Goodsoil is an umbrella group of several LGBT advocacy groups including Wingspan Ministries of St Paul-Reformation Church, Lutherans Concerned North America, and The Network for Inclusive Vision. Goodsoil becomes the face – and the voice — of the LGBT community at Churchwide Assemblies with a ministry of presence; we are here. As a first time volunteer for Goodsoil, it has been a real joy to hear the faith stories of so many.
The first day, we all marveled at the stack of donated prayer shawls. The shawls are worn by the prayer warriors who pray in the worship space of the assembly while the plenary sessions are underway next door, and also by workers in Goodsoil Central. The shawls were gifted from individuals and congregations around the country, and Goodsoil volunteers will each bring a prayer shawl back to their home congregations. On Monday afternoon, the shawls were dedicated with prayer and laying on of hands.
The volunteers are taught how to participate in “graceful engagement”, with an emphasis on graceful. “Just tell your story. Share what your faith means to you. Share your love of the ELCA. Share the scripture that touches you.” Ok, we can do that. But, so far every time I attempt to engage in conversation, I discover that I am preaching to the choir. “Yes, Goodsoil. Good work! I think it’s going to happen, it’s time.”
I’m a newbie, but there are many who have been Goodsoil volunteers for several prior assemblies. They say they are hopeful, but also realistic. “But, if it doesn’t happen this time, then the next. Or, the next.” The coordinators of hallway “graceful engagement” are Paul and Karen Jolly of the Portland area who are veterans of several Church wide assemblies. They are advocates on behalf of daughter, Trista, a lesbian in a committed relationship who feels simultaneously called to the ministry but excluded by current ELCA Ministry policies.
The Goodsoil Central headquarters was graced this afternoon by the presence of retired Presiding Bishop Herbert Chilstrom and retired St Paul Area Synod Bishop Lowell Erdahl. The pair co-authored a book a number of years ago entitled Sexual Fulfillment, and they visited and signed books today. Chilstrom wrote a letter recently to voting members of the assembly encouraging passage of the Sexuality Statement and Ministry Guidelines.
Talk to you soon.