ELM Pride Blog: Alex Aivars

Life is a Dance Floor: A Pride Devotional
By: Alex Aivars
 
If God is a DJ,
life is a dance floor
Love is the rhythm,
you are the music
~ Pink
 
I love to go out dancing, which I’ve written about before in this blog space. This wasn’t always the case, however.
 
When I was first coming out in the mid-2000s there was a dancefloor at the first gay bar I ever went to. I remember my friends asking me if I wanted to dance. I firmly said no. Up until that point in my life, my experiences with dancing were awkward and weird, consisting of school dances where I danced with girls at an arm’s length. Dancing had no appeal for me.
 
As I started to come out to more people in my life, and get more comfortable with my gay self, I became less reluctant to go out on the dancefloor. If I was with a group of friends, and they wanted to dance, I would dance. But I would never be the first on the dancefloor.
 
After a few more years, and after I concluded that I could in fact be both gay and Christian, I was the one dragging my friends to the dancefloor. When the right song came on, at the right moment, with the right people, it was amazing. I felt the music to my soul. I no longer had to think or communicate with words; movement became my sole communication medium. The rest of the world would fade away as waves of music washed over me. These waves would then catch my soul and be translated back into the physical world into movement with my body. It was only my body, soul, and the music. It was my escape.
 
I deeply missed dancing that first year of the pandemic. Then almost a year after the pandemic began, I attended a virtual conference of queer Christians. A dance party over Zoom was scheduled for the last night of the conference. I was skeptical at first while I waited for the dance party to start, sitting there on my couch by myself in front of my computer screen. I planned to stay for 2 songs. The DJ then played the first song. I liked it. I started to move my head in time with the music. Then the next song came on, and my hands started moving as well. Soon my upper body started to move as another good song came on. Pretty soon I was on my feet, full out dancing. I was having a blast. An hour and a half later, the Zoom dance party came to an end. It was what my soul needed.
 
I hope everyone can find that place where everything fades away and you can be at one with your body and soul. It’s in those moments when we can fully and deeply hear God saying these words to us: You are my beloved. With you, I am well pleased.
 
Amen.
 

 

 
 

 
Alex Aivars (he/him) is currently starting his second call as pastor of Christ in Dewitt, MI. Since this is a part-time call, he also develops websites for businesses, non-profits, and churches. In his spare time he likes to dance, be outdoors, travel, and read.
 

ELM Pride Devotional: Caleb Crainer

Last time I went back to my small midwestern hometown one of my friends from High School asked, “do you still listen to weird music?” I assured him I did. Even though I don’t really think of it as strange, I knew what he was getting at. I grew up listening to an eclectic array of music since both my parents had cassette and record collections. My first Cassette was Beach Boys “Endless Summer” and my first CD was actually the Coolio album “It Takes a Thief” …which my parents promptly confiscated because of the inappropriate language. I went through a phase of listening to Contemporary Christian Music like you do. And then just whatever was on the radio. Often my friends and I would go to the Books/Music/Video store in my hometown and browse, which is where I found their “world-music” section! In a small city that’s a big deal.

I gravitated to music without words or with lyrics in non-English languages. Something about New Age music like “Deep Forest”, Renaissance music like “Brumel”, and World Music like “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares” resonated with my whole being. My friends thought my music was odd, but I didn’t care. One day a friend came over and shouted, “You HAVE to listen to this song.” She played me a song called “Alane” by Wes Madiko, an artist from Cameroon. I had never heard anything like it before. It starts out with soft rhythmic chanting that turns into a lively dance track with a soaring chorus that elevated my spirit every time. I had no idea what the song was about, but I immediately downloaded it on Napster. The next day I went to the world-music section at the store and miraculously found the full album called “Walenga.” Why was it here in my town? Was this meant to be? A sign from God? Yes, obviously. Each track was a whole glorious journey in itself, or so I imagined. (btw, I saw the music video for “Alane” years later on YouTube and it’s pretty fantastic.) I played it on repeat for weeks.

Apparently “Alane” had been somewhat of a hit in Europe, which is why it was available in the middle of Kansas. And why, if you were sitting on Main street in 1999, you might’ve heard it blasting from a pickup truck going by. Don’t get me wrong, I also loved Savage Garden and Shania Twain like everyone else, but I had this special connection to songs that most of the people in my life didn’t know. A special playlist of rhythms and sounds that seemed to speak just to me. 

