Saturday, July 31, 2010
Twenty years ago when Joel Workin came out as a gay, Lutheran seminarian, he and several others helped spark the current movement supporting openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) persons in ordained ministry. Following Joel’s courageous and faithful act, his certification for ordination was vacated when Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishops refused to place his name on the roster of approved candidates waiting for call. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship was established in 1995 by the generosity of Joel’s family, colleagues and close friends. Joel died of AIDS, before he could see this day when GLBT pastors would be received into the ELCA.
The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship supports seminarians who have been admitted into the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries candidacy process; and encourages them to persevere in their preparation for ordained ministry. The recipients must be enrolled as an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender student, have demonstrated gifts for Word and Sacrament ministry, and seeks to fulfill their vocations as publicly identified sexual minority persons. The recipients demonstrate academic excellence, integrity and courage in response to the ELCA's discriminatory policies, a passion for social justice, faithfulness to Jesus Christ and potential to become an effective leader in church and society. The early witness of Joel Workin and several other gay seminarians led to a larger movement within the Lutheran Church. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a result of this witness, credentials and rosters openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for ministry; supports these pastors by working with congregations that will call them and providing mission grants to support their ministry; and provides a network of support to the congregations and pastors.
If feel moved to support GLBT seminarians, please send a donation to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Please note in the memo line that you would like your funds to support the "SPS7 Workin Offering."
You can make a secure online donation here:
1)Donate via the ELM website
2)Donate through facebook causes here
Thanks for your support!
Rev. Megan Rohrer
Friday, July 30, 2010
Posted on 30 July 2010
Seven gay pastors were reinstated recently into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America after having been barred from service for some 20 years.
The pastors, also called the “Bay Area Seven” are Reverends Jeff Johnson, Paul Brenner, Dawn Roginski, Ross Merkel, Megan Rohrer, Craig Minich and Sharon Stalkfleet.
They will be officially recognized on the ECLA clergy roster, making them eligible to serve in any of the denomination’s 10,500 Lutheran churches.
In September, three more gay pastors will be admitted and in October, one gay pastor in Chicago and two in St. Paul-Minneapolis will be welcomed. All in all, a total of 46 openly gay pastors are slated to be welcomed to the clergy roster.
The ceremony, which was held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco, is the first of many more that have been scheduled since the ELCA decided last year to accept non-celibate gay ministers who are in committed relationships.
In the past, gay men and women could become Lutheran pastors only if they took a vow of celibacy.
According to The New York Times Rev. Johnson said, “Today the church is speaking with a clear voice. All people are welcome here, all people are invited to help lead this church, and all people are loved unconditionally by God.”
Johnson said the ECLA’s former policy “ruined lives, destroyed faiths.”
Rev. Rohrer said she viewed the ceremony not as her first day as a pastor but a day when “the church gets to receive me as a pastor.” She is a missionary for the homeless and serves in four churches, the San Francisco Chronicle said.
The ECLA, which has 4.6 million members, is the largest Protestant church in the U.S. to admit non-celibate gay clergy. The decision has led 185 of its 10,396 congregations to separate from the denomination.
The United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church permit gay clergy, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may soon follow suit as its general assembly voted to allow non-celibate gay clergy to serve, however this needs ratification by a majority of the PCUSA’s 173 regional presbyteries.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Reverends Craig Minich, Megan Rohrer, Sharon Sue Stalkfleet, Dawn Roginski, Jeff Robert Johnson, Paul Richard Brenner, and Ross Donald Merkel are welcomed into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America during a Rite of Reception ceremony held at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco Sunday, July 25. The national Lutheran Church last year revised its policies, dropping the requirement that LGBT pastors need to be celibate. Those taking part in last weekend's service are now full-fledged ministers.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Lutheran Church Reinstates Gay Pastors
Seven openly gay and transgender pastors were welcomed back to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on Sunday after having been excluded from the church's ministry for the last twenty years. The pastors, known as the "Bay Area Seven," were previously banned from the church for refusing to comply with a church policy that said all gay pastors must take a vow of celibacy. According to the Associated Press, the ECLA voted to overturn this policy last year, but Sunday marks the first reinstatement of gay and transgender Lutheran pastors since the celibacy ban was lifted.
