Trans Day of Visibility by Vica Etta Steel

By: Vica Etta Steel

Today, March 31, is the Transgender Day of Visibility.

Do you know this day?
Or is it invisible in your world, do you see this day? Do you see we who are transgender? Can you hear us over the din of hate spoken in political actions, in loathing statements, and too often in the rational dismissal of our pain by those who claim to be allies. Our voices are unheard. 


I cannot speak for all transgender people. We are as varied as the leaves in the wind, blown in our own arcs, flitting, flying, falling in joyful tumbles. 
I can only speak, 
from my own truth. 
From hope 
that something about my writing resonates with my family of we who transgress, we who transform, all of us in our fullness of we who are transgender. 
And of all who work to become allies.
And all whom we name allies. 

On this day, I call for visibility. 
Visibility of our existence.
I ask for visibility, I plead for visibility in your sermons. Share our truth – we exist. God did not make mistakes with us, we are the imago dei too. Humans make mistakes when humans choose to ignore God’s beauty borne in us too.

Visibility in your social media. Share the voices of transgender people. Find us, we who are speaking into the cacophony of so much casual hate. Share our love, our joy, our pain, our weary exhaustion.

Visibility in your circles.
Speak clearly that you know 
Transgender women are women
Transgender men are men
And non-binary people are delightfully, joyfully valid.
Speak clearly that children know who they are. 
Speak clearly from listening to us, we who are transgender. 


that we visibly suffer from those who choose silence, who choose calm instead of 
anger at the outrages of hate become politics in Texas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa . . . so many more, 

like the leadership of Luther Seminary, phrased as the banal both-sides-have-good-people argument uplifting those who exclude, who harm, as they obscure we who are harmed in their rejection of RIC conversations, in their choice to make invisible the pain laid on us by the so many, the too many churches who choose to be the buoys for fear still. 

Reach out. Check in. Be visible in your love.

And in this essay 
this prayer

this scream 

I pray from weary frustration, 
too tired to 
scream above a whisper, 
still I pray 

For visibility.
I pray that you who read, you who listen
Hear our call to hear us, find us. Believe us.

Transforming God, you who speak now in the world, your voice resonating through wind in the trees, soil decaying into new growth, let the fullness of your voice sing, yell, cry into the hearts of those who embrace hate toward your Queer creations, may their hearts be unhardened and most especially sing love of your transgender children on this day. Let us all who are in this world, all who are this world, cry our love in joyful song. Amen. 

TAKE ACTION: In the comment section of this blog post on ELM’s Facebook page, trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Proclaimers will be posting their cash app and venmo tags. If you heard Vica’s call today and want to make your love visible, please donate to one of the posts and when you have, comment under their post with a “heart” or “sent” so that everyone gets a chance to be blessed & so that folks can see where to share the love equally amongst the community. If everyone has been donated to, feel free to double up! If you are still unsure where to donate but wish to support trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Proclaimers, then you can also donate through and list #TDOV in the comment and these funds will be earmarked for this community. Thank you. 

Image Description: The background of the image is the Transgender Flag with the words: On this day, I call for visibility. Visibility of our existence. I ask for visibility, I plead for visibility in your sermons. Share our truth – we exist.- Vica Etta Steel

Vica Etta Steel (she/her) is a woman, queer, transgender, and unexpectedly a faith leader! She attends Wartburg Theological Seminary. She preaches and does outreach at St. John’s Lutheran in Madison, WI. She keeps a ministry in her blog at and on TikTok (@vicasteel) where she speaks of the voice of God, never silent and always present in the world around us. Vica is married to her powerful wife, Stella (36 years this March!). They live with their little dog, Arabella Longbody, their leopard gecko, Snowflake, and many other creatures and plants!

ELM Lenten Devotional: Aaron Musser

A World Made New
Inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:17
By: Aaron Musser
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away. Look! Everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:17
When I read this week’s epistle text, words from a choral piece by Abbie Betinis rang in my head: “Show us a vision of the world made new.” The piece, titled The World Made New, combines the text of the Lord’s Prayer with what is commonly called “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Prayer”  – a prayer Eleanor Roosevelt heard in March 1940 at St. John’s Episocpal Church in Washington, DC which left such an impression on her that she recorded it in her regular newspaper column.
Betinis’s choral arrangement concludes with a lively and buoyant motor to the text “the world made new” and a soaring melody to the text “show us a vision of the world made new.” It’s light and catchy, an earworm that I’m reminded of easily; as I read today’s lectionary text, it’s the first thing I think of.
But as I look at the rest of Eleanor Roosevelt’s prayer, three petitions stand out in particular – petitions that, at a time like this, I ought to pray myself.
First: Set our eyes on far-off goals. Even when those goals don’t seem like they should be far-off. Even when unanticipated obstacles get in the way.
Second: Keep us at tasks too hard for us. Even when those tasks are deferred and resisted by powers-that-be. Even when faced with legislation and discourse that does nothing but dehumanize.
Third: Show us a vision of world made new. Even when we aren’t sure if “a world made new” is possible. Even when our ability to cast new visions is exhausted.
Indeed, these three petitions stand out most to me at this moment, a moment of crises (plural) at our doorstep. A prayer, over 80 years old, continues to resonate.
May we be blessed with far-off goals. May our work on hard tasks bear good fruit. May God’s vision of a world made new pour into our communities, our nation, and our world. Amen.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s Evening Prayer:
Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts, and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life. Draw us from base content, and set our eyes on far-off goals. Keep us at tasks too hard for us, that we may be driven to Thee for strength. Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pity; make us sure of the goal we cannot see, and of the hidden good in the world. Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us, and our hearts to the loveliness people hide from us because we do not try enough to understand them. Save us from ourselves, and show us a vision of the world made new. May Thy spirit of peace and illumination so enlighten our minds that all life shall glow with new meaning and new purpose; through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Aaron Musser (he/him) is a second-year MDiv student pursuing ordination in Word and Sacrament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Before seminary he served in Milwaukee, WI as a church musician and music educator. He finds joy in natural things, in queer performance art, in beautiful music, and in cherry chocolate chip ice cream.

ELM Lenten Devotional: Natalie Benson

Seeking God Without Certainty: Inspired by Psalm 27
By: Natalie Benson
Lent used to feel like certainty when nothing else felt certain. I knew exactly where to find God and how to present my prayers neatly, wrapped up with a tidy bow on top. But Lent changed for me in 2020. I began the year with loving friends, success in my first year of divinity school, and a million affirmations of my “call to ministry.” So why did I feel so lost, empty, and alone? 
Come March, committing to “doing Lent right” felt like the only thing I could “do right.” So, like a good seminarian, I planned to have the Lenty-est Lenten season ever, complete with a silent meditation retreat in Taizé, France. Little did I know that the 2020 Lenten season would also be complete with a global pandemic and an uncertainty in the world that matched the uncertainty I felt inside. My Taizé trip was cancelled, and instead, I’d spend Lent quarantining in my childhood bedroom. The world turned upside down, and my certainty about God disappeared. With pandemic restrictions, I couldn’t even look for God behind church doors. 
But strangely, I felt held. Not by the God who expected a perfectly executed Lenten season, but by the God who met me in places I didn’t expect. This God held the frantic scribbles in my journals, my defeated body that couldn’t muster the energy to pull itself up off of my bedroom floor, and my midnight whisper to the sky one night – “I think I’m gay.” In the quiet of quarantine, I noticed God’s closeness – so close that I could feel her breath on my cheek. I wondered how long she’d had her hand in mine. Slowly, my body began to feel like church. It was all I had left for flesh and blood worship, and it turned out, it was all I needed.
As I enter this Lenten season, I still don’t quite know how to seek this God who shows up everywhere. I pray I may be like the Psalmist and seek just “one thing:” “that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life.” The house of God welcomes the parts of me that don’t feel like they belong in church. The house of God doesn’t go stale on the days that I just don’t know how to pray. The house of God welcomes me to do no more and no less than to just be.
God, I’m not sure what to do with you right now. I’m not even sure what to do with myself. But I’m trusting that you’re here, holding me lovingly in your hands. May your gentle presence fall lightly on my heart as I seek to just be with you in these uncertain days. May I feel the contentment with myself that I know you hope for me. Amen.

Image Description: Photo of a femme person with long hair with a background of a starry night with the words, “In the quiet of quarantine, I noticed God’s closeness – so close that I could feel her breath on my cheek. I wondered how long she’d had her hand in mine. Slowly, my body began to feel like church. It was all I had left for flesh and blood worship, and it turned out, it was all I needed.” – Natalie Benson

Natalie Benson (she/her) is a third year Master’s of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School and an aspiring university chaplain. A proud Midwesterner- Natalie grew up in Bloomington, IL and later went to the University of Indianapolis, where she studied Psychology and Religion. In college, she discovered a deeper connection to her Lutheran faith through interfaith dialogue. If ministry doesn’t work out, Natalie would be happy living on the beach and enjoying her new-found love for surfing.

