Dear Churchwide: ELM Blog by Anna Tew

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Dear Churchwide, 

It might sound odd, but I want you to know that I’ve watched you, as a body, since well before I became Lutheran. In 2011, I was a United Methodist pastor serving from the closet and I watched with longing your liturgies, your prayerful consideration, your earnest work. I saw a paschal candle and a baptismal font in the frame online, and it felt like home. My eyes welled up with tears as I imagined that I might belong.

This is not simply because of the decision in 2009, historic as it was, to stop officially persecuting queer people and let us serve as we are called by God, though that was certainly part of it. Watching online back then felt like looking into the window of a home to which I had never entered. You, just gathering for worship and doing your work, made me homesick. Three years later, at the Easter Vigil at St. John’s in Atlanta, I would officially, and for life, become a Lutheran. I had never been one of you before, but that was the night that I finally knocked on the door and was welcomed with open arms. I came home. 
I wanted to be ordained, an honor the Methodists withhold until well after seminary. So I had waited with hesitation outside that metaphorical door as others outside told me that you would be skeptical, that you would question my loyalty, that you would think that I only wanted to join you because I was queer. These fears never materialized. I was ordained in 2016 as my call from God was recognized by the Church. I became what I had always wanted to be: just a pastor, serving God’s people.

I know that we are far from perfect; even a glance at the news or into our churches will tell us that. We have a long way to go. The wounds of systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism — the list goes on — remain with us. We have a long way to go before everyone feels as welcome as I did. We have to continue to reform. But beloved, reforming is what we do.

You gave me the language to describe the incredible capacity that we have for evil, and the incredible capacity that we have for doing good in the world: we are sinners. We are saints. We are saved by grace, full stop.

So know that as you do your work, there is probably someone watching, just like I was in 2011. Longing for acceptance. Longing for beautiful liturgy and a theology that makes the Gospel nothing less than a stunning story about God’s grace. Longing for home.

In all that you do, I am grateful for your service and I am praying for you. Let us show everyone the warm welcome that I received. Let us open the door to all who wish to enter.

Thank you for your work. Show them who we are.

The Rev. Anna Tew (she/her) is a Lutheran pastor serving Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she has served for the past six years. A product of several places, she was born in rural Alabama, considers Atlanta home, and lives in and adores New England. A lifelong athlete, Anna enjoys hiking, backpacking, and cycling in the summer, snowboarding in the winter, and running and weightlifting in all seasons. She is typically quite happy to chat about the intersections of collective spirituality, congregational life, athletic pursuits, pastoral care, and incarnational theology. Since graduating from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 2011, she has served in a variety of settings, including hospital chaplaincy and small congregations in both urban and rural settings.

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