Embodied

By Reed Fowler
 
 
When I think of “future church”, I dream of embodied Church.
 
Where we take seriously that our God is an incarnate God. 
 
Incarnate – incarnation – embodied in flesh.
 
Like God’s. Like ours. 
 
Dancing, swaying, moving, crying, laughing, feeling, being together, being with God. 
 
In our bodies, with our aches and pains and histories, holy and beloved and good as we are. 
 
Worshipping with our whole selves. Water splashing. Giving and receiving. This is my body
 
Paying attention to our heartbeats, our desires, our dreams, our fears. 
 
Heartbeats in-rhythm with God. 
 
I have spent much of my life in alienation with my body, ignoring it (ignoring myself). 
 
But how does that worship an incarnate God? 
 
How does that honor an incarnate God? 
 
I now dream of silliness, I dream of dancing, I know that my heartbeat echoes Creation. 
 
Our growth and transformation echo the trees and the algae and the mushrooms and the birds. 
 
God, shape us to your flesh. To your grace. 
 
How do we love our bodies? How do we love our neighbors? How do we love Creation? 
 
How do we love an incarnate God, if not through our own incarnate flesh?
 
 
Image Description: A Photo of Reed Fowler smiling, with the ELM logo along with the words: Future Church
 

 
Reed Fowler (they/he)is the 2020 Joel Workin Scholar and is completing their internship year at St. John’s Lutheran Church in NYC, as well as collaborating on an emerging housing cooperative. Reed loves books about magical libraries, watching reality cooking shows, and dreaming about garden layouts, tea blends, and looms.

Future Church by Elle Dowd

 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.”
– Genesis 45: 7

With the decline of Christendom and ever-dwindling numbers of people in the pews, many of us lament what we perceive is the deterioration of our position of influence in the world. There is a lot of anxiety about the future of the Church; both on the congregational and denominational level. We gaze at aging buildings with looming mortgages, we crunch the numbers, we worry about what is next. How will the church survive? What will become of us?

I feel this strain too. It is very real for me. As I await call as a pastor, I am troubled by a nagging fear that I have chained myself to an institution that is essentially a botched experiment.

And in reality?

I have.

The institution of the church is imploding. And I could spend time in this piece outlining my thoughts on how exactly that happened, or conducting an (albeit slightly premature) post-mortem. But to be honest that has been done. And I’m bored.

Instead, I would rather focus my energy on the future of the church that is not really the future at all. It is the present. It is the past. Like so many mystical, holy things, it is now and soon and has been, all at once. All throughout history, even and especially in the bleakest of moments, God has lifted up for us witnesses to God’s timeless power breaking in through the here and now.

There is no future church. Because it is already here. It is now. The future church will continue to be found in the places where the most faithful remnant has always been – on the outside. We do not, as Official Church People ™,  have to create it or strategize to make it happen. We do not have to figure it out and spell out the plan. If we want to see where the Right Now of the Church is in this moment, all we have to do is look to the places where the Spirit is already at work.

In the anarchist mutual-aid group.

In the self-defense collective of Black trans women reimagining safety.

In the multiplying love of the polycule.

In the children baptized in the fire hydrants of the streets in the heatwave.

In those dancing on the grave of How-Its-Always-Been, singing freedom songs.

These groups might not call themselves the church. So maybe we shouldn’t either. But places like these are the best expressions of God’s liberating love that we have. They are resilient, creative people. People who the world has tried to stamp out and yet God has delivered, as a remnant.

They are not a fantasy of the future. They are here and now, in flesh and blood, in grit and glitter, in pain and in power.

If we want to know what God is up to, if the Church wants to move into the future, that’s where we should cast our lot. 


Image Description: A Photo of Elle Dowd smiling against a brick wall, with the ELM logo along with the words: Future Church


Elle Dowd (she/her/hers) is a bi-furious recent graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 

Elle has pieces of her heart in Sierra Leone, where her two children were born, and in St. Louis where she learned from the radical, queer, Black leadership during the Ferguson Uprising. 

