A thousand thanks
This weekend, I will meet with a committee in Indianapolis for an “approval” interview. Three years ago, in April 2015, I met with the same committee for the first time to begin the process of joining the roster of ordained ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Many of you know that I was a pastor in an American Baptist church for eight years before that, and many of you have asked me since I came to serve at St. Paul why I switched from Baptist to Lutheran.
That could be a long story, and it’s one I love to tell, especially over coffee. There are a couple of factors I always name. I love the long history and rich tradition of liturgical worship. Practices that have been shaped and continued for centuries make me feel connected to Christians of all times and places, and most of all, to God. The second factor I mention is Lutheran theology. The more I learned about it, the more I realized it was what I already had come to believe – that the good news is all about what God does and not what I do, that God’s love doesn’t depend on anything I do or any decision I make. The third factor I sometimes mention, depending on how safe I feel with my conversation partner, is that I’m gay, and in the ELCA I get to be all of me while doing all of the things I love in the church. It sure helps to be in a place that believes God loves all of me when trying to tell others that God loves the whole world.
At one point when I was discerning whether to leave my former denomination and join the ELCA, I enjoyed a long conversation with a pastor at a Lutheran seminary. We talked a lot about theology, but it was late in our conversation that I mentioned my sexual orientation. At that point, he said to me, “Ryan, there are a thousand reasons for you to become a Lutheran. The fact that this church welcomes you fully is just the icing on the cake.”
Sometimes it’s important that we say certain things out loud, so as I prepare to move on to the next phase of my ministry as an “official” Lutheran pastor, I want all of you connected with St. Paul to know what a blessing it has been for me to engage my passion for teaching and the gospel of Jesus Christ among a congregation that embraces all of me. This is the first place I’ve had the opportunity to do that, and for that I give a thousand thanks to God.
21 Comments on “A thousand thanks”
Thank you for sharing your story, Ryan. I’m glad you found the place to be yourself and embrace your passion. You will be missed at St Paul, but how blessed the next church in your path will be!
As I have told you before, you are a gift from God and we at St Paul have been blessed to know you. I will miss your presence and dedication to your calling we have experienced these past 3 years.
Will miss seeing you around…I wish you happiness…..what better way then to give God’s love to whomever you possibly can…
How wonderful to read this Ryan! we are so happy for you; both in what you found here at this amazing St Paul congregation and for your new glorious path ahead. Any congregation will be super blessed to have you as their pastor! Best wishes and Godspeed!
You have been a blessing to all of us at St. Paul. What a precious gift to feel loved and accepted for who you are in this world that is all too often filled with too much judgment about what others “want” us to be. The Lutheran theology is one that provides us the ability to question our own perceptions as we hopefully move closer to God’s want for us to love all people and let go of the prejudices and stigmas that we can carry in our hearts and minds. You will be missed, but I have a feeling that the church you serve next will be very blessed by the gifts and talents God has provided within you. Wishing you the very best!
Ryan, thank you for serving St. Paul! I am glad that you decided to become a Lutheran Pastor, thanks for sharing your story and I wish you all the best!
This reminds me how blessed I am to have been raised a Lutheran. I am glad you joined us. I wish everyone could know God’s unconditional love and grace like us Lutherans. <>
Will be gone most of the month of May. Wishing you the best in what ever your future brings to you Marlene
A thousand thanks to you you as well, Ryan! I hope you’ll take a little part of St. Paul with you wherever you go. And please leave a bit of your spunk and your spirit here with us! You’ll always hold a special place in the ❤️ of this St. Paul Family.
As a relatively new Lutheran, I too found a breath of fresh air at St. Paul, and I have regarded you as one of St. Paul’s many assets. Godspeed, Ryan.
We will miss you Ryan. I have enjoyed your bible class very much. You are an excellent teacher. Thank you for making me feel very welcome, as I am a new member. Wishing you all the best.
We are so blessed to have gotten to know you. Thank you so much for the wonderful conversations we’ve had. May God continue to bless you as you do His work wherever that may be. You are a gem!!!
As always, great messsge and so beautifully written! We miss you already!!!
Tearing up a little thinking about it! <3
We will miss you!
You have been such a blessing to St Paul. We will miss you, but wish you the best as you continue on your journey.
Beautifully written Ryan. Best of luck to you…the people of St Paul will miss you.
Ryan, thanks for sharing your story. We are going to miss you at St Paul. I am so glad you are going to continue to share your gifts with the world
And we thank God for your generous spirit and masterful teaching. You will be missed!
Courageously and refreshingly candid, Ryan. All the best.
Thank you for sharing yourself and your gifts with us. Wishing you the best!