Britney Wheat, left, holds a booklet as pastor Susan
Strouse of First United Lutheran Church, right, installs the Reverend Megan
Rohrer, center, as pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
A transgender person who runs a ministry for the homeless
was installed last weekend as the spiritual leader at Grace Evangelical
Lutheran Church of San Francisco, making them the first trans leader of a
The February 22 service for the Reverend Megan Rohrer at the
Sunset district chapel was well-attended.
Congregants joyfully took part in the service, which
included praise songs set to the music of the Beatles. Dubbed Beatles Mass, the
lyrics were written by Rohrer, sung to the beat of well-known tunes like "Across
the Universe" and "Let it Be." The congregation sang "The
Meal" to the tune of "Hey Jude," in preparation for receiving
communion. As the congregation sang and clapped, Rohrer held up the bread and
wine for all to see.
"The worship that we used at the installation was
created for an evening worship at St. Aidan's Episcopal," Rohrer, 33,
explained. "In hope of attracting young people and those new to the
church, I created a Lady Gaga Mass. The service gained a lot of attention, and
I was able to share it at congregations around the country. Many of the young
people knew the tunes, but the older generation had a difficult time. I created
the Beatles Mass because the tunes were recognized by both older and younger
members and participants often leave the service feeling uplifted."
The reverend, who prefers the pronoun they, has been opening
doors for years. In 2006, Rohrer was the first transgender pastor to be ordained
by the Lutheran church.
In addition to their duties at Grace Lutheran, Rohrer is
involved in transgender spiritual outreach.
"I meet annually with a group of about 150 transgender
pastors and faith leaders from diverse faiths at a retreat hosted by the Center
of Lesbian and Gay Studies in Berkeley," Rohrer said. "We talk about
how we can support and learn from each other, and the best practices for
sharing our stories, advocating for trans individuals and our own employment
needs. There may be many more than that, but some people choose not to be open
about their transgender status after they transition. This is why I use the
word openly transgender in my identification."
Transgender pastors, Rohrer said, serve a very special need.
"Many transgender pastors and faith leaders work in
specialized ministry to support vulnerable populations," Rohrer said.
"When it comes to faithfully serving LGBT individuals or the homeless,
being transgender is often an asset. Very few openly transgender pastors are
able to find work leading a congregation. I believe this will change as society
becomes more welcoming and understanding of transgender issues."
Part of Rohrer's work at Grace Lutheran will be to continue
"We take the name Grace seriously, so we will be doing
outreach to people of all shapes and sizes," Rohrer said. "The
congregation is enthusiastic about welcoming everyone, particularly those who
have been lied to and told they are not good enough to be part of a faith
community. We even want people who feel uncomfortable stepping into a church to
join us for our weekly worship and "Bible Study That Doesn't Suck"
Beyond work at Grace, Rohrer is involved with Night
"This is a group of pastors who provide a presence on
the streets of San Francisco from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.," Rohrer said.
"The Night Ministry also operates a crisis line. The ministry is
celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and was founded by a group of
Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist pastors who were working with
homeless youth in the Tenderloin."
Rohrer added that the Night Ