Reed Fowler, 2020 Workin Scholar

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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.

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