The internet eventually gave me the power to look up the translation to “Alane.” The chorus means “Come on and dance in a love song, All together, forever.” When so many songs were about straight people’s “hearts going on,” this had been a love song for me and my queer self. Wes’ “Alane” was my glimpse that the world out there was so much bigger and more fabulous than I could ever imagine. 

 


Caleb Crainer (he/him) serves as Pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, California, as the Dean of the LA Metro Conference in the Southwest California Synod, and as the First-Call Accompaniment Coaching Convener in Proclaim. His favorite parts of ministry are having his congregation sing in different languages and the grace they show each other when things are mispronounced.

Time After Time: A Pride Devotional by Lewis Eggleston

 
WWJD. What would Joel Do? I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately. I’m not yet in the Pride spirit. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. I’ve been re-reading Joel Workin’s essays this week desperately looking for his wise words for inspiration for the current events happening in ELM and the larger ELCA body. I feel the weight and added pressure as a Proclaim member and now one of the few ELM staffers to continue the platform on which the queer Lutheran movement has operated on for the past 30 years. I wish the church and my community felt the same urgency for equal rights today as Joel did when he attended the 1987 March on Washington. As the chief fundraiser for ELM, I am afraid our queer movement will not be funded at the level it requires for much longer. 
 
Because of that, to be “Here I Stand” honest, I feel like some of those who supported Joel and the Berkeley 4 are now abandoning me and my generation of queer clergy. 
 
For some- pastors, lay leaders, long-time supporters – who have quietly stepped to the back of the room- they feel the work is now finished for them in their now well-established call & congregational life, or if not finished, then ultimately they are undone by the fact that the ELM Board would defend its BIPOC board and staff members rather than looking the other way when a Bishop caused harm- ignoring too the inner turmoil this caused to the leaders advocating for queer Lutheran ministers to hold a queer “family” member accountable. I admit there is great nuance in what I just said, but at the end of the day, financial support was pulled because of this singular action.
 
ELM is committed to the work of intersectional analysis and uplifting anti-racism as a necessary partner to queer advocacy and inclusion.
 
To that point, I must also rejoice that some saw this action like the long-awaited prodigal child returning home- to witness a Lutheran organization confront power & call out racist actions- for some this was the quintessential spirit of Lutheranism & ELM maturing into a bigger bolder entity. As a result, more persons of color joined Proclaim and some donors increased their giving, joyfully. Countless others maintained their giving to ELM, acknowledging their committment to our queer movement. Thank you. 
 
The reality is however, ELM has seen a decrease of 20% in overall generosity compared to last year. The staff is shaken, yet resolved to continue the work. The board will need to make big decisions, and prayers would be appreciated. 
 
All this does not strike Pride in my heart. 
 
However, one undercurrent that continues to inspire the board- Liberation is not liberation unless it’s liberating for everyone. 
 
Personally, that is enough for me. 
 
When I celebrate Pride- it is because I know I’m working to create a space that looks like the kin-dom of God. 
 
So with a heavy but determined & hopeful heart, I’ll leave you with some of Joel’s words to inspire us- and of course below Joel’s words is my Pride music video selection of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” covered by Sam Smith. 
 
On the one hand, being, in my instance, white, male, gay, middle-class American, etc., makes no difference; being God’s makes all the difference and that is the central focus of my life and ministry. On the other hand, being white, male, gay, middle-class American, etc. makes all the difference, too. God does not make use of persons or means of grace ‘in general’; God uses the particular, the specific. My particulars have given me a keen sense of experience of the not yet-ness of the church, a feeling for and connection with those who are not yet ‘in’. I am committed to and convinced of my own and the church’s need to be always reforming, daily dying and rising, on guard against too easy identification of God’s obvious ways and answers. More than this, however, I am utterly committed to and have been transformed by the great yes’ of God. My story, other’s stories, the story of the world, are all, in the last analysis, in faith’s analysis, stories of grace. These are stories of a relentless, loving God who will not take ‘no’ for an answer, not my ‘no’ nor your ‘no; not the church’s ‘no; not the world’s ‘no!
 
Amen.


 

 
Lewis Eggleston (he/him) is the Associate Director of Communications & Generosity for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. He lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband and their dog-child Carla. He is and approved for & awaiting ordination in the Ministry of Word & Service.