary (yay Lutherans!). She lives on the unceded land of the Duwamish people of past and present (Seattle). In non-COVID times, she liked thrifting, potlucks, and dress-up dance parties. In COVID-times, she likes cultivating plants, Zoom Church, a home-made mask with her partner’s dog printed on it, and being a cabin counselor for “QueeranTeen Camp” for queer interfaith youth.