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“Arise My Love”

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

by Ben Winkler

Proclaim member and first year seminarian at Luther Seminary

There is something about the experience of making music which brings me closer to God than almost anything else. This has been true for as long as I can remember. I use music to express emotions in a healthy and constructive way that lets me process life. For me, this usually takes the form of opera. I am obsessed with opera (actually, literally obsessed). This also means that some of my happiest and saddest moments are connected to the music that I make.

I do a lot of composing and arranging as a hobby. It has been an incredible study break for me as a first year seminarian. Most of the music that I am proudest of composing is my vocal music. When I was approached to write this blog, it was in regards to a specific song that I composed for men’s choir based on the classic wedding text “Arise my love” (click here to listen to it). But the time when I started writing this piece made all the difference in how this song looks… here’s where I was at that moment:

I started writing it hours after coming out as gay the first time to the first person. That night, September 13th, 2016, I went to the open rehearsal of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus- because saying that I was gay out loud was too hard for me. I found what I needed- the first proudly LGBTQIA+ community that I had ever known, and they didn’t look like the stereotypes that the world had taught me to expect- they looked like people. I needed an outlet to express what this experience meant to me- what my hopes were for a future that I could hardly imagine for myself- what I wanted to become through them, and so I opened up my music notation software and started to write in 8 part TTBB harmony. What I wrote is a love song dedicated “to my beloved, whoever he may be”.

Music has given me an outlet to say what I cannot, to be strong when I am not, to give me a community who understands me better than I understand myself. I hope someday to go back into that score and delete “whoever he may be” and replace it with a name. For now, I know that this world is often scary and intimidating, but God has called us all to preach a Gospel of radical love in the face of exclusionism- We seek a world where the next generations will have the courage to name their truth in the confidence of love and acceptance.

I have written some music for church choirs and have intentions to do more of it. I am also working on a new sung/spoken liturgy setting for the uplifting of the LGBTQIA+ community. I am happy to share my resources with you and your congregations. While most of my music is not released to the public domain, I will never charge an RIC congregation or a Proclaim pastor for the use of my church music or liturgical materials- I consider this a part of the ministry that I can bring to the ELCA and to the glory of God.

 


Ben Winkler (he/him/his) is a first year student at Luther Seminary. Ben’s identity is deeply tied to his Lutheran roots, and he enjoys debating theological questions as often as possible. A life-long student of music, Ben is active in the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and their Chamber Choir and Opera on Tap: Twin Cities. Ben has sung with some amazing musicians, and does not deserve (yet has) a resume which includes being a section leader for Weston Noble, sharing a stage with Samuel Ramey, and multiple featured roles in professional operatic productions. Ben is an over-thinker, and thus it took him far too long to write this paragraph.

 

 

 

Photo at top: Public commons

Bio Photo: Provided by Ben Winkler

The Call of the Cantor

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

by John Weit

Proclaim member and Deacon serving as the Program Director for Music in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA

I have long sensed my calling to be a leader of the church’s song. Growing up in church I was amazed at how a single person could sit behind an organ console and use the various buttons and keys to make a multitude of different sounds. What was even more incredible to me was how that one person behind that instrument could help a large group of people sing together.

Music can unite a gathered assembly, form memory, and serves as a vehicle to conveying theology. It is sometimes daunting knowing that the words that I choose to be sung and through my leadership I am essentially putting theology in people’s mouths. Through song, sung together in worship, our prayer, proclamation, praise, and lament are shaped and given communal voice. It is not about what I as a leader like to sing and what styles are comfortable to me. In whatever leadership role we have, we need to move beyond ourselves and consider what best proclaims the gospel and shapes the prayer of the church.

With communal song at the core, there is often other music that enriches the worship life of the church. Choirs, soloists, and instrumentalists offer music to glorify God, as well. Silence can also surround our music. All of this works together to shape and support the song of the people. 

The vocation of the church musician is something I have cared deeply about these last few years. I’m happy to currently serve in a call with the ELCA that, in part, offers tools and resources to help church musicians think about their vocation and craft. In my role I work very closely with the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM). In 2016 as part of their 30th anniversary as an organization, a statement titled Called to Be a Living Voice was crafted to reflect on the varied role of Lutheran church musicians, often called cantors. I encourage you to read and reflect on this statement and share it with the musicians in your context.