2022 Joel R. Workin Scholars: Rachel San Diego & Jory Mickelson

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministry is pleased to announce that seminarians Rachel E. San Diego (she/hers) and Jory Mickelson (he/they) have been selected as the 2022 Joel R. Workin Scholars.

Rachel attends Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, has been recommended for ministry by the Sierra Pacific Synod and is currently an intern at Immanuel Lutheran in Seattle, Washington.

Jory is an MDivX candidate at Luther Seminary, has been recommended for candidacy for the Northwest Washington Synod and is currently an intern at Christ Lutheran in Ferndale, Washington. 

Committee Chair Michael Nelson writes: We had a dozen wonderful candidates this year –the most ever – but Jory and Rachel were the voices that we felt best honored and embodied the ongoing witness and legacy of Joel Workin. 

Rachel’s sterling resume reveals a breadth of experience and steady commitment to the marginalized, as well as her work on multiple justice issues, including victims of violence. In her reflection on Joel Workin’s essay (entitled “Overflowing” which cites moments of God’s “Yes, Period” and “No, Period,” in one’s life and ministry) Rachel rousingly writes, “There is not enough white paper that could contain the stories of “No, period” that my Brown body holds.”  Later, she concludes that she “was bathed in the waters of sacredness of (her) experience … (that she has found) “Yes, period” showing up in community, in grace, and in the Holy waters between us.”

Among many other accomplishments, Jory’s resume reflects their service to the church and notes that he is the recipient of the 2020 Grace Award from the Northwest Washington to serve the LGBTQIA+ community in Whatcom County. Their elegant essay was marked with insightful moments with phrases like this: “Queer people’s gift to the church is one of rupture and disorder. LGBTQIA people ruptures the silence of what God’s people fear to speak aloud and attempt to hide away. Ruptures our private spiritualities into public faith. Ruptures the barrier that church walls have become and lets in the world.” 

On behalf of the committee, I congratulate each of the twelve fine candidates and pray they will continue to bear witness and ministry to the LGBTQIA+ community for years to come.

Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Raydon Workin. Joel was one of the three seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after coming out to their candidacy committees. Upon his death, Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty, and other family and friends created the scholarship fund in his name to keep his prophetic voice part of the movement.  The scholarship is available for all members of Proclaim who are preparing for rostered leadership in the Lutheran church. This year’s award comes with a $7400 award for both Rachel & Jory. 

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries organizes queer seminarians and rostered ministers, confronts barriers and systemic oppression, and activates queer ideas and movements within the Lutheran Church.

To learn more about the Workin Scholarship click here.

To read Jory and Rachel’s essays, click the links below. 

Joel Workin Scholarship_Rachel San Diego Workin Essay_Jory Mickelson

ELM Lenten Devotional – Sharei

ENOUGH: A Reflection
by Sharei Green
I always made sure to give up something for Lent. I made sure to give up something I loved, something that would be hard and noticed. I often failed. Even when I succeeded, I didn’t feel “closer to God.” So what was the point? Was I not trying hard enough? Did I lack self-control? Was I not enough like Jesus because I succumbed to temptation? These thoughts and feelings were not helpful in my journey with Christ. With age and therapy, I learned that these Lenten practices were triggering trauma.
I didn’t need to be reminded that I would return to dust. Existing in a Black body is reminder enough. I didn’t want to be encouraged to do penance. Being subjected to institutional racism, white supremacy and sexism is penance enough. I didn’t need a reminder of almsgiving. How I show up in and for community is alms enough. What I needed, still need, is a reminder that I am God’s beloved, that I was created in the image of God’s self — I needed to be reminded that I am enough.
With this new, enlightened understanding, my Lenten practice has changed to fit my needs. Because I needed reminding that I was made in the image of the creator, my Lenten practice became creation. As a creative, creation came easy to me but connecting it to my journey as a Christian didn’t come as easily. I had to set intention behind it. It was choosing not to order takeout, not out of a need to fight temptation, but to provide myself the opportunity to create through cooking and to see that as holy. It was choosing not to buy a new coffee table, not out of a need to go without, but to think about how I could create my own, and declare that it was good.
Some of the language and traditional practices of the Lenten season can be harmful to siblings who are struggling. The highlighting of death, self-control, fasting, etc. impacts individuals and communities differently. When existing in BIPOC, queer, disabled, other marginalized identities and all the intersections therein, Lent can feel like a time where we are being encouraged to look at all the ways we are seen as not enough, when the world already reminds us every chance it gets. In the midst of a pandemic that has felt much like being alone in the wilderness, and with the world seemingly on fire – war, rising food and shelter costs, capitalisms value of labor over people – what would it look like to encourage new Lenten practices, that combine prayer with intentional creation? What would it look like to ask a community what it needs for ritualistic practice and create something new that better aligns with the contexts from which folks exist within?
I encourage us all to take a look at the practices and messages this Lenten (and other) season(s) that do not serve us, or our communities. I encourage us all to be brave in challenging the church to consider the context and not just do things the way we’ve always done it. To let things go when needed, resurrect something new and declare it good.