The reinstatement ceremony took place on Sunday at St. Marks Lutheran Church in San Francisco. Reverend Jeff R. Johnson, one of the returning pastors, said in a news conference that the Lutheran church was sending the clear message that, "all people are welcome here, all people are invited to help lead this church, and all people are loved unconditionally by God," reports the New York Times.
According to the Times all seven of the pastors had previously been ordained and had been serving in the Bay Area, but were never officially recognized by the ECLA. Megan Rohrer, another reinstated pastor, said she viewed Sunday as the day "the church [got] to receive me as a pastor," not the day she became one, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
With 4.6 million members, the ECLA is now the largest Protestant church to permit non-celibate gay men and women to serve in its clergy. According to the New York Times, since the celibacy ban was lifted, 185 of the 10,396 congregations nationwide have voted to leave the denomination. Reverend Mark Chavez, who leads a coalition of conservative Lutheran churches, told the Times that his group plans to start a new denomination in August.
Lutheran churches across the country, however, continue to plan ceremonies to welcome the 46 gay pastors that have been excluded back into the ECLA. Three more ceremonies are already planned for this fall, reports the Times.
Media Resources: New York Times 7/25/10; San Fransisco Chronicle 7/26/10; Associated Press 7/25/10
Monday, July 26, 2010
Lutherans Welcome Reinstated Gay Pastors
The Reverend Megan Rohrer
The pastors, all from the San Francisco Bay area, were folded back into the church a year after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America decided to allow gay pastors serve as clergy. The church previously only allowed gays to serve if they adhered to a vow of celibacy. The "Bay Area Seven" were Jeff Johnson, Megan Rohrer, Paul Brenner, Craig Minich, Dawn Roginski, Sharon Stalkfleet, and Ross Merkel, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 1990 two San Francisco churches saw the policy as discriminatory and ordained Johnson and a lesbian couple. The churches, First United and St. Frances, were then expelled from the denomination.
Gay and transgender Lutheran pastors reinstated
Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera, Chronicle Staff WriterSan Francisco Chronicle July 26, 2010 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Monday, July 26, 2010
ImagesView All Images (4)
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Photos by Vicki Kane Risner
Footage of the service appeared on all the news stations in San Francisco. The photos above and video below is from a KRON 4 story, where I was actually interviewed after serving communion to the folks in the over flow room as I was trying to make my way back upstairs and waiting for the upstairs communion to finish. Click here to see video of the full press conference that was held about an hour before the service.
Noah Berger for The New York Times
The Rev. Sharon Stalkfleet, center, was one of seven gay pastors at a welcoming ceremony Sunday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: July 25, 2010
With a laying on of hands, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Sunday welcomed into its fold seven openly gay pastors who had until recently been barred from the church’s ministry.
Enlarge This Image
Noah Berger for The New York Times
The Rev. Dawn Roginski, center, in white, one of seven gay pastors at a welcoming ceremony Sunday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.
The ceremony at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco was the first of several planned since the denomination took a watershed vote at its convention last year to allow noncelibate gay ministers in committed relationships to serve the church.
“Today the church is speaking with a clear voice,” the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, one of the seven gay pastors participating in the ceremony, said at a news conference just before it began. “All people are welcome here, all people are invited to help lead this church, and all people are loved unconditionally by God.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, known as the E.L.C.A., with 4.6 million members, is now the largest Protestant church in the United States to permit noncelibate gay ministers to serve in the ranks of its clergy — an issue that has caused wrenching divisions for it as well as for many other denominations.
Since the church voted last summer to allow noncelibate gay clergy members to serve, 185 congregations have taken the two consecutive votes required to leave the denomination, said Melissa Ramirez Cooper, a spokeswoman for the church, citing a tally that she said was updated monthly. There are 10,396 congregations nationwide.
The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ also allow gay ministers. And the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s general assembly voted at its convention earlier this month to do so, though the vote will become church law only if is ratified by a majority of the church’s 173 regional presbyteries. Two smaller Lutheran denominations, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, do not ordain ministers in same-sex relationships.
The seven ministers welcomed at the ceremony on Sunday had already been ordained and have been serving at churches or outreach ministries in the San Francisco Bay Area, but they had not been officially recognized on the clergy roster.
“The effect of them being brought onto our roster is they will now be part of our national database of pastors who are available for service in any of our 10,500 churches,” said Bishop Mark W. Holmerud, who leads the Sierra Pacific Synod, which includes San Francisco. He noted that while some congregations were open to consider hiring openly gay ministers, others were not — and each congregation is free to choose.
