Letter to Myself: Final Entry

During August & September, members of the Proclaim community (queer seminarian & rostered ministry leaders) will be writing letters to their younger queer selves offering life-lessons, guidance, & support. 

Image Description: Photo of hand-writtern letters and ink pen with the words “Letter to Myself” in the center with the ELM logo, right of center. 


 

Greetings Beloved Community, 

We hope you have enjoyed this blog series on letters to our younger selves. 

Every week thousands of people have interacted with each Proclaimer’s letter, sharing both affirmation & gratitude for the insights Proclaim members provided. The vulnerability and bravery shown by each Proclaim member was truly inspiring which has made us ponder, what you would say to your younger self? 

As the final chapter on this series, we invite you to participate by answering this question: 

What is one piece of advice you would share with your younger self? 

We invite you to share your responses on ELM’s Facebook page, our Instagram page, or even on elm.org as a comment to this blog entry! 

Click the links below to select where you would like to participate. 

Click here to go to the ELM Instagram page! 

Click here for the ELM Facebook Page! 

Thank you for all the ways you have supported queer ministry leaders during this series and throughout the year! 

“Letter to Myself”- Bradley E. Schmeling

Oh Brad, I want to tell you everything! But that would ruin the next decades and give us more certainty than is helpful for a white guy. Trust me that there will be ironies and victories that you can’t imagine now. 
 
What I really want to do is thank you. I still need the memories of that coming-out self; the way you totally embraced the moment, body and spirit. You pierced your ear and wore a rainbow ring necklace to synod assembly. One year, you went to gay bars after the Wednesday evening Lenten service every week. Although it didn’t happen very often, you worried that people might think you were straight.
 
The holy fire of those days is still being tended deep within me. I’m left with mostly joyful memories and still delight in remembering some of the stories that never need to be outlined at the Monday morning Bible study. The pain, uncertainty, and fear of those days has long complexified. It’s not forgotten but has forged a deeper self.
 
The cynic might say that it was simply a youthful rush of identity, a burst of liberating energy to “be me.” That’s wrong. It was the power of resurrection that surged from deep within the matrix of God’s creative love in every cell of my body. It was incarnation in time, spirit and erotic flesh; one body, fabulous members.
 
That power of resurrection came also from letting go of so many expectations and plans for a future in the church. If you remember, in 1992 coming out probably meant not having a second call. In seminary, so many had such hopes for you, and then they said, “You’ve thrown it all away.” However, you very consciously decided that being faithful was more important than remaining on a privileged roster.
 
I need your integrity still. Without sharing all the details of God’s future liberating work, I’m living in another time when giving up privilege is the requirement for life, this time not just for me but for people of color in this country and for the earth itself. I need you to remind me that resurrection is the promised outcome to letting go, sacrificing, dying. 
 
You are my teacher. I need to remember that you didn’t really know how to take next steps, but you did. Some of those steps were exactly right; some weren’t. I need to remember now that the wrong steps were often precisely the ones that made us turn a new direction. Remember that you can trust this sometimes painful journey, because the power of God at work in and around us.
 
You, young Brad (now “Bradley” after a silly attempt to sound more grown up), still love and laugh and dream within “older” Bradley.  You give me hope, and I need you to meet me in this moment. You remind me that the promise of resurrection is more real than confusion, fear, and the uncharted path. You, deep within, are the voice of Spirit. Thank you! 
 
With love and hope from the future,
Bradley
 

 
Bradley Schmeling (he, him) serves as the senior pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN.  He’s married to Proclaimer Pastor Darin Easler, and they live in Minneapolis.

Letter to Myself: Cari States-Codding

Hey, kid.  
 
If you met me, you wouldn’t recognize me. Right now, a lot of who I am isn’t OK with you. And that’s OK.  
 
You should feel safe and loved expanding into who you are, instead of squishing  yourself into the box of who you’re allowed to be. You’re the teen who puts on dresses for church, and feels anxious and disgusting instead of beautiful and radiant. You’re the teen with the long hair, who uses it as a cover against the world instead of using it as an expression of yourself. If you cover yourself enough, maybe no one will notice that there’s something wrong with you. Maybe God will notice you trying, and maybe that’ll be enough. Maybe you’ll be strong enough to endure and overcome this trial.  
 
But guess what? You’ve got it all wrong. God can’t fix you because there isn’t anything wrong with you. You are wonderfully, fearfully, beautifully, intentionally, and lovingly made. Right now, you’re still hoping that you’ll grow out of your queerness and be normal. Normal requires a reference point, but there’s no reference point for someone who is divinely created. It sounds impossible now but, in a few years, you’ll discover a whole new side of God,  and you’ll find yourself unwillingly back on the road to ordained ministry. Except, this time, a pastor won’t be telling you that church leadership of any kind isn’t your place because you are a girl. No, this time a pastor will be telling you that you have a gift, and you are a person who needs to use and share this gift.  
 