 She was formerly a co-conspirator with the movement to #decolonizeLutheranism and currently serves as a board member of the Euro-Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice, does community organizing in her city as a board member of SOUL, serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board for Planned Parenthood, writes regularly as part of the vision team for the Disrupt Worship Project, and facilitates workshops in both secular conferences and Christian spaces. She is publishing a book with Broadleaf, Baptized in Teargas, about her conversion from a white moderate to an abolitionist which will be released on August 10 and is available for pre-order now. 

Elle loves spending time with the people she loves and on weekends when there isn’t a global pandemic, she tours the city of Chicago in search of the best brunch.

To get in touch with Elle and to keep up with updates,  you can visit her website www.elledowd.com and subscribe to her newsletter.

You can also see her online ministry via Facebook.com/elledowdministry 

or follow her on Twitter/SnapChat/Insta @hownowbrowndowd 

or on TikTok @elledowdministry

And pre-order her book Baptized in Teargas: From White Moderate to Abolitionist  here  https://bit.ly/2YICjBf

We Already Have What We Need

Rev. Drew Stever, they/he
 
 
I had top surgery four years ago. 
 
It was three months after the US presidential election and four months after I came out as transgender. 
 
I gathered the required letters from all my doctors. I was approved for a surgery that would drastically improve my well-being. 
 
This was in a time when “gender-affirming surgeries” were still considered to be “cosmetic” by many major insurance companies. Thankfully, my insurance covered over half of the bill. 
 
But I was still responsible for over $6,000.
 
I am not Beyonce, nor am I Lizzo. I could not afford even $1,000. 
 
I was frantic. I did not want the hospital to come after me because I could not pay a bill for something that I needed. 
 
A mentor of mine suggested I do something that sounded so simple, but in practice, felt so uncomfortable: ask for help.
 
“Tell your story,” they said. Be vulnerable. 
 
I mulled it over for a while and quickly decided I didn’t have any other option. I danced the Carlton dance from Fresh Prince (badly.) I lip-synced to Whitney Houston (badly.) I got coffee with people I love, but hadn’t seen in a long time. I asked for help. 
 
My people are not executives, nor are they international royalty.
 
Support came in amounts of 5, 10, and 100 dollars. They came from all over the world. 
 
Slowly, we made our goal of over $6,000.
 
There was no capital campaign. There was no major celebrity spokesperson. There was no feature on the news.
 
Everything I needed was right in front of me – in my relationships. 
 
Dear Church: Everything we need is right in front of us. 
 
Who we know. Who we love. Who we spend our time with. 
 
The scarcity mentality of the church is one that is rooted in the inability to be creative. It is rooted in empire, white supremacy, heteronormativity, capitalism and ableism. 
 
We have come to believe that we are alone in our own liberation from that which separates us from God – be it depression, addiction, privilege, racism, internalized homo-/transphobia, anxiety. You name it. We believe we have to do this ourselves.
 
Author and activist adrienne marie brown writes, “E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G—is connected. The soil needs rain, organic matter, air, worms and life in order to do what it needs to do to give and receive life. Each element is an essential component…Nature teaches us that our work has to be nuanced and steadfast. And more than anything, that we need each other—at our highest natural glory—in order to get free,” (Emergent Strategy).
 
To think that we are alone is to think something that is entirely false. It is to think something that goes against all of God’s creation. 
 
The future of the church is not one that is rooted in “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps,” but rather, a church, a people that takes off our boots and says, “Hey. I have a huge blister and it’s been there for a while. Could you take a look at it?”
 
It is risking the challenge of being vulnerable about our deepest needs as a community and as people. 
 
What would happen if we just believed that we had everything we could possibly need right in front of us?
 
Image Description: A Photo of Drew’s eye and the ELM logo with the words: Future Church

 
Rev. Drew Stever(they/he) serves as Lead Pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Hollywood, California. Drew likes to take strolls – not too fast, and not too slow. He is a novice front yard bird watcher and is a big fan of Mary Oliver.

