After almost two years in my role as Faith Organizer with Lyndale and the Center for Sustainable Justice, today marks my final Sunday on staff and a blessing of my continued presence among you as a member of this congregation.
Given that context, I was so pleased to see this scripture passage listed as the Gospel today in the Revised Common Lectionary, or the suggested schedule of scripture readings which many mainline Protestant denominations follow. My favorite part of this story, which many of us know as the story of the “loaves and fishes” or the “feeding of the 5,000,” is the twelve baskets of leftovers. We are told that all of the people present, ALL of them, ate and were filled. Everyone is nourished, and there is so much leftover.
Like the 5,000 men with Jesus — and all the uncounted women and children — I have been so nourished in this congregation. I first came to Lyndale in 2018, when I lived just a few blocks away. At that time in particular, I was actively seeking a congregation which would embrace my full self as a queer woman. I had come out as a lesbian just a year or so before I found Lyndale, and had experienced far too much Christian homophobia. I was rejected and hurt by people whom I had thought were lifelong friends, and relationships with many extended family members became messy and complicated. I felt a strong desire to be actively involved in a church community and felt a call to church leadership, but didn’t know where to find a church home in which I could be my full self as a queer Christian.
I had heard of Lyndale and had seen Revs. Ashley and Rebecca at Pride events and other queer-positive Christian events in the Twin Cities, so I thought I would check it out. I remember one of the first times I came to worship here – late, as usual – and there were no available chairs. I stood awkwardly in the back of the sanctuary, telling myself “this is what you get for being late,” but within seconds a friendly Lyndalian had found me a chair and welcomed me in. That is such the Lyndale way: a way of welcome, of hospitality, and of care.
The first time I heard Lyndale’s Eucharistic prayer, which Ashley & Rebecca wrote and which we repeat today, I cried real tears as they re-imagined the moments leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion: “On the night before Jesus’ trans body was murdered. On the night before Jesus’ immigrant body was detained by ICE.” In all my years of churchgoing, I had never had such a meaningful access point to communion.
I became a member at Lyndale in August of 2018, literally weeks before my partner Brooklyn and I moved to New York City where I would begin seminary. I was and remain so grateful to Ashley and Rebecca, and to all of you Lyndalians, for welcoming me in such a pivotal moment of transition in my life. Throughout my time in seminary, I was truly blessed by knowing I was held in prayer and relationship with this community.
You, as Lyndale, have supported me in so many ways throughout the years: you sponsored my attendance at UCC General Synod 2019, you encouraged me during my very first church internship which was at Lyndale in the summer of 2019, you covered the cost for me to take a UCC polity class (a prerequisite for ordination) in early 2020, and you have borne with me as I have learned and grown and make mistakes as a leader and member at Lyndale. I will never forget the grace, guidance, and reassurance you provided for me while I provided sabbatical coverage for Rev. Rebecca last summer.
I am so proud of all we have done together over these past two years. Among so much additional fabulous ministry, we organized around the public safety charter amendment in 2021, we passed the reparations line-item in the budget in 2022, and we hosted Pizza and Polyamory, “God Loves Trans People Sunday,” and Queer Prom this year. Our “Connect + Repair” gatherings provided us an opportunity to share stories which connect us to reparations work, and Our Racial Justice Task Force, Activistas, Green Team, and Social Justice Forum continue providing us with opportunities to show up in solidarity all year round. In collaboration with ISAIAH, over 20 Lyndalians met with legislators at the State Capitol and beyond during this legislative session to share our values of justice and care.
What I love about Lyndale is that we are invited to show up as our full selves, with unique gifts and experiences and insights, to co-create this community. One of my favorite ways to make meaning of this morning’s scripture passage came from my high school youth group leader. When she was talking absolutely it this passage with us, she said that she wasn’t sure she believed that Jesus magically made more food appear. Instead, she liked to imagine that when Jesus blessed the food that had been brought forward, others in the crowd started digging in their own packs and adding food to the feast. It turns out there were not just loaves and fishes: someone had brought dates, someone else had brought grapes, someone else olives, and suddenly the people in the crowd were sharing with their neighbor what they had brought for themselves. That is such the model of Lyndale: sharing what is uniquely ours, digging in our packs to pass around our stories and prayers and passions and joys and griefs and sharing them with one another, holding it all in community. We share what is ours both within and beyond this community, recognizing that not all of what is ours — so frequently our money and land — truly belongs to us. Maybe there were tax collectors in the crowd on the mountain that day, maybe sharing their food for the first time, rightfully redistributing what they had taken from the poor for so many years. It is a blessing to have that opportunity, in so much of what we do at Lyndale, to return and repair together.
It has been such a joy and blessing to be among you in this role over the past two years. I have been deeply formed and fed by your faithfulness, creativity, energy, and steadfast witness for justice. Your love and commitment to one another, to our congregation, and to our broader community models how churches can show up in authentic solidarity with the poor and oppressed. You awe me by your ever-increasing support, inclusion, and celebration of those on the margins. You bring to the world your gifts of art and beauty, prayer and song, laughter and play, big emotions and bigger questions, shared grieving and intentional remembering, and through it all you respond to hatred and injustice with joyful, wholehearted, and transformative resistance.
One of the biggest joys of this role has been to work so closely with Rev. Rebecca as colleagues at the Center for Sustainable Justice. I have been so thoroughly formed and transformed by Rebecca’s ministerial brilliance, relationally-rooted justice commitments, collaborative spirit, fierce faithfulness, and all around fabulousness. These past two years of scheming and dreaming with Rebecca, of shared laughter and accountability transition and growth, are in large part why I can imagine myself as an ethical and helpful ordained minister and why I am pursuing ordination. All of us at Lyndale are so blessed to have Rev. Rebecca as a leader and co-conspirator. With the leadership of Rev. Rebecca, Pastor Joann, Director of Operations Karn Anderson, and the Stewardship Council, I know that Lyndale has many continued blessings and faithful adventures ahead. I am excited and confident in the Spirit’s ongoing movement in this beloved community.
I am so proud to have been on staff here at the Center for Sustainable Justice at Lyndale UCC. I won’t be far away, physically or spiritually, as I will remain a member at Lyndale and in the Member in Discernment (ordination) process supported by Rev. Rebecca and a fabulous team of Lyndalians. And, I know that I will continue to see many of you around in our shared efforts for justice and goodness in my new role as Interim Director of Children, Youth, and Families Ministries at First Universalist Church.
Like the 5,000 men — in addition to women and children —on the mountaintop that day, I came to Lyndale hungry for belonging and assurance and wisdom. Here, as a congregant and a staff member I have been so abundantly fed. As I transition out of this role, I hold so much gratitude for each of you. I am sure that all I have learned during my time on staff at Lyndale will continue to unfold within me in the seasons and years to come, offering new insights and moments of revelation even in a new professional context.
As we celebrate communion together this morning, we are reminded that we are each called to feed and be fed here, to receive and to be received, to dig deep into our packs and offer up what is ours, blessing it and sharing it in community. I, for one, have been so nourished in this role at Lyndale; my hunger has been so tended to, my soul so filled. As I transition out of this staff role and continue my relationship with Lyndale as a member, I rest in the assurance that there is so much left over, like the twelve baskets leftover from the feast of the 5,000; there is so much goodness remaining from our feast to sustain us for our shared journey ahead. Thank you, Lyndale, for the opportunity to lead among you for these past two years, and for your continued welcome of me as a member of this congregation. I am fed, I am full, and I am grateful. Amen.