You’ll find a way out of fundamentalism, but it’s not going to be easy. Years later, there will be instances that will trigger you and you’ll once again be that kid without agency, who thought that being themselves and serving God were diametrically opposed, wondering if God’s mercy and love were really meant for you. 
 
Read the books of Mark and Luke. Look at that Jesus with your own eyes, the Jesus of love, of healing, of compassion, and of sassiness. Look at what God has to say to you. Contrary to what you’ve been told, having an understanding of the Bible that doesn’t align with church views isn’t you choosing how you view God. It’s not a bastardization of who God is; it’s a spiritual connection and revelation of who God is for you. Having a different understanding does not mean you have a wrong understanding. 
 
Remember those nights when you’d fall asleep, praying that God would make you who he needed you to be? Remember how you felt that those prayers were never answered? That’s because God already had made you who you needed to be, and she already had plenty of plans for you.  
 
You are loved, you are loved, you are loved. And, my dear, you are more than enough for God and for me.  
 
You’ve got this, and I’m proud of you. 
 
With love,  
Cari

 
Cari States-Codding(they/them or she/her) lives in Philadelphia with their husband, cat, and dog, all of whom are very supportive of a third-year seminarian. Cari is in the process of earning an MDiv, seeking ordination into Word and Service in the ELCA. When not reading about queer theology or disability theology, they can be found playing Dungeons and Dragons, watching a variety of Star Trek series, or at a dog park. Cari is on a continual quest to figure out where she fits in this big, hectic world of ours, and they hope that they never delude themself into thinking that they have a complete answer.

Letter to Myself: Cassie Hartnett

 
 
 
Image Description: Photo of hand-written letters and ink pen with the words “Letter to Myself” in the center with the ELM logo, right of center. 
 

 
 
Dear Younger Cassie—
 
This isn’t going to be one of those letters where I tell you about a bunch of stuff that’s going to happen or warn you not to trust that friend or wear that outfit. First of all, that’s cheating, and second of all, you definitely won’t believe me. You are, as one of our therapists will say, “committed to that narrative.” (There’s a freebie—future you definitely goes to therapy).
 
But more importantly, if I gave you advice based on the wisdom we’ve gleaned over the past ten to fifteen years (how old are you, anyway?), that would take away your chance to live those years in all their devasting, beautiful, ridiculous glory. If I have any advice to give you without spoilers, it’s that life is heartbreaking and absurd and wonderful and your job is to live every bit of it.
 
Although it sometimes seems like it, God didn’t form you from a chaotic box of cosmic Legos. Every part of you—even the ones you hate, like the talking too much or having a chubbier stomach than the other girls in ballet—is perfectly made to connect with others. And I know that’s hard to believe. Trust me. It’s something we still struggle with; we go down the rabbit hole of blaming ourselves because we’re not over it yet. Hence, therapy.
 
But chickadee, I have to tell you it’s so true. You are made of love, for love.
 
Right now you want what you think love is—the magic, the meet-cute, the cosmic alignment of the stars. Your attitude about fairytales is that “the idea doesn’t just pop into someone’s head if it’s never actually been real.” It’s been ages since we read fantasy novels under the desk during math class, but I’ll tell you a secret—I still believe that. Just not in the same way you do.
 
All the wildest things you can imagine could be true. I could tell you that there’s a path to a magical land in the back of that weird closet in church and I could tell you that kissing girls is one of the best things you’ll ever do—you have no way to know if I’m lying. We’re not the most patient of humans, so this drives you bananas, but the only way to see what happens next is to mess around and find out.
 
It will be painful. Loving God and loving the world and loving yourself is so, so hard. But it is also everything. Let yourself be in awe. Let it bring you to your knees. Let it turn you into someone who you genuinely can’t imagine right now. Don’t give up dreaming of what could be beautiful in the world, and go out there to find it. If you can’t find it—well, chickadee, someone has to create it, and why not you?
 
(Also, wear the red lipstick. It’s not too much and it looks great on you.)
 
Your pal,
Older Cassie
 

 
Cassie Hartnett(she/her) is the 
2019 Joel Workin Scholar and a graduate of Union Theological Seminary. Since finishing a pastoral internship year in Baltimore, she has been further exploring her vocation as a playwright, birth doula, nanny, and most recently, a counselor for adults and adolescents in eating disorder treatment. She is currently based in New Haven, with a full bookshelf, rainbow cooking utensils, and her cats, Ramona and Beezus.

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.