Blog

Trauma-Informed Summer Programming for Youth Ministry

A tale of two confirmation camps, both planned and executed with the best of intentions. One group of caring youth leaders used a sensitive and contemplative model of listening. They asked young participants what they needed, how they felt, and to use feeling words to describe the epic journey of transition over the last year and a half. The answers were a resounding chasm of . . . awkward mumbling and silence after a few shrugs and recitations of essential, concrete information like who had moved or completed a grade. Yes, this information is important and there can be healing in any shared space, but the engagement and enthusiasm were far from what was hoped for or anticipated after more than a year of distanced and digital gatherings. The second group of young people weren’t asked to speak for more than a few minutes at a time. Their days were

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Bringing the Kingdom Closer: What Comes Next After A Time of Racial Justice Crisis?

Even caught in the timeless unreality of pandemic life, seasons continue to pass and here we are in the middle of summer’s sidewalk-sizzling heat. In certain areas of the country, like Portland, Oregon, the situation is still hot in ways that have nothing to do with the August sun. On military bases across the country, soldiers and activists alike are calling for equitable justice for women and people of color after the death of a young Latinx woman at the hands of her supervisor. Public demonstrations have lessened in size and frequency as the calls for racial and social justice move into congressional halls and the offices of area nonprofits, congregations, and even sporting arenas. Where does that leave us as people of faith? Do we declare the racial justice boiling point past? Have we entered a space of exhaustion? Healing? Apathy? As we in the church world navigate the

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Seven Steps to Make Our Congregations More Welcoming and Supportive for People with Developmental Disabilities When We Are Online

Here are seven steps to make your congregation more welcoming and supportive for people with developmental disabilities when you are online. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:2-4) 1) Have speakers use their voice to describe themselves, say their name and pronouns before speaking for the first time, have facilitators briefly read aloud or summarize slides or visuals and describe artwork, and describe the setting if relevant for those who are visually impaired. 2) Use subtitles or closed-captioning (Facebook and YouTube have automatic functions that do this, as do several web-based applications) on videos and slides of important information to support people who are deaf/hearing impaired. 3) Use

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Using Cross-Cultural Materials Responsibly (Without Cultural Appropriation)

2020 was a year of reckoning that led many of us who are white to heed what people of color have been saying for many years: that racism is a persistent and deadly problem and that it will not be solved until white people learn, grow, and change. To that end, Sparkhouse has decided to run a series of blog posts throughout the late spring and early summer in which people of color write about racism and racial justice as they relate to ministry. We hope you will join us on this learning journey and contemplate what actions you, as a ministry leader, can take to further the cause of racial justice in your church and your community. Cultural appropriation is a topic of conversation that emerges near Halloween, when the temptation for an “Indian” or “gypsy” costume may lead us into hurtful choices without realizing it. (Most of us

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Age-Appropriate Ways to Introduce Conversations about Race to Children

2020 was a year of reckoning that led many of us who are white to heed what people of color have been saying for many years: that racism is a persistent and deadly problem and that it will not be solved until white people learn, grow, and change. To that end, Sparkhouse has decided to run a series of blog posts throughout the late spring and early summer in which people of color write about racism and racial justice as they relate to ministry. We hope you will join us on this learning journey and contemplate what actions you, as a ministry leader, can take to further the cause of racial justice in your church and your community. As caregivers and youth educators, we get to have quite a few powerful, formative conversations with children. Talking about race, racism, and how to be an anti-racist is one of the most

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The Freedom of A(n LGBTQIA+) Christian

Originally published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as part of their exploration of Martin Luther’s work, ‘Freedom of A Christian’, part of the ELCA 500th anniversary celebration. My essay and several other diverse and dynamic voices responding to the work can be found HERE. A few days before writing this piece, I gave the speech at a local university’s “RainbowGraduation” to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ students preparing to launch into the wider world.There is a unique tension when sharing my witness as a black lesbian Christian in an LGBTQIA+space. I represent a reclaiming, a healing, a rebellion and a restoration. I also represent whatfor many is still a throbbing ache and a living struggle. Even among the younger “rainbow”population, there is suspicion or resentment toward the church common enough to beexpected. It is a heavy weight to carry, offering good news in way that acknowledges possiblememories of rejection or

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Getting Back to “Normal”

Originally published on March 11, 2021 by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries at www.elm.org/2021/03/11/getting-back-to-normal. The story John 3:14-21 references in passing from Numbers 21:4-9 is actually a striking one. (Read both passages HERE)The Israelites are struggling along a meandering desert path, riddled with anxiety. There are venomous snakes all around, called up by the Israelites in their agitation over the discomfort of their journey. The desert wanderers are being bitten, some are writhing in pain. God could shorten their journey, bring the Israelites to a snake-free land of milk and honey. God could just get rid of all the snakes. That would solve the problem as well. Instead, God calls Moses to make a bronze serpent that those who look upon it will be healed.  Why does this matter? Because there is a lesson in being forced to look upon the thing that we caused, that we called up, that we wildly underestimated

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An Easter Reflection

(Originally published on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries blog. That posting can be found here: https://www.elm.org/2020/04/16/an-easter-reflection.) “When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” John 20:14 (NRSV)  I write thoughts on the joyful resurrection of Jesus Christ as a dispatch from the front, at the base of a cresting wave of pandemic viral infection, rapid-fire government regulations, and a hotbed of liturgical reinvention. I wish I could speak with singularly joyful affirmation on how our fellow comrades-of-the-keys (that’s pastor slang for well, pastors) are rising equally to the challenge with compassion and vigor. Instead, it’s more apt to say we are facing this uncertain new world like the earnest and imperfect apostles we are.  In John 20:1-18 we read the story of Easter that begins with Mary seeing something unfamiliar happening around the place where her Savior

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“My Story, Your Story, Our Story: A Lenten Devotional from An LGBTQIA+ Lutheran”

This post was originally published on the blog of Reconciling Works, an LGBTQIA+ Lutheran organization. The original post can be found here: https://www.reconcilingworks.org/my-story-your-story-our-story-lenten-devotionals-of-lgbtqia-lutherans-carla-christopher-wilson/ A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. Galatians 5:9 NRSV I once said “Being Black, LGBTQIA+, and ELCA is the only time in my life I’ve ever been part of the 1%!” Spoken with humor, it is nevertheless my reality. I walk into space after space and experience a sea of faces who do not look like me, hear voices that do not speak like mine, and sit in worship rich with cultural traditions that are lovely but have little personal significance to me. There is love and celebration in these spaces, but I still often feel like a guest or a visitor in a space not my own. So why do I stay? Because I know I am not the only person to feel

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What Does Ash Wednesday Worship Look Like in A Pandemic?

This piece was originally published by ELCA Worship on January 15, 2021 as part of a longer article that can be found HERE with several other reflections. Most of my personal study and continuing education for the last several months has been focused on trauma-informed care, recognizing that living through the varied events of the last year affects not only our spirit but also our mind and body, and requires adaptations honoring this challenging new space. A best practice for trauma-informed care is to remember that significant stress and trauma are not just intellectual exercises. Our bodies respond to and reflect the events of the day. It may be using prayer beads or a finger labyrinth to make home worship feel more real or wrapping myself in a favorite sweater or soft blanket when I miss the comforting hugs of family and friends. Being mindful of how my body responds

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A Poem for Advent

This poem was originally written for a series of liturgical poems that became an Advent devotional for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. The original post can be found here: https://www.elm.org/2019/12/05/advent-by-carla-christopher-wilson/. May it be a reflective blessing to you. Feel free to share with credit. Adventby Carla Christopher Wilson Hold fast, slip fingered though your grasp has beenagainst moments run like rainthrough futile clenched handsHold fast,the brightness is coming Stand firm,toes curled against a frozen earth,braced against soildetermined in its lack of welcomeStand firm,the warmth is coming Be still,the cracking of dawn like a broken shellis spilling gold into the purple darknessBe still,the sky is moving Listen,humming vibrations gather speed,lifting flattened archesand resting heelsListen,the earth is moving Be readyPoised and present, taut and sharp eyed,waiting with ears turnedand open cupped handsBe ready,day is coming Go forward,even against wind without source,Look toward the cliffs where birds with restless wings build nestsYou have not been brought into this

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World Hunger Day

Originally published on October 16, 202 by ELCA Worship in conjunction with ELCA World Hunger. The original blog can be found HERE. 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Just for fun, try something. Take this short passage and rewrite it as if it was being written about you. Imagine the saints of the church; the missionaries and the fundraisers and the preachers and the public demonstrators who were even willing to go to prison rather than turn their back on the hungry and the poor people that Jesus made a point of eating with and saying the kingdom of heaven was prepared for. Imagine they looked at you and said, “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, siblings,

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“A Deeper Love”; A Pride Devotional

I love Aretha Franklin and I loved writing this Pride Month devotional for the LGBTQIA+ Lutheran organization, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. The original post can be found at https://www.elm.org/2019/05/23/a-deeper-love-by-aretha-franklin/ but I am sharing the text here as well. Great words to remember year round. When I heard Aretha Franklin growl “Pride; A Deeper Love” at my very first Pride just a few months after coming out it gave me LIFE! A church girl turned survivor of conversion therapy and toxic church, being told that I was worthy of love and deserved survival was revolutionary. I twirled, skipped, and danced my way across Bryant Park in New York City with fae boys and stud women still rocking the James Dean look. As we shared a moment in all our diversity, I knew a oneness that I hadn’t experienced outside of the church. When Aretha told me getting out of bed that morning was a

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“Shame On You”; A Pride Devotional

I love blogging for the LGBTQIA+ Luthern organization, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. This is a Pride Month devotional I wrote for them featuring The Indigo Girls song, “Shame On You”, one of my favorites. The original blog can be found at https://www.elm.org/2020/07/23/shame-on-you/ When I came out in 1996 I went on a crash-course epic journey of lesbian fashion tropes. I spent a sweaty New York Pride season in high femme rockabilly, a festie folk Pride in rainbow-striped bandana head wraps and bohemian skirts with ankle bells, and a Pride in gayboy sidekick mode looking like a misplaced Anime character. “Shame on You” was the anthem of my blue jean Pride summer. Retro t-shirts, faded denim, and the inevitable Birkenstock sandals didn’t matter that year as much as the music. Those years in the late 90s saw movement in creation care and planet activism, immigration as a human right touchstone, and a

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A Pandemic Word of Comfort

Feeling a little lost and overwhelmed? Without direction? King Solomon, the wisest man in the world and a man blessed by God, still prayed this prayer upon becoming a leader; “I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:7-9a) Staying humble and admitting we have NO idea what we are doing and needing to ask for help all too ofton has nothing to do with talent, or ability, or hard work. Its just the way we are called to come before God. Luckily, we see this SAME language about our going out and coming in being guarded

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