ELM Pride Blog: Dr. Melissa James

Queer Pentecost on Late Night TV


We were a number of months into the pandemic when a clip of a late-night show caught my eye. “You have to see this!” my feeds echoed. Scraping the bottom of the well of all my reserves that were being used up keeping our queer little family safe and alive in a time of global pandemic and racial justice reawakening while also starting a new job I wearily clicked through looking for a moment of distraction or levity. And then I watched as Alanis Morrisette relived every meeting I had been trying to have over Zoom for the last months on national late night television—holding her small child she performed her song “Ablaze” being interrupted to have to explain what she was doing, having her equipment tugged at, and still delivering a powerful performance. The delivery of the song was enough to win me over and give me a moment of feeling seen but the song itself is what has kept it on my playlist for these many months that have followed. You see, the song is an oath to her children. It sings to them lifting up that which makes them uniquely glorious and says “I see you; I love you” and it is a naming of the commitment as their parent to keep the fire in their eye ablaze.  

This song speaks to me, particularly as a queer mom of a young child. It’s a reminder that even in these times and with so much out of my control it is my duty to this precious human being to kindle the light in her eyes. To help her understand her inherent worth and dignity and to kindle a flame within her that sees and fights for the recognition of that same worth and dignity in others.

But this is not just a song about parenting. Moving through this month of pride and having just celebrated Pentecost what better time to be reminded that we are called into community through God’s love with the express responsibility to keep the fire in each other’s eyes ablaze. Ablaze with the promise that we are all made in the image of God, imago Dei, and beloved of God. Ablaze with the promise that the unique gifts and stories of our lives are welcome and necessary here in this time and place. Ablaze with a fire to continue to be a part of the difficult and essential work of dismantling White supremacy culture within our church and our world. Ablaze with the fire and promise of righteous anger on which pride began. Ablaze with the audacious hope that all might flourish.



Dr. Melissa James (she/her) is a Minister of Word and Service (Deacon) in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).   She currently serves the Unitarian Universalist Association as a congregational consultant for the Pacific Western Region and teaches at the University of San Diego in Sociology and Gender Studies. She lives in La Mesa, CA with her wife and 4-year-old daughter.


A Pastoral Message from Rev. Abel Arroyo Traverso

________ Pride


It’s hard to qualify Pride this year. The symbolic void where an impulsive “happy” should go weighs heavily on me today.

I would love to go with our usual greeting. “Happy Pride!” I want to scream Happy Pride from the rooftops and platforms -virtual or otherwise- and assure every single person in our community that this is the month when we can let our colors fly and we can show up as we are, even for a day, a moment, under the sun.

However, the realities we live in political, ecclesial, and socioeconomic, bluntly point back to that void where the “happy” should be.


We all encounter Pride in different ways, in different spaces, and in different times as we grow, live, love, age, come out, come together, grow apart, move on, and stay. We find Pride in the quiet affirmations of chosen family keeping us safe, and by ourselves in our closets, in the whispers of promises that things will get better.

We find Pride in pool parties and harnesses, haircuts, nail polish, brunch, church, dungeons, and homes. We find Pride in the multitude of our talents and gifts. In our galaxy of genders. In the multiplicity of our love, care, and attractions.

I find Pride in the embrace of our community and identities, hopes, goals, and dreams. However, I can’t say that this is exactly happy.

Many of us still struggle with representation, care, and community. Many of us struggle living a public life, free from fear of harassment and harm. Hell, many of us struggle just staying alive.


Beloved child of God, I invite you to meditate on what Pride means for you today. How would you qualify Pride?

Throughout the history of our faith, we can see this impulse to collectively qualify figures and events to speak to a hegemonic majority in the best of cases, or at our worst, to actively oppress, marginalize, and exterminate the cultural, ethnic, and religious other.

Yet here we are. Queer, trans, bi, sapphic, Aro/Ace Christians. Poly, kinky, vanilla, Lutherans.

We understand how our faith confession can be both liberating and condemning. We live, and live into this ambiguity, this queerness if you may, every day.

I would struggle to call it one thing, let alone good, facing all the evidence of what has been done in the name of Christ and the church.

Yet here we are.

Confessing and believing that the composer of creation wrote us, specifically us, as part of the symphony of the cosmos. 

I believe that this is the case for our community too. We are not here as an accident or by chance, but by choice. We are all, in our difference and diversity, part of this community to make it whole, beautiful and powerful. Like Esther, we were called for such a time as this.

ELM community, this is a hard, complicated, messy time, and even though we can’t all claim “happy”, I hope and pray that we can definitely claim our Pride.