Our Own Kind of Music

by John Brett
 
 
The tears pooled in my eyes as I sat underneath the cross on Christmas morning. I was part of a small circle of worshipers in the chancel of the church of my baptism during my junior year of high school. Amidst the Incarnation’s intimacy that morning, a quiet, reflective calm after Christmas Eve’s pageantry, Isolation’s moisture fell down my face. Andrea, an older church member whom I had sung with since 6th grade in a small folk ensemble, where I had first read the term “6 foot gladiola,” reached out and held my hand. For a moment I was reassured.
 
The first time I ever came out to anyone as “questioning my sexuality” was one year prior. Sitting in that same chancel at 2 AM at a church lock-in, I confided in a Danish exchange student. Later, I knew I was lucky because he kept the secret. In 10th grade, at 15 years old in the early to mid-1990s, it was a risk to share such information. At approximately the same time another young man in my high school had come out of the closet to the wrong person, the news spread around the school, people bullied him, and soon he dropped out. I have no idea where life’s trajectory has since led him, though I hope he found a way to survive.
 
A few months later, again at 2 AM, in a different church’s chancel during a Lutheran Youth Organization regional board meeting, I came out to Anna, the president of the board. It was one of those late-night teenage conversations where you bare your soul to each other and all the anxieties of shared teenage years spill out. It offers a moment of relief, then closet doors shut again during the road trip home.
 
My coming out has always been connected to the church. The church was the space, especially with how scary and dangerous it was to reveal myself in the wider world, where it felt safe in relationship to speak my emerging truths, and it was simultaneously the least safe space to admit them. If being bullied in high school risks forgoing graduation, being bullied by a church, by its theology, risks the experience of heaven. Those the church condemn often lose the hand of God reaching out to comfort them, an incarnation indispensable.
 
Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
‘Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you
 
As it relates to theology, as it relates to concrete practice, as it relates to the appropriate color of the carpet, the church often errs. The church often opts for the dangers of a single story (credit to Chimamanda Adichie), a single way to do liturgy, a single way to be found acceptable in the eyes of God. As if we were not already found worthy first by God’s blessed action, humans seek false reassurances, decide who’s in and who’s out. Because the hands of our worshiping communities so often reject us, the whole of us, do not reach out in comfort, push us away or abuse us, queer people know that in this life there’s more than one song to sing, more than one way to worship, and more than one acceptable color for the carpet–though we may have informed opinions about the latter. Such knowledge, sometimes estrangement, sets us apart. It’s lonely there. Perhaps you’ve known a lonely relationship to the church, to God, for your own reasons.
 
You’re gonna be nowhere
The loneliest kind of lonely
Just to do your thing’s the hardest thing to do
 
 I heard the words falling out of my mouth earlier this year as I spoke to a ministerial elder colleague on the phone after my mother’s death, “I can no longer wait for, nor do I expect the church to unequivocally affirm me.” Self-affirmation, I’ve known though now better realize, remains something I must provide myself; God’s already provided theirs.
 
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own kind of song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along
This past Sunday evening, after a decade of daydreams, now feeling appropriately resourced internally and externally, I coordinated the San Francisco Night Ministry’s first Drag Street Eucharist. Over 100 people eventually joined our revelry in the streets of the Castro, where a Jesus puppet sat above the communion table and glitter was strewn faithfully and fabulously across faces and sidewalks. A UCC colleague presided in drag over Holy Communion and my drag mom, a queer chaplain, gave the sermon. We closed the service with ‘The Runway of the Spirit” TM, our own version of the altar call, inviting all, in drag or out, to the runway’s acceptance, all Creation our ballroom.
 
 
As we close Pride Month, I invite all those who have felt alone, ostracized from the church, even while sitting in its pews, into insurrections of affection. May we make our own kind of music, secure in the love God first gave, despite anything the church might tell us. In God’s affirmation,  may we remind ourselves and others that there’s more than one song to sing, to discover plenitudes and diversities yet unimagined. Especially for those dropping out of school, dropping out of church, who have given up, may they know themselves affirmed, beautiful, called. May we reach out our hands in comfort. God’s Work, Our hands.
 