Image Description: Photo of cartoon person with cross of made of ashes on their forehead with the words, “I didn’t need to be reminded that I would return to dust. Existing in a Black body is reminder enough… What I needed, still need, is a reminder that I am God’s beloved, that I was created in the image of God’s self – I needed to be reminded that I am enough.” – Sharei Green

Sharei Green (she/her) is a Womanist theologian currently pursuing her MDiv at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Sharei has a strong commitment to community healing and sabbath, especially in BIPOC communities and all their intersections. She is the co-author of God’s Holy Darkness, a children’s book that deconstruct anti-Blackness in Christian theology by celebrating instances in the story of God’s people when darkness, blackness, and night are beautiful, good, and holy. She serves on staff with ELM as the operations support person. 

Lenten Devotional: We Claim Them/They Claim Us

by Aaron Decker
When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to YHWH, the God of our ancestors; YHWH heard our voice and…brought us out of Egypt… (Deuteronomy 26:6–8)
By the time the offering of first-fruits described in this Sunday’s First Testament reading actually happens, these words are false. Those standing before the priest, holding baskets of gifts, were never in Egypt. The generation rescued from the house of slavery had died long ago in the wilderness.
It was not us, they should say. It was our ancestors. Those who came before us. But we claim it as our own. The captors in Egypt harmed us. God rescued us.
Long before I was formed in my mother’s womb, this and all rituals say, this happened to me. It is ancient history, but I am also living it now. It is my story.
We lift bread and cup. Jesus is not re-crucified. The once-and-for-all uni/multiverse-shattering crucifixion-and-resurrection death-always-becomes-life event is not just remembered or reenacted. No— time collapses, and we are there, we have always been there, 2,000 years ago and before time began. We are tangibly, bodily, gathered in a small, upper room in old Jerusalem, dining with friends.
Are our dour, self-effacing Lenten austerities actually a fabulous dinner party in disguise? How queer!
And there, at the table: Ancestors whose struggles we claim as our own. Their oppressors treated us harshly and afflicted us! Their suffering is alive in us! We cried out to God in their voices! And God heard us, and—
God heard the queer Christian leaders whose courage in these last decades paved the way for our leadership now, and—
God heard the civil rights activists, the people who strove for racial and gender equity, whose work also liberated our folx’ struggle for rights, and—
God heard the mystics throughout history, whose imaginations could not be limited by social norms, who spoke about God’s love with shocking, erotic words that ring familiar in our ears, and—
God heard the nameless, forgotten, whose sainthood is greater than all the Capital-S Saints combined, whose name cards God inscribes in gold and places by hand at favored seats around that Holy Table, and—
These people are alive now, being rescued when God rescues us from our captors, our Egypts. Not just in our memories but in the first-fruits offered to us by Christ. Their pain, their struggles, are alive. Their joys, their triumphs, are alive. We live in them, and they in us, whenever we celebrate the Passover of our Beloved Jesus.
That great Passover. When YHWH heard our voice and brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is indeed right, indeed our duty, but perhaps most of all, our joy.

Image Description: Photo of chalice and broken bread over an orange background with the words: we have always been there, 2,000 years ago and before time began. We are tangibly, bodily, gathered in a small, upper room in old Jerusalem, dining with friends. -Aaron Decker

Aaron Decker (he/him) is a Theological Educator in Bolivia with ELCA Service and Justice (Global Mission). He has passions for world languages, textual ambiguity, and education as liberation. He lives with his cat, Moses; like in Exodus, Aaron might talk more, but Moses is definitely in charge.