It is true that not all musicians come to this work as a career. Many church musicians I know are bi-vocational. Some musicians may see working for a church as a way to some make extra money or to build their resume. Musicians will take on different levels of responsibility depending on the context. I pray that musicians who serve our assemblies continue to feel strengthened in their sense of call to their vocation and feel supported by their ministry colleagues.

In 2018, ALCM is helping to support the vocation of the Lutheran church musicians by organizing several one-day workshops around the U.S. and Canada under the theme Hearts Hands Voices. The ELCA is pleased to be partnering with ALCM to offer an extended skill-building session in Valparaiso Ind., July 23-26. These events will cover a multitude of styles, instruments, and topics. Visit alcm.org for more information and please share this with the church musicians in your lives.

May the church continue to be blessed with musicians who faithfully lead our assemblies, surrounding word and sacrament with song.

 


Deacon John Weit serves as Program Director for Music in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. He lives in Chicago with his husband, the Rev. Matt James, and their cat, Buddy. John also serves as Assistant Organist at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo at top: Emily Ann Garcia

Bio Photo: Provided by John Weit

What are you thinking!?

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

by Kyle Johnson

Proclaim member
Seminarian studying at
the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

“Kyle, what are you thinking!?”

In early 2014, I started seriously considering a call to ordination.  Never one to plunge head-first into anything, I shared this news slowly, one person at a time, to close friends, colleagues, and pastors from my past.  I distinctly remember a common response:

“Kyle, what are you thinking!?”

Their astonishment was understandable, I suppose.  I was serving as a chapel musician, university organist, and music lecturer at the time.  My professional life to that point had included earning three degrees in music, several years of college teaching work, and 20+ years of church music experience.  Now I wanted to become one of “them?”

“Kyle, what are you thinking!?”

It was like coming out all over again.  But “coming out” implies motion, movement from one self-understanding to another.  And my movement from the organ console to the pulpit, though frustratingly slow at times, has felt rather natural thus far.

I think this may be because I have many fantastic role models who understand the potential of the music-ministry intersection.  My current pastor and fellow Proclaim member, James Boline, was the first pastor I called in my vocational “coming out.”  Jim is a trained musician, and shared with me his own process of discernment: “I had to decide whether I was a pastoral musician, or a musical pastor.”

Then there was a call to Phyllis Garrett, my childhood pastor from First United Methodist Church in Eureka, Kansas, who is now over 90 years old and still an active pastor.  She graduated from the same ELCA college I did (Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas…GO SWEDES!) and taught music for several years before going to seminary.  Phyllis gave me my first informal organ lessons when I was a young teenager.  When I “came out” to her about my new call, she chuckled dismissively:

“Oh, I’m not surprised.”

Finally, I had the opportunity last year to do some interim cantor work under pastor and Proclaim member Keith Fry.  I could see that his professional experience as a church musician allowed him to thoughtfully discern where his congregation was musically.  He was equipped to articulate his musical vision for his congregation, and trusted me to take the first baby steps in nudging the congregation towards that vision.

Jim, Phyllis, and Keith understand the amazing potential that arises from the intersection of music and ordained ministry.  Through them, I have witnessed first-hand how that understanding has translated into vibrant, boundary-expanding worship that is exploratory yet strives for excellence.  The calls I feel to be both a professional musician and a minister of Word and Sacrament are not mutually exclusive; rather they combine to become an invitation to explore a (frustratingly yet-to-be-well-defined) vocation filled with rich potential for unique service.

At least, that’s what I’m thinking.

 


Kyle Johnson is a second-year M.Div. student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, where he studied with John Ditto.  He also holds music degrees from Bethany College and Indiana University, studying organ with Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra and Larry Smith, respectively.  In recent years he has found a great deal of artistic satisfaction in composing sacred choral and organ works, and has titles published through Augsburg Fortress, Colla Voce Music, MorningStar Music Publishers, Santa Barbara Music Publishers, and World Library Publications.  His website is: www.kylejohnsonmusic.com.