So if you cannot take my hand
And if you must be going, I will understand
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along

 

 
Image Description: A Photo of John in fabulous drag on the streets of San Francisco for the Faithful & Fabulous Drag Street Eucharist service. Next to John’s image are the words:  As we close Pride Month, I invite all those who have felt alone, ostracized from the church, even while sitting in its pews, into insurrections of affection. May we make our own kind of music, secure in the love God first gave, despite anything the church might tell us.- John Brett
 

 
 
John (he/hym/hys) grew up on a wheat farm in North Central Washington State, far from his current home in metropolitan San Francisco. He’s a seminarian and works as LGBTQIA+ Program Director and as a chaplain with San Francisco Night Ministry <https://sfnightministry.org> alongside the city’s unhoused folk, and the street and LGBTQIA+ communities. He’s also a proud oblate with The Companions of Dorothy the Worker. <https://www.companionsofdorothy.org>  Prior to seminary, John completed his BA in Spanish and Performance Studies at Dartmouth College and served as the Executive Director of a regional legal aid program in Washington State. His favorite ministry experience to date involves offering spiritual care while in drag at a taco truck.

Pride Devotional: Melissa May

CW: song contains strong language

At 15, I was having a real doozy of a time learning to express my unique and authentic self: I was a bicurious young Lutheran navigating the cliques of straight-laced, almost exclusively white youth in the aggressively heteronormative Mennonite high school I attended. You couldn’t wear tank tops or short skirts, and you were not permitted to dance. Questioning the teachings of the Church or of Scripture was out, as was cursing or considering sex before marriage. 

It was suffocating.

In these walls, which brought me spiritual darkness, a few works of art and passages of the Bible hammered through the barriers to let some light in. One of these artworks was a pop song that came through these walls like a battering ram: Meredith Brooks’ Bitch.

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover

I’m a child, I’m a mother

I’m a sinner, I’m a saint

I do not feel ashamed

I’m your hell, I’m your dream

I’m nothing in between

You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

On the surface, it was wonderful to loudly sing a curse word–I didn’t get to hear many provocative expletives at that time–but then I also realized how liberating it was to own the idea that I could sometimes be rebellious, even mutinous, toward the status quo and still be a sinner-saint child of God. (By the way, I’m convinced that if Martin Luther had been around in 1997, he’d have loved this song). I could question God like the psalmists did, and I could stand apart from some Mennonite customs and not be an awful person or an anti-Christian. 

I’m 39 now, and I recently remembered Bitch and have been regularly rocking out to it. It reminds me that God didn’t make a mistake when I was created: I am an adventurous, boat-rocking queer minister who loves to not only pray and worship but also to examine, question, and disobey when called to do so. And I hope God wouldn’t have it any other way.


Bio: Melissa May (she/her) is a pastor who served for five years in the wilds of northern Canada and western Alaska, and is now taking some time away to rest and work part-time as she interviews for possible new congregational calls. She lives with family and her very well-traveled cat, Mia, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where she’s looking forward to in-person Trivia Nights and Dungeons and Dragons sessions eventually resuming.



Pride Devotional: Proud Mary

From now through the end of Pride month, members from the Proclaim community (the LGBTQIA+ seminarians and rostered leaders in the Lutheran church) will be sharing songs that have evoked a sense of Pride in their lives. They will reflect on how these songs stirred their spirits, while celebrating God’s creation and offer a dash of Good News in their reflections. Please share these devotionals with your friends, family and spiritual communities!  
 

Proud Mary
by Lewis Eggleston
 
Every now and then, we like to do things nice…. and easy. These iconic words send chills down my spine while my heart readies itself for Tina’s five-minute intro that is almost as good as the song itself. 
 
I started performing “Proud Mary” in 7th grade with the pep band, where I would blat the baseline on my tuba at every varsity basketball and football game. As the years went by, I remember a time or two where I would dip the bell of the tuba and bring it right back up, mimicking Tina’s iconic dance moves, the only thing missing was a sequin number and some killer legs. Fingers crossed that, someday, my dream may still come true. 
 
Proud Mary. 
 
For queer folks, these are loaded words. 
 
As a child when I played this music I surely was not out or “Proud” but reflecting back on the lyrics & her performance of this song, Tina was preaching to me. 
 