Subversive, chaotic, powerful, and confessional.

Embodied as it is. As you are.

We make Pride what it needs to be, and what we pray it will become. So today as June starts my prayer is that you can claim the Pride you need. That you can find your co-conspirators and your strength in our communities. That you rage and meditate and share the Pride that is, knowing that the Pride we all make will be even better.

So beloved, I wish you a Pride. Make of it what you must. We trust that the God who was with our queer elders though history will keep showing us the way towards happiness, but more importantly, towards justice.


Rev. Abel Arroyo Traverso (they/he)
ELM Board Member 

ELM Pride Devotional: Cari States-Codding

Come, Join the Dance of Trinity: A Pride Devotional
By: Cari States-Codding

Because I’m a church nerd, I decided to pick a hymn that gives my little queer heart life, “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity”. Let me preface this by saying that I can’t dance. I’ve seen toddlers with better moves than me. But the concept of dance, the uninhibited celebration of expression and emotions, is what draws me to this hymn.

The idea of the Trinity dancing, of making a space for us formed out of love and hope, is something that especially resonates for me as a queer person. Love of God’s children, and hope in their potential, is what this queer nerd needs. And this dance is meant for us.

Much like the toddler I mentioned earlier, nothing can stop the dancing. And, as this hymn points out, not even death can stop the dance. The love, hope, the very potential of all of us is not only accepted by God but is encouraged and sustained by God.

I’ve faced situations when being queer and being a leader in the church seem antithetical, where it feels like there’s a lot of “weight and woe”; the last thing I feel like doing is dancing (even if I could).

I feel like telling the world what it can do with its opinion of me, and it’s usually not that “we are free to move”. But this reminder that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that no person, thing, or organization has the right to restrict our joy, gives my queer self a little boost. As if this isn’t good enough, we are invited to participate in God’s creation, to shape our lives and to shape joy. How could we ever shape joy on our own? And what love God must have to dance with us, love us, nurture our joys and our passions, and claim us as God’s own children! 




Cari States-Codding (Pronouns: any, if used respectfully) is a third-year seminarian, preparing for their capstone internship. Cari and their husband live with their two fur gremlins, Archie and Thor, and their three-member support staff has helped give them life throughout seminary. 

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.



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.

Easter Devotional: Bishop Brenda Bos

An Easter Reflection
By: Bishop Brenda Bos 

I am so angry. Angry about the state of the world. Angry about the state of the church. Angry that racism and homophobia and sexism and ableism and all the other ‘isms’ that divide us are having a field day in the ELCA. As a bishop, I’m angry that I have not found the way to talk about this publicly. I’m angry that I have to think about this all the time – who will I offend? Who will I abandon as I take a stand? Where am I complicit? I have power, more than I think, less than I think, and there are no clear guidelines on how to use it. 
I am so sad. Sad that people I love have hurt each other. Sad that some people in power have the privilege of looking the other way. Sad that committed leaders have shown their weaknesses in painful, public ways. Sad that people of color in the ELCA are crying out… again. Sad that LGBTQ people in the ELCA are crying out… still. Where will we find solace? 
I am so confused. As a queer bishop (it’s a small group, if you were not sure) serving a synod with diverse communities, I do not know where my guiding principles should take me. Gospel first, YES, but what does that mean exactly? Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World? The first shall be last and the last shall be first? Seek ye first the kin-dom of God? Beware the tax collector? Jesus looked at the crowd and had compassion on them? Therefore there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free? Which gospel text is supposed to guide me in these murky waters? Because Jesus says a lot about love and forgiveness and says a lot about hypocrisy and self-righteousness and apparently there is supposed to be a clear message I can follow, but I cannot find it. 
Anger. Confusion. Grief. Words we have used constantly in the past two years and again now, as the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community tries to find its way forward after suspending a member from the historic roster on charges of racism. Anger. Confusion. Grief. As our siblings of color tell us over and over how difficult it is to find a place in this church. Anger. Confusion. Grief. As leaders of the ELCA do not have a clear path forward, especially when it comes to reconciliation and renewal. God help us. 
Anger. Confusion. Grief. We think of the disciples after Jesus was arrested, as He stands trial without them, as He is executed by the state without friends nearby. The disciples were so angry. So confused. So devastated. They had trusted Jesus, had committed their lives to Him and now He was destroyed. Their ministry was destroyed. Their identity was destroyed. 
Christians like to believe those feelings were dissipated the moment Jesus was resurrected. My mourning was turned to dancing, the psalmist writes, and Christians love to cling to that dance. We are Easter people, we proclaim. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Everything is coming up roses. Or lilies, if you go to church.
But consider the story, really. Mary does not recognize Jesus in the garden. Why? Her grief, her confusion, her anger had blocked her. Later Jesus appears to His disciples, several times, but in sporadic ways. They could not trust Him to show up at a certain time or place. His revelations were random, which, in my mind, would make it more stressful. Would He stay forever, or was He abandoning them slowly, like a lover who keeps texting even after breaking up with you. Christians like to believe those first weeks after Easter were exciting, but I believe they were excruciating. I think Jesus was preparing the disciples for the rest of life on earth. Confusing, infuriating, sorrowful. A constant search for Jesus.
Image Description: A picture of the shadow of 4 people holding hands against the side walk, with the words, “I am challenging us all to find Jesus in each other. The resurrected Jesus: unrecognizable, strange, illusive. Holy. Maddening. Demanding. Loving. Present. Difficult.” – Bishop Brenda Bos
A strange message for Easter, isn’t it? I focus on Mary – she did not recognize Jesus. Her grief may have obstructed her ability, but I suspect Jesus was not recognizable. I suspect Jesus is not recognizable now either. I am so angry that places and people and organizations which used to look like Jesus do not anymore. Or is it me? Is it them? Or is it Jesus, transforming into random, irritating, beautiful things? 
I wonder if this is the problem. We have stopped perceiving Jesus in each other. We have been devastated by the human condition, no doubt. We have hurt each other, absolutely. I ask forgiveness where I have hurt you, I ask for sacred power to forgive you when you have hurt me. I am not asking anyone to forgive too quickly. But I am challenging us all to find Jesus in each other. The resurrected Jesus: unrecognizable, strange, illusive. Holy. Maddening. Demanding. Loving. Present. Difficult. Friends, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. My prayer this Easter is that we can truly acknowledge, truly experience Jesus in each other. He is disrupting us, and in that disruption, He will heal us.