Epiphany: “For we observed his star at its rising…”

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

by the Rev. Bryan Penman
Proclaim member and pastor,
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

I think the season of Epiphany provides a wonderful backdrop to reflect on our work together as ELM. For many of us the themes of Epiphany resonate with our story of call – of searching, of bringing gifts to the church, and showing the way to Christ in our world through an expansive and inclusive church. For we are a people who have “observed a star at its rising” as we witness the ELCA become a more welcoming church for our LBGTQIA+ siblings.

As ELM continues to work towards this manifestation of the church, some of the work I have been helping to do is with our Ministry Engagement team. Like a guiding star in the sky, our team seeks to be a resource to guide conversations with congregations who are looking to call a new pastor. Part of that work has been to advocate and partner with Synod staffs who serve as the front lines of guiding these conversations with call committees and transition teams. Often our work with congregations is overshadowed by larger more fearful forces. Like Herod’s attempt to oust the Christ child from his midst, we often help congregations get from “I don’t think we are ready,” with a “let’s help you get ready!” (For more, check out this little video ELM put together about my call story).

Helping congregations take a step out in faith to find Christ is what the Ministry Engagement team is all about – helping to serve as a guide and resource to shape conversations at a congregational level for LGBTQIA+ candidates. Congregations often need the help of a guiding star to help them see the gifts we bring to the church as faithful and fabulous pastors, deacons, and other rostered leaders. ELM has prepared a resource called “Enrich and Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process” for Call Committees and Transition teams to equip them through the call process. In this resource you will find things like: factors to consider when creating a Mission Site Profile, resources to talk about with the congregation on why a congregation should consider calling an LGBTQIA+ candidate, information about why a First Call candidate adds value to a congregation, how not to offend the candidate in the interview process, and how to welcome and engage their new pastor.

The diversity of gifts that we bring to Christ in our church is what makes the work of our team so wonderful. We now have over 162 pastors and deacons serving in calls throughout the U.S. and Canada! But with several still awaiting calls and 89 seminarians in the candidacy process, we know that we have more work to do to prepare synods and congregations to affirm these leaders of the church across all of our 65 Synods. The star is rising, let us continue to search and seek to build an inclusive and expansively diverse church for the sake of the gospel and on behalf of the world.

Stay fabulous friends.


Rev. Bryan Penman is a dynamic pastor in the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken, PA where he actively engages in community outreach and regularly speaks on the topic of human sexuality in a Lutheran context believing that Jesus Christ calls our church to be just a tad more fabulous. In preaching and teaching, he frequently refers to the unconditional love of God; how we are all wonderfully made. In loving God we love each other, or as it is written in the gospel according to RuPaul, “Honey, if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else!?!?”

The Journey to a Call

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

L to R: Caleb Cranier and Javen Swanson at a Proclaim Gathering. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

by the Rev. Javen Swanson
Proclaim member and pastor,
Gloria-Dei Lutheran, St. Paul, Minnesota

 

It was August 2011 and I had just been approved for call. Because my husband Oby was then serving as pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in the Twin Cities suburbs, I requested a restriction to the St. Paul Area Synod. My request was denied. I quickly learned that there are more candidates (both ordained and first-call) seeking calls in the Twin Cities than there are calls to be received.

Meeting with the synod staff to discuss my next steps, I was told that the fact that my request for restriction wasn’t accepted did not mean I couldn’t be considered for a call in the synod. They said the synod staff regularly reviews the names of candidates who are awaiting call and restricted to the Twin Cities. Perhaps a call would become available sometime in the future that could be a good fit.

But, they told me, I would also need to be my own advocate: keep an eye on the synod website for open calls; call the synod office monthly to discuss any new possibilities with the assistant to the bishop; get involved in the synod and network with other pastors in the area. I came away from that conversation with a clear sense that I would need to fend for myself.

Two and a half years later, I was feeling hopeless and all alone. When a call finally did come in the summer of 2014, it came not because the synod had passed my name onto a congregation, but because a fellow Proclaim member advocated for me and put my name in front of a call committee.

Seeking a first call can be a nerve-racking process for any newly-approved candidate, but it is often an especially difficult process for LGBTQIA+ candidates who, almost 10 years after the 2009 vote, still encounter roadblocks getting interviews and finding a call.