The Evangelical Lutherans designed Sunday’s special “rite of reconciliation” to mark the formal inclusion of gay ministers who were ordained in “extraordinary rites” that were not recognized by the church but were conducted by a group called Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Three more gay pastors will be welcomed at ceremonies in September and October, two in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and one in Chicago, Ms. Cooper said.
Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, said, “It’s been a long and hard journey for a lot of people, and it feels like this is a new beginning in the history of the E.L.C.A.”
She said that all together, there were 46 openly gay ministers who had previously been excluded from the church’s clergy roster and would now be accepted.
The change was made possible after the Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutherans’ chief legislative body, voted at its meeting in 2009 to allow the ordination of noncelibate gay pastors who are in monogamous relationships. The denomination appointed a task force to study the issue in 2001, and spent the next eight years in debate. In the end, the proposal to permit openly gay clergy members won just two-thirds of the votes, the minimum required for passage.
Some who opposed it are now poised to leave. The Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE, a coalition of theologically conservative Lutheran churches, said his group expected to form a new denomination, the North American Lutheran Church, in August.
He said of the ceremony on Sunday, “It’s just another steady step taken by the E.L.C.A. to move the denomination further and further away from most Lutheran churches around the world and from the whole Christian church, unfortunately.”
Before the ceremony, one of the gay pastors, the Rev. Megan M. Rohrer, said it had been a long journey from her home in South Dakota — where fellow Lutherans regarded her sexuality as a demon to be exorcised — to being finally welcomed as a minister in the Lutheran church.
“It’s an invitation,” she said of the ceremony, “to join us in the pews every single Sunday, where not a single one of these pastors will care if you agree with us or if you think our families are appropriate. We’ll serve you communion, we’ll pray with you and we’ll visit you in the hospital.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 26, 2010, on page A13 of the New York edition.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Gay Lutheran Pastors To Join Church Roster
by The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO July 24, 2010, 11:13 pm ET
Seven pastors who work in the San Francisco Bay area and were barred from serving in the nation's largest Lutheran group because of a policy that required gay clergy to be celibate are being welcomed into the denomination.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will add six of the pastors to its clergy roster at a service at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco on Sunday. Another pastor who was expelled from the church, but was later reinstated, will participate in the service.
The group is among the first gay, bisexual or transgender Lutheran pastors to be reinstated or added to the rolls of the ELCA since the organization voted last year to lift the policy requiring celibacy.
Churches can now hire noncelibate gay clergy who are in committed relationships.
"It's going to be an extremely glorious and festive ceremony because it's the culmination of decades of work to welcome LGBT people into the ELCA," said Amalia Vagts, executive director of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a nonprofit that credentials openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for ministry.
Megan Rohrer, one of the pastors who will participate in Sunday's rite of reception service, grew up in South Dakota and attended a Lutheran college where she said students tried to exorcise her "gay demons" by throwing holy water on her. Some of those people are now Lutheran pastors in South Dakota, she said.
Rohrer, who is transgender and a lesbian, was ordained by four congregations in San Francisco in 2006, but could not join the ELCA roster until the denomination's national assembly approved the new policy in August.
"I didn't really believe the policy was going to change as quickly as it did," she said.
Rohrer said she is hopeful Sunday's service will be a "symbol" to young people that the Lutheran church is working toward becoming more welcoming of people of all different backgrounds.
Jeff Johnson, another one of the pastors who will be added to the roster, said the ELCA's position for years of not accepting the choice of some congregations to ordain gay clergy was painful and disappointing.
"The actions the church is taking on Sunday affirms the decisions of those congregations," Johnson, pastor of the University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, said. "The church is respecting our family, our partners, the choices we're making."
A small number of congregations have voted to leave the ELCA in response to the August vote. Johnson and Rohrer want Sunday's service to heal some of the rifts.
Johnson said the goal, in part, is to show people the church has space for many different opinions.
"There's room for them," he said. "It's a tolerant church."
The special rite of reception that will be used for the first time on Sunday was developed specifically to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors, said Melissa Ramirez Cooper, a spokeswoman for the ELCA.
Two more rite of reception services are scheduled for September in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and another will follow in Chicago, Cooper said.