I left a good job in the city
Working for the man every night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleeping
Worrying ’bout the way things might’ve been
 
As a queer person, that presumably comfy “good job or good life” meant living in a closet where society and the church would still see me as “good”, however working for the “Man”, playing someone I wasn’t, every night and day, is too much and as it turns out, I truly never lost a minute of sleep worrying about the way things might have been, had I stayed in that closet. To help bring this point home, in the words of Joel Workin, “The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves. And now, it is time to let grace abound.” Amen!  
 
This Pride season, this Proud Mary will keep on burning & rollin’ on the river. 
 
Thanks be to God & Tina.

Lewis Eggleston (he/him) 
is the Associate Director of Communications & Development at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. He lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband and dog-child Carla. He was recently approved for ordination for ministry in Word & Service. He spends his free time running/hiking/or singing to the German wildlife. 
 

An Earth Month Reflection

by Andrew Tobias Nelson
 
CW: police brutality
 
Dear officer:
I watched you watch yourself tackle that man
What are you doing to your brother?
What have they done to you?
I watched you cuff him and put him in an unmarked car, when he should’ve been locked in an embrace instead
Allowed to grieve
Allowed to rage
Allowed to heal
How have you distanced yourself from your own kin? Your own humanity?
 
Dear corporation:
I watched as you drilled for oil, dug up habitat, poisoned fresh water, and put the blame on kids who haven’t yet learned about recycling.
What are you doing to your mother?
What has she done to you?
I watched you enslave children to make cheap clothing that fills holes we have dug in the earth, when the land does not need filling, it needs rest
Allowed to breathe and fly
Allowed to swim and drink
Allowed to heal
How have you cut yourself off from your own kin? Your own humanity?
 
Dear God:
I heard the stories of your coming to your kin, in our own humanity.
What we did to you
What you keep giving to us
I watch as You bring the sunrise, the spring, the coming out, the dance, the embrace
Blessing the joy
Blessing the tears
Blessing the healing, however long this process may take
How you weep for our divisions and delight in our differences. How you continue to join us in our humanity, among all of our Earth-kin.
 
 

 
Today, for every gift made to ELM, we will plant one tree through the organization OneTreePlanted in honor of Earth Month. Or, you can click the link to donate directly and plant as many trees as you desire. Thank you!
 

Image Description: a child is holding a pinwheel in an open field with the words: Dear God, I heard the stories of your coming to your kin, in our own humanity.
What we did to you
What you keep giving to us
I watch as You bring the sunrise, the spring, the coming out, the dance, the embrace. -Andrew Tobias Nelson
Andrew Tobias Nelson (he/they) is a transmasculine, bi-vocational, spiritually curious minister living in Upstate NY with over 100 houseplants and their fiance, who is a druid in the local pagan community and a really good cook. Always on the lookout for sci-fi and fantasy novels by more diverse authors, trying to stay socially aware without getting overwhelmed. When it’s not covid times, Andrew sings with the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus and seeks out new trails for running in the capital district.

Homecoming

by Robin Lovett Owen
 
In your beginning, God scooped up humus – rich, dark soil – and breathed life into it, and called you, you. And God looked at this body, with all its sinews and muscles and rolls of fat, with your face, size, hair and skin, abilities, and God called this body good. This is your home: your body. And God placed you exactly where you belong: the garden, along with all the other animals – your siblings. This is also your home: God’s good Earth. One is not more your body than the other, because the soil and you are the same, really – humus.
 
But if this is the story of a beginning and a garden, there is also a story of exile. I don’t know what your exile from your body/earth home entailed, but I know that mine has been tied up with queerphobia – and that it is the earth, the garden herself, who has so often welcomed me back home.
 
Since a young age, I struggled with the gendered expectations placed on me – girly, delicate, demure. Even now, the femininity expected of me feels like a pair of pants three sizes too small. Perhaps this is why I have always struggled with disordered eating – I have always strived for something not quite right for my body. At every turn, whether it was because my body did not fit the androgynous cut of clothing I wanted, or because peace with my body at any size has proven elusive, my body has felt less like home and more like exile. And I know I’m not alone – queer people suffer from disordered eating at higher rates than our straight peers.
 