Brenda Bos (she/her) is the first openly lesbian bishop elected in the ELCA. She serves the Southwest California Synod, whose territory sits on the homeland of eleven indigenous peoples and includes the Hollywood sign, “The Valley”, coastal cities, farmland and urban deserts. She and her wife Janis spend their free time hiking with their dogs and making their house more fun for their young granddaughter. 

ELM Lenten Devotional: Kristen Rice

The Patience of Love
By: Kristin Rice

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
– Psalms 31:9-10, 14-16
My mother tells me that when I was an infant, just a few months old, I would have night terrors. And she couldn’t comfort me in the midst of them. All she could do was take me out of my crib and put me on the floor to thrash it out so that I wouldn’t hurt myself in my crib. My arms would flail and I’d kick at the air to get it all out of me. When it seemed I was done, she’d pick me up and snuggle me back to sleep. 
I guess I’ve always struggled to let other people comfort me when I’m in the thick of something disturbing my sense of being. It’s both the source of my power as a chaplain and pastor,  and the source of my struggle that is very often feeling lonely, different, and unlovable.
It’s a fine line of being overwhelmed with loneliness and sadness while also being constantly amazed at the incredible power of people who have loved me through many, many seasons of loneliness and sadness. They continue to show me they are the hands of God because they love me when I can’t love myself. They remind me I am called to serve and called to love the world greatly, even when I can’t see it for myself. (Need a good song recommendation? Pentatonix “Love Me When I Don’t”.) They stand watch while I thrash out my despair and distress, and comfort me back into life. Even though I may feel lonely, I am not really ever alone. (Note to self: remember this, again, for next time.)
 “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also…But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” We trust in God’s promise lived out, that we belong and we are worthy of love, even when we are troubled and in distress. We trust God’s love to hold us and empower us into hope even when it feels hopeless. We can be God’s promise of love for one another, even if it means standing by and waiting until that love can be best received.
Goodness Gracious, God. Your mercy and love overwhelms me, and your patience with me is unceasing. Thank you for looking out for me and giving me courage and strength to work things out on my own. Thank you for picking me up and loving me into being, yet again.  Amen.


Image Description: The background of the image is a chalkboard with a flower banner with the words: “We trust in God’s promise lived out, that we belong and we are worthy of love, even when we are troubled and in distress.” – Kristin Rice

Kristin Rice (she/hers) is an ordained pastor in the ELCA. She currently serves as the part-time community chaplain for the Attic Angel Community in Madison, Wisconsin. Kristin spends her non-ministry time with her fluffy overlord Blessing taking many weekend walks through dog parks and playing hours of fetch. Kristin also takes pride in the level of coffee snobbery she has curated over the years.

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.

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.