This article appeared online and in print in more than 300 media outlets, including: NPR, The Miami Herald, The Washington Examiner, the DC Daily Caller, the Fresno Bee, USA Today, Yahoo News, The Washington Post, MSNBC, Houston Chronicle, Manchester UK Guardian News, SFGate, Fox News, Star Tribune, Newsday, Seattle Times, ,
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Lutherans receive LGBT pastors
by Matthew S. Bajko
Twenty years ago two San Francisco Lutheran congregations ordained a lesbian couple and a gay man as pastors in defiance of their denomination's ban against non-celibate LGBT people becoming clergy.
The two churches' decision in 1990 set off a two-decade fight over the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's anti-gay policy. While the congregations were ultimately ejected from the ELCA for their decisions, 15 additional LGBT people became Lutheran pastors in the ensuing years through an extraordinary ordination process.
Although their local congregations considered them to be pastors, in the eyes of the national Lutheran Church they were deemed unofficial clergy. Church leaders subsequently disciplined many of the churches that ordained them.
Last year the national Lutheran Church revised its policies and dropped the requirement that LGBT pastors need to be celibate. This weekend six LGBT pastors ordained extraordinarily and two pastors who had been dismissed from the ELCA clergy roster will be received as full-fledged pastors in the church at a ceremony Sunday, July 25 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco.
"I think this is a very significant step for the church, which has been in this two-decade process of studying gay and lesbian people and talking about finding ways to include us. That process has now come to an end and the church has decided that LGBT people are to be welcomed fully as leaders and members of the church, so it is a huge step that the church has taken," said the Reverend Jeff Johnson, whose ordination 20 years ago as an assistant pastor at the city's First United Lutheran Church sparked the internal dialogue within the national Lutheran Church.
Johnson, 48, now lives in Oakland and is the pastor at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley. He will be taking part in the formal Rite of Reception service this weekend presided over by the Reverend Mark Holmerud, fourth bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, which covers northern California and northern Nevada.
"I am deeply grateful to the [extraordinary] pastors, and the two pastors who were removed from the ELCA roster, for their grace and good will in being a part of this process," Holmerud said in a statement about the ceremony. He added that the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly "have brought us to a new day."
At the Sierra Pacific Synod assembly in May, Holmerud lifted a public censure and admonition placed on the Berkeley church in 2000 after it called Johnson as its pastor even though he was not on the ELCA clergy roster. At the meeting Johnson was also elected to serve on the regional synod's council pending his participation in this weekend's rite.
The other extraordinary Lutheran pastors taking part in the service are the Reverends Craig Minich, pastor of youth ministries at the Oakland-Berkeley Lutheran Youth Program; Dawn Roginski, pastor of parish programs at St. Francis Lutheran Church; Megan Rohrer, executive director of Welcome, which feeds the homeless in San Francisco; Paul R. Brenner at St. Francis Lutheran Church; and Sharon Stalkfleet with Lutheran Ministry to Nursing Homes in Oakland.
"I think you can't go through this kind of wilderness walking in the church and not be stronger because of it," said Rohrer, 30, who identifies as a transgender dyke and was extraordinarily ordained in 2006 by four San Francisco Lutheran churches. "It feels like coming out to your parents and having them react really poorly for a long time and then one day they change their mind."
The two pastors being reinstated this weekend are the Reverends Ross D. Merkel, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Oakland, and Steven P. Sabin, pastor of Christ Church Lutheran in San Francisco. In 1998 the ELCA removed Sabin from its clergy roster after he admitted to being in a committed, same-sex relationship while serving as pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa.
"For two decades, many have been grieved and alienated by the ELCA's exclusion of gay and lesbian pastors blessed with loving spouses. I hope and pray that they can, like me, lay aside the hurts and take hope from the gracious power of God to renew and direct the church into evermore faithful and effective proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," stated Sabin.
Retired Revered James DeLange, who was the senior pastor at St. Francis Lutheran Church in 1990, called this weekend's service a "vindication" for those who fought against the church's discriminatory policies and the beginning of the healing process for many Lutherans impacted by that struggle.
"For those of us who have been just staying with the struggle and have tried to work to try to change the policy this is a vindication of our efforts," said DeLange, who is straight and chairs the San Francisco Interfaith Council. "I am just glad I lived long enough to see the change of policy."
As for the lesbian couple his church ordained the same day as Johnson, the Reverends Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart, DeLange said they now live in Minneapolis and are expected to have their own rite of reception sometime this fall.