For me, queerness is about the journey home – the experience of coming to love this body home of mine. It is about accepting all the very good things God created in my body: the gift of sexuality, the joy of eating, the softness of my belly, or the bliss of joyful movement. These things remind me that just being is a gift of grace.
 
I’ve had many companions on this journey back home, including the queer community. But the Earth has been my dearest companion on my way back home. Whether in mountains or prairies, the Earth has reminded me that my creatureliness is not to be scorned but to be loved. The motherliness of male songbirds and the industriousness of female worker bees remind me that there is nothing unnatural about gender nonconformity. The trees bloom in the spring, the tides of Lake Michigan come in and out, the animals become fat before winter sets in – all remind me that my body waxes and wanes, and every change is good.
 
When I marvel at God’s good earth on this Earth Day, I remember that I, too, am fearfully and wonderfully made – just as I am, queer and whole. I am reminded that I need this good body/Earth home to heal.
 
Today, for every gift made to ELM, we will plant one tree through the organization OneTreePlanted in honor of Earth Day. Or, you can click the link to donate directly and plant as many trees as you desire. Thank you!
 
 

Image Description: Green grass background with the words: This is your home: your body. And God placed you exactly where you belong: the garden, along with all the other animals – your siblings. This is also your home: God’s good Earth. One is not more your body than the other, because the soil and you are the same, really – humus.- Robin Lovett Owen

 
Robin Lovett-Owen (she/her) is the intern at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Waukegan, Illinois and is eagerly awaiting first call. She is also an artist who makes queer Christian art, and her work can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy @3Solas. If she’s not in the studio or at church, she can be found hiking with her spouse, Lee, and dog, Sophie.

A Statement from ELM

He was a son. He was a brother. He was an uncle. He was a father. He was a grandson. He was so much more, and he did not deserve this at all….I need everybody to know that he is much more than this…..He had a smile that was angelic. He lit up the room. He was funny. He played. He was an amazing son. And I can never get that back.” – Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries denounces and laments the murder this week of Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center law enforcement, and the murder of Anthony J. Thompson, Jr. by Knoxville law enforcement, along with the lives of the at least 33 Black people and 23 other people of color killed by law enforcement so far this year. Every time Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives are ruthlessly taken by the hands of white authority, the wounds of the world grow deeper and their cries resound in God’s ears. 

In the Gospel, Jesus names the love of God as central for the work of justice, and teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. By linking love of self, love of neighbor, and love for God, Jesus calls us to refuse a self-love that is rooted in supremacy and death. The white members of ELM’s board and staff name our own culpability in the ways we have not lived up to this Gospel call to uphold Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives as not only beloved of God – but also made in God’s image and worthy of life in abundance. We join our voice in naming and repenting of those ways we have clung to dehumanizing systemic powers that offer security for some while producing death and suffering for many. We renounce the idols of white supremacy, the demonic forces of racism, and the death-dealing violence that come as a result. 

ELM recommits to an anti-racist identity at every level of the organization and implores white members of Proclaim, those who support ELM’s mission, and predominantly white communities of faith to the following calls to action:

Local Action

Donate to BIPOC activists on the ground in Minnesota and Knoxville: 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-sponsor-emt-training-for-poc

Venmo: @MNTeenActivists

https://venmo.com/Appalachian-CommunityFund

www.blackcoffeejustice.com

 *Check in with and care for your siblings of color. DO SOMETHING: call them, send them a care package, pay for their dinner/groceries. Make specific offers to redistribute resources and ask what support they need.

National Action

Commit to reparations in the ELCA: Click on the following link to make a contribution through Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle to the 66th Synod fund. The 66th Synod Fund is named in memory of the Alpha Synod and Jehu Jones and is devoted to helping elderly Black ministers survive after years of serving congregations without the ability to have adequately paid their pastors. The endowment is led by a Board of Black women in the ELCA.