Two years ago, ELM’s Accompaniment Program launched a First Call Coaching Team. Twice a year, as recently-graduated Proclaim seminarians complete the approval process and receive their synod assignments, we offer to match them with a coach whose task is to walk with them through the process of seeking a first call. The coaches are all Proclaim members, most of whom have learned from their own challenging experiences how best to navigate the process and negotiate the obstacles LGBTQIA+ candidates encounter along the way.

The First Call Coaching Team has collected some of the best practices for LGBTQIA+ candidates awaiting first call, and coaches connect monthly with first-call candidates to offer support. Perhaps most importantly, coaches provide a listening ear, sharing in both the frustrations of awaiting first call and the joys of a successful call process.

If you ask me, synods should offer coaches to every candidate awaiting first call. Until then, ELM’s first call coaches will do the work of walking with LGBTQIA+ candidates as they seek a first call and supporting them through all the ups and downs of that journey.


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Javen Swanson is Associate Pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota (one of TWO Proclaim pastors on the pastoral staff!) where he has served since 2014. He makes a home with several Old Testament characters: his husband Obadiah, dog Ruthie, and cats Amos and Hosea.

Pride and Policies for 2019

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Crosswalk at Christopher Street during Pride, with the Stonewall Inn in the background. Photo by Mark Erson.

by the Rev. Mark Erson
Proclaim member and pastor, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Manhattan

 

It has been a total pleasure to serve on the Proclaim Team these last few years.  It has given me the opportunity to witness the growth of this essential group of colleagues and to work with some pretty awesome folks as we strive to build and strengthen this community and its witness.

I know we have just started 2018, but I am already so excited for 2019.  As one who loves to make the most of anniversaries and historic remembrances, 2019 offers us two amazing anniversaries to celebrate and to create a lot of hoopla over.

First of all, June of 2019 will mark Stonewall 50.  Yup, fifty years since the uprisings at the Stonewall Inn (really a bar) here in the West Village of New York City.  While some of us have been alive for all fifty years, we have all been affected by the movement that grew out of those initial events.  As LGBTQIA+ people it is part of our legacy.  New York will be World Pride City in 2019.  Please, consider coming to NYC for the celebration.  As a church that sits right on the Pride March route, I’m hoping to have 50 pastors cheering on the march from our steps.

But more importantly to the work of the Proclaim team, 2019 is also the tenth anniversary of the passing of the resolutions at Church Wide Assembly (CWA) that brought about policy changes regarding ordained LGBTQIA+ people.  There will be another CWA in 2019 and the Proclaim Team is making it a priority to publicly celebrate this milestone.

We want to tell stories of ministry that has happened and is happening because of those policy changes.  We want to proclaim the good news of radical welcome that the ELCA embraced in 2009 and continues to work at growing into.  We want to challenge the church to be honest and see that there is still work to be done.

It is a tall order.  There is a lot to do and say.  Over the next 18 months there will be a variety of ways to have input into this project and this proclamation.  Please keep watching, for opportunities to participate, vision, brainstorm and collaborate.

Due to the great divide in the 2009 vote, those of us who were rejoicing were asked to keep a lid on it so that those who were still struggling would not become angered.  Well, this party has been ten years in waiting.  Together we can make the most of it.  In the words of a not too distant Advent season – Keep Awake, Keep Watch.


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Mark Erson (he/him/his) is pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Manhattan, NY, on Christopher Street and wonderfully close to the Stonewall National Monument.  As a theatre artist, he engages the performing arts every chance he gets at St. John’s for the sake of the gospel.  He is married to his high school sweetheart, Scott Jordan, and is entertained continuously by their dog Brooklyn.

Extraordinary 2017!

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Happy New Year!

 
In this second week of Christmas, after leftovers from holiday meals have been eaten, and the noisemakers and champagne flutes from Sunday night are put away for another year, it is exciting to look back over the moments and milestones we have experienced, together, as a community.

We were off and on the move right from the start of 2017!  Asher (Program Director) represented ELM at two national conferences, the Western Mission Network Conference on Lutheran Theological Education at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Arizona (where Proclaimer Rev. Richard Andersen is the Executive Director), and the Extravaganza! Gathering (an annual event for adults who work with youth in ELCA congregations).  Then in February, Christephor (Communications and Development Coordinator) attended the annual ALDE Conference for development professionals in Lutheran contexts.

By the end of March, we celebrated three significant milestones.  Long time Proclaim member Chris Wogaman – after a ten year wait – was called to Trinity Lutheran Church in Park Forest, Illinois.  The Joel Workin Endowment (which supports our annual Joel Workin Scholar) reached $100,000.  And, in bittersweet news, ten-year executive director Amalia Vagts announced her departure to pursue a new call toward ordained ministry with the ELCA.

In April, the Rev. Matthew James (Proclaim member and Director of Admissions at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) joined the ELM Board of Directors, and Proclaimer and seminarian Laura Ferree shared the joyful experience of meeting other Proclaimers in the Holy Land.  The end of the month was shadowed by the passing of long time ELM supporter Joe McMahon.  This year was doubly hard as we also lost Blanche Grube in November, and important ally for ELM, both before and after the landmark ELCA Churchwide decision in 2009.

Moving into the summer, we were celebrating again as Asher was installed as the Program Director, and we ushered in a new strategic vision for the organization, further focusing goals for the upcoming years and fine-tuning our belief statement: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of LGBTQIA+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

June brought our presence at ten ELCA Synod Assemblies nationwide, Ben Houge (from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and currently on internship at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C.) was named the 2017 Joel Workin Scholar, and I was elated to accept the role as ELM’s new Executive Director.

July focused on the 2017 Proclaim Gathering:  Healing the Violence, as 71 Proclaim members and their signifigant others came together for fellowship, discernment, worship, and ongoing learning.

The summer came to a close and we were “back to school.” Proclaimer seminarians shared their stories of internship:  both lessons learned (from Proclaimer Josh Evans who concluded his internship at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska), and eager anticipation of the unknown (from five seminarians about to embark on their journey:  Laura Ferree, Dan Gutman, JoN Rundquist, Thomas Voelp, and Katy Wallace).

What makes the work we do together Extraordinary is the way in which we can support the people doing ministry in the world:  our exceptional Proclaimers and their outstanding gifts.  This ministry takes many forms, both in the pulpit and outside in different settings.  In September we learned about the ministry Proclaimers are doing out of the pulpit.  People like the Rev. Becca Seely, who serves as director of a campus ministry in New York; the Rev. Leslie Welton who just took a call as Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy in the Rocky Mountain Synod; and the Rev. Susan Halvor, a long-time chaplain who now is the Spiritual Care Director for Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

And the year would not be complete without our own reflections on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation!  We featured two months of guest-blog posts considering the event from an LGBTQIA+ point of view.  We got the queer theology perspective from the Rev. Brenda Bos, an intersectional perspective from new Proclaimer Philipos Ghaly, re-formation of the body by trans Proclaimer JoN Rundquist, and what reformation looks like as an ally – the reflections of Bp. Thomas Aitken of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.

As we shared in our 2017 highlight video, this past year saw big changes and big celebrations for us at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries; and, as we look to this new year, we’re excited to see what will unfold!

Whatever transpires, we know it will be extraordinary if we do it together!

Cheers to you, our supporters and friends, and to all the opportunities to love and support gender and sexual minority Rostered Leaders in the New Year!

Thank You For Being Extraordinary!

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

 

To all of our friends and supporters – thank you for a fabulous 2017!

Please click on the image above to watch a short highlight video from all of us at ELM.

For those unable to watch the video – the text from the video is below.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 


Video Text:

2017 has been a year of big changes and big celebrations for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Our programs continue to grow:

This year we gained 44 new members of Proclaim from Atlanta, Georgia to Regina, Saskatchewan.

33 of our new members are Seminarians.

4 are pastors, 2 deacons, and 5 are either retired or awaiting call

Overall our membership has reached 283 people – that’s 283 LGBTQIA+ leaders of our church publicly witnessing to the the transformational love of God and boldly proclaiming the good news of the gospels to communities across our country.

Over 85 volunteers, many of them Proclaim members themselves, help to strengthen our programs by serving as first-call coaches, local contacts, and synod assembly table hosts, to name just a few of the capacities in which they serve.