Also this Sunday St. Francis will vote on whether to return to the ELCA. In a nearly unanimous vote, the 300 delegates at the Sierra Pacific Synod assembly this spring adopted a resolution inviting both First United and St. Francis to rejoin the national church. First United has yet to schedule a similar vote.
Johnson expressed mixed emotions about how long it has taken the Lutheran Church to fully embrace LGBT pastors.
"I think that the church's taking this step does not change the difficult things the church has done over the past two decades, so it is very important for people to tell the truth about the discrimination they have taken part in as we celebrate this momentous, wonderful happening," he said.The formal Rite of Reception for the pastors is open to the public. It will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 25 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, the corner of Franklin and O'Farrell Streets in San Francisco.
You'll find the original here.
Transgender minister to be received as ELCA pastor
Jill Callison • firstname.lastname@example.org • July 22, 2010
When Darlene Audus was a teenager, her Lutheran father discouraged his daughter from dating Roman Catholic boys.
She didn't understand that kind of prejudice then, and the 76-year-old Clark woman today doesn't understand the prejudice directed at her granddaughter, Megan Rohrer, a lesbian.
"I back her all the way," Audus says. "She's a super gal."
Rohrer, 30, is the first openly transgender Lutheran pastor ordained in the United States. Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Only a very few choose to change their bodies through hormones or surgery.
On Sunday, Rohrer will be part of the first rite to receive gay pastors into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"She's had a tough struggle to get where she's at," says Audus, a retired county auditor. "I'm proud because she kept at it. It would have been easy to give up. But I wished I could protect her from all those things."
"Those things," as Rohrer tells it in a telephone conversation from her home in San Francisco, include horrifying tales.
After graduating from Lincoln High School, Rohrer enrolled at Augustana College. In the aftermath of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, the campus became a hostile place, she says.
"Aggressive football players would knock on my dorm room door and try to turn me into a straight person in violently sexual ways," she says.
In an attempt to exorcise Rohrer's "gay demons," students in her religion class threw holy water on her and sang hymns as she walked to class.
Rohrer moved off campus for three months, fearing for her safety.
But college faculty supported her, Rohrer says, and it also was the place where she discovered her calling and first fell in love."I would never wish an unsafe space for anyone, but sometimes having to take a stand helps push a person into a leadership position," she says. "I was able to find the determination to be a pastor in a church that wasn't yet ready to welcome me."
Rohrer entered seminary on the West Coast. She never considered joining a denomination that would welcome her as an openly lesbian pastor.
"Growing up in South Dakota, everything about my culture was Lutheran," she says. "I spoke Lutheran. A lot of the theology Lutherans proclaim and are excited about is kind of the natural way people live. It's hard to leave a culture behind."
Although her home congregation, Hope Lutheran, wouldn't fill out the necessary paperwork to allow Rohrer to pursue her calling, she says, she found support from the South Dakota Synod office.
Rohrer appreciates both sides' honesty.
"When you're in South Dakota, sometimes the person who disagrees with you most is your closest friend because they're honest with you," she says. "In bigger cities, it's different. If you disagree, you don't have to talk again."
Rohrer, who now runs a nonprofit agency for the homeless and serves four churches in San Francisco, was ordained outside the rules of the ELCA in 2006 - an extraordinary ordination. On Sunday, she will become a pastor in the ELCA.
That became possible when in August 2009, representatives of the ELCA voted to allow congregations to call pastors who were in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships."
Rohrer knows how difficult that vote was for many Lutherans. At the Churchwide Assembly last August, she and a Canton woman who opposed the change would pray together before every vote.
"Even when they're hoping the vote will go the other way, I really think God is bigger than this decision," Rohrer says. "I think our faith lives are bigger than this decision. I'm excited to be part of a diverse church where we can pray together."
Rohrer is in a committed, same-sex relationship and, for the past eight years, has served as a pastor to the homeless.
Many of the homeless she works with come from the Midwest. They left home either because their families rejected them or they assumed if their sexuality became public, they would be shunned.
"They left out of fear and never gave anyone the opportunity to accept them," Rohrer says. "That's another reason I continue to be engaged with congregations in the Midwest. We'll always have homeless as long as people can't openly welcome gay and lesbian people into families, church and school."
Audus could never reject Rohrer.
"It wasn't like you could go, 'That wasn't my granddaughter any more,' " Audus says of learning Rohrer is a lesbian. "It was just that the path would be a little harder."