Sign up for and take action in the Movement for Black Lives: https://m4bl.org/Movement 

Get mobilized on the nearly 300 local and state pending bills designed to keep black and brown people from the polls: track them through the Brennan Center, support the ACLU’s work, and get involved with the League of Women Voters’ efforts.

Pray with Us 

We pray for Black, Indigenous, People of Color experiencing relentless racialized trauma, and its ensuing exhaustion and grief, especially for those who are also LGBTQ2SIA+, disabled, or members of other marginalized communities. We pray fervently for the families of Daunte Wright and Anthony J. Thompson, Jr. and their communities. We, the white members of the board of directors and staff of ELM, ask God to give us the strength and wisdom we are lacking to start removing the sin of white supremacist thinking and ways of life from our hearts and minds. We, the BIPOC members of the board of directors and staff of ELM, pray that white people do more – stand up stronger, fight harder, and find the mettle to scream at the top of their lungs that Black, Indigenous, Latine, Asian and POC Lives Matter, and are beloved. We pray that the sacred divinity of Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies be given the honor and reverence that our Christian faith demands. 


Image Description: Over a black background, the scripture verse from Jeremiah 6:14- They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. 

Queer Easter by Guy Erwin

Is anything queerer than Easter?
 
Easter is the “queerest” holiday I know. Even as I child, I remember being astounded by the bunny rabbits, eggs, yellow chicks and all the other visual cues for Easter—they were so random, and so odd—and so bright. Easter is a color riot. And then the Easter clothes: stuff that you didn’t wear the rest of the year because it was so…colorful! I’m of course using “queer” in this sense as being contrary to expectations, or somehow far beyond the ordinary—and by that definition Easter was the holiday that mystified me most. But I didn’t let it worry me; I was basically into it for the chocolate.
 
But now years later, I’m a different person, and Easter is the most important day of the year for me—so important, in fact, that every Sunday is a little Easter. The empty tomb is at the very heart of our Christian faith—if Jesus didn’t rise, nothing else matters, and if he did, well…nothing else matters. But, I’m happy to report, Easter is still “queer” to me—it still confounds me, doesn’t fit in any box or category, and has not lost any of its astonishment. (Though I have now reconciled myself to the whole rabbit/egg/pastel thing as a high form of camp—my husband even has an amazing multicolor Madras plaid sport coat he could never wear any other day—and I have come to love the garish thing!)
 
Jesus’ rising from the dead makes no sense. It simply doesn’t conform to the way we know things work. It’s hard to understand—clearly the women at the tomb and the rest of the disciples had a hard time getting their minds around it. And it is precisely in this—in the challenge that the Resurrection presents to our logic and our senses—that the miracle comes forth: a murdered Messiah returns with a message of love and peace; someone who appears behind locked doors and vanishes just as suddenly can walk with friends and eat a meal—and at the same time sees into hearts, makes them burn, and scriptural mysteries suddenly clear in the instant of breaking the bread. None of these are “normal”—none fit in the usual categories of experience.
 
Queer theology is to me this wonderful irrationality, the dramatic paradox of a God who comes to us as a human—and who lives and dies with us, and then lives again. A human who delights breaking the rules other humans had made to hang on to control, can set us free from the things we fear the most. We, who have been told so many times and so many ways that we are not as God intended, and yet know the deeper truth that we are indeed precisely who God made us to be, and for whom Jesus lived and died and rose again—we know what it means to have a Savior who “queers” everything—even death and life. And we can wear the loudest plaid we want, and wear the frilliest and sparkliest hat, and shout for joy to the God who loves us so extravagantly, wildly—and queerly!
 
Happy Easter to you all!
 
 
 

Image Description: photo of Proclaimer Guy Erwin in a blessing with young adults: with his words “Queer theology is to me this wonderful irrationality, the dramatic paradox of a God who comes to us as a human—and who lives and dies with us, and then lives again.”- over the image. 


 
 
Guy Erwin (he/him) is the president of United Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania, and in 2013 was elected as the first out gay bishop in the ELCA and the first gay male bishop in any Lutheran church. He dresses very soberly, but loves bright vestments, his husband, his parrot, and Easter.