This year, we said farewell and thank you to Amalia Vagts for her years of dedicated and creative leadership – and welcome to Rev. Amanda Nelson who serves as our new Executive Director

Over 40 individuals and families have joined the ranks of those who support ELM financially – providing gifts annually or monthly to strengthen our ministries and lend their support to gender and sexual minority leaders of the Lutheran Church

Through it all, the gifts you have made of time and finances have been a blessing for many: You’ve connected new seminarians into the community of Proclaim. You’ve equipped call committees to open their processes to Gender and Sexual Minorities. You made the 2017 Proclaim Gathering possible and meaningful for the 70 Proclaim members who attended. You’ve helped to make ELM who we are today – and give us hope for who we can be in the future.

To all of you who have supported ELM this year, we say “Thank you”

Thank you for your gifts of time.

Thank you for your financial gifts.

Thank you for believing in LGBTQIA+ leaders.

Thank you for being Extraordinary!


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Amanda is deeply grateful to all who have made her first five months as Executive Director so meaningful! She looks forward to meeting more friends and supporters of ELM in the New Year – so invite her to your congregation!

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

 

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

It seems that from the very beginning, followers of the faith have been asked to publicly proclaim and boldly witness to the good news that grace has come on earth in the form of a vulnerable, non-conforming person named Jesus.

While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night
Behold throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light

As my family and I get ready to stand on the mountain tops again this Christmas to joyfully proclaim Christ’s birth, I am thinking about all of the Proclaim members who will lead their congregations in these celebrations this year!

Pastors who have helped to make sure that every detail of the Christmas Eve service – or, in many cases services – reflects the awe and wonder of that first nativity.

Deacons who labor to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, rehearse choirs and special music for their congregations, and corral the children in their pageant costumes (pictures of which will haunt them for years to come!).

Interns who have offered their own pieces of flare to their congregations’ celebration of the season while learning what it means to have to “work” the holidays and spend the time away from home and loved ones.

Seminarians and those who are awaiting and in between calls who dream of the ways they will contribute to a congregation’s experience of these holy days while resting in the hope and anticipation of Advent.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

I am in awe of these public proclaimers who take heed the calling of this hymn and the Holy Spirit to boldly witness to the joy of that grace come to earth in Jesus; and, who do so in witness to the fullness and holiness of their gender and sexual identities.

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our saviour’s birth

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

From all of us at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries – we wish you a very, merry Christmas!


Amanda loves Christmas and especially Christmas music. During this season you will find her sitting by her Christmas tree, drinking glogg, and snuggling with her partner and dog watching Christmas movies.

Blessings for the Longest Night

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Photo by Analyse Triolo

by Analyse Triolo
Proclaim Member

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

This time last year I was on internship at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, in New York City, preparing my very first “Service of the Longest Night” and writing a post for this very blog joining my experiences with that of other Proclaim members as we awaited the Advent of the longest night of the year. We each prepared for that night with a service for people who, like many of us, feel the sting of loss more acutely at this time of year.  For me this became therapeutic as I grieved the recent loss of my mother, Diane, who had passed four months earlier.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

I couldn’t have known at the time just how impactful my experiences leading a “Service of the Longest Night” would be. After our service concluded with Jan Richardson’s “Blessing for the Longest Night,” I spoke with a member who shared with me their experience of profound loss, and how they felt disconnected from the joy of the Christmas season even years after losing their loved one.  I was so scared of leading a service like this because I didn’t think I’d be able to control my own emotions while holding worshipers in their own grief. What I learned is that I didn’t need to be strong enough. As we each named our saints and placed a white rose on the altar for each, all we needed to do was walk that hidden road together, in the company of one another.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

Within days of that service we lost my paternal grandfather, and several months later my grandmother as well. As I led each of their funerals, some of the longest nights of the year for my family, I kept coming back to Jan Richardson’s words in this blessing and others from A Cure For Sorrow.  In these words, we found solace in the knowledge that we aren’t alone in our grieving.  Nor is any of us as we traverse this road together, trusting that it is always darkest before the dawn.

 

Poem “Blessing for the Longest Night” from A Cure for Sorrow by Jan Richardson.  Emphasis added.


Analyse Triolo (she/her/hers) has found herself in the long, drawn-out Advent otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. Struggling to be patient, she accepted a job as a Math and Science teacher at a local Elementary School. (Who says Science and Religion can’t coexist?!)  She holds a Master of Divinity from the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, a Masters of Arts in Ministry from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and is told she’s a Master Crafter too! Her new favorite hashtag is #CallMeMaybe.