Rohrer, however, might not agree that the path was any harder for her than anyone else. What she does acknowledge is that this is a world where secrets about sex lead to abuse of power.
"I want to be part of a church that holds me accountable, that asks me tough questions," she says. "I want to be part of a group of pastors that are honest about how they're forming healthy relationships. Being gay or straight doesn't matter. What matters is if you're in a loving relationship."Jill Callison's column runs Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reach her at 331-2307.
You can find the original story here.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Your reporter squealed like a little girl when she realized she had actually found a potato.
By: Heather Smith | July 8, 2010
It starts with a Lutheran Church on fire. St. Paulus at Eddy and Gough burned to the ground in 1995 and has remained a vacant lot ever since. Then, this year, an improbable alliance came together. Case Garver, a 22-year-old Lutheran Volunteer Corps member from Ohio, and Megan Rohrer, a local pastor, were negotiating with local churches to open up unused property in the city for farming.
It was more than just a quaint idea — Rohrer is director of Welcome, an organization that deals directly with the poor, and food banks in San Francisco continue to be stretched to their limit. Rohrer secured permission for the St. Paulus lot. Then came the tricky part.
“Neither of us knew anything about gardening,” says Garver. “Then we found Tree.”
Tree knew how to garden. A Mission resident whose history stretched back decades, Tree had been growing and harvesting food from gardens mostly in the neighborhood, cultivating a group of local gardens and distributing the bounty to a variety of groups. In 2008 he began the Free Farm Stand at Parque Niños Unidos at 23rd and Treat. “People trust him,” says Lauren Anderson, an artist and gardener who runs the foraging nonprofit Produce to the People. “Which means a lot. It’s not easy to invite someone into your backyard, even if it’s just to pick fruit.”
Tree agreed to help run the farm with Anderson and some other nonprofit groups, with the idea that some of the produce would go to the Free Farm Stand in the Mission. The Lutheran synod that owns the church site agreed to cover the water and electrical bills. And so the farming began.
Your average burned-out foundation is not necessarily ideal farmland. The site was sunny, and as Garver puts it, the soil was equal parts sand, KFC buckets, Häagen-Dazs containers and used syringes. When asked if the crew had to use special safety gloves to clear out the soil, Garver deadpans, “It depends on how you define ‛special.’ Or ‛safe.’”
“We did have gloves,” he adds.
“There are so many different urban agriculture groups,” says Anderson. “They all believe in slightly different things: Teaching people how to garden. Getting people community garden plots. Greening the city. Working with youth. Our priority [was] getting food out of the ground and to the low-income people who needed it. The secret was manure. Lots and lots of manure.”
Planting in the basement of a burned-out building turned out to have its advantages — the plants were sheltered from San Francisco’s gale-force winds by the remaining walls. The terrible soil is producing more food than anyone expected.The first harvest at the plot they named The Free Farm — 5.5 pounds of produce — came out of the garden on April 11, just a little over three months after work began. A second mini-stand was established outside and began passing out food to residents of the immediate neighborhood. By the end of June, the free farmers had harvested 784 pounds of produce in six months, the most of any garden in the network supplying the Free Farm Stand.
On a Wednesday afternoon, a volunteer sits outside the farm behind two galvanized tubs of gargantuan, prehistoric-looking collard greens, offering them to slightly confused passersby. The quirks of the landscape are still being discovered — carrots have been challenging, collards and cabbage have done astonishingly well. There is fortune in this: Collards have been one of the most popular crops in both neighborhoods. Attempts to push kale have been met by resistance.
Inside, volunteers are elbow-deep in the dirt, feeling around for the first crop of potatoes. They range from a very enthusiastic visitor from southern Japan to Steve Pulliam, a recent transplant from Atlanta who found the place while walking his dog. When he began, he had no gardening experience. Five months later he is speaking confidently about duck droppings.
“I wanted to be outside. In the sunshine. Not around kids,” says Sarah Hale, a schoolteacher. “So much has happened this year: Haiti, the Gulf. I wanted to do something where I knew that I was doing good. Something small, and effective.”
Anderson, meanwhile, admits to aspirations beyond the small. “This is a terrible, terrible analogy,” she says, jokingly. “But we’re trying to decide if we want to turn this into a franchise.”
Thursday, July 8, 2010
The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people.
By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country.Thanks to all who bought books this first month! You have helped us to prove that creativity can make a real difference in the world!