Pastor Chris Wogaman
The Gift of Being Open
Earlier this week, a number of “church fathers and mothers” and myself met with George and Heather Zoellick, real estate agents, who were well-known to several at our table. George has sold many church properties, and we called him in to begin the conversation into what our property is worth on the current market and how this knowledge can potentially benefit our conversation about our future mission.
As I listened to the Zoellicks’ very helpful questions, and to others around the table, I heard a quality of voice that is essential to having any kind of future: that of true openness to wherever God might be calling us. I believe we have some questions to which we need answers that the Zoellicks can help us answer. The answers will not force us to act one way or another, but learning them now will give us options that we may not have if we started asking them in three more years.
On the other end of this month, I spent a few days near the village of Boring, Maryland (yes, there is such a place!), with my Proclaim community of LGBTQ+ Lutheran seminarians, clergy, and those waiting for call. We gathered at a Jewish retreat center, which kept a kosher dining area, as well as goats, sheep, and chickens. The feeling of the wet morning’s grass on my feet, the hair of the goats on my fingers, and the smell of the world waking up each day, renewed a connection with nature that I didn’t realize I needed to renew.
It was such a pleasure both to see old friends and colleagues and meet new ones, all of whom have a vocation to ministry, or are supporting spouses who do. We prayed and played together. We sang and worshiped. We made rainbow clergy collars! (I promise to wear mine soon.)
We also talked about what gifts we have and bring to others as LGBTQ+ people. One of our greatest gifts is our openness to ourselves and to our communities, especially to those who have not previously been welcome in the church. Not everyone is able to be as open as I am, and I am very thankful for the choice I made long ago to be out no matter what the cost may be.
The higher cost, in my experience, comes in not being open. It is a cost that we pay with our souls. I was grateful, in conversation with one of our members, to hear that being out is a gift I gave to myself. I agree; it is a gift I also give to this community.
As a community, we also have a great gift in being open, both open to others who have never been to Trinity (as when we welcomed the family and friends of Edna when we celebrated her birthday), and open to a future that will not be like the past.
God is not done with us yet. I don’t know ultimately where we will go, or what we will look like, who our people will be in the years to come, or if we will give as a gift the fruits of our ministry here to a future generation of ministry elsewhere.
But that voice of openness, curiosity, and care for the future that I heard last Tuesday, and have heard other times here at Trinity, gives me hope that whatever our direction will be, we are going in a faithful direction, and we are being good stewards of what we and our previous generations have given us to care for.
I and our Council leadership encourage you to share where you feel God may be leading us. Soon, we’ll begin the small group discussions that we’ve been talking about having for the last year. I like the phrase that Council President Becky Bruckner uses elsewhere, that the small groups will “focus on exploring our faith and our future, and how these and other elements relate to each other.” We’ll talk about prayer and faith, about listening for God, and reaching out to our community, about spending our resources wisely, and how we will approach the future intentionally.
At the table with the Zoellicks, it became clear as crystal that our future real estate needs will need to be driven by our mission direction, by the direction in which God is calling us. It would be fruitless to move if it didn’t serve God’s purposes for our ministry, just as it would not make sense to stay if that didn’t serve our mission. We need yet to spend some quality time in conversation and prayer around what that mission is. We can do this!
In the time to come, we will continue to support each other. We will also need to seek guidance from those outside our Trinity community, like the Zoellicks, and most of all we will need to rely on the crucified and risen Christ, who always leads us in a faithful direction. Open to his call, and to the Spirit’s leading, we will bring hope to those who need it; and maybe those who need it is ourselves.
And many in the future, I suspect, will be grateful for the time and care we spent in these days and the days to come on figuring out our calling as a community, as I was in opening up the path here by being open about myself all those years ago.
May God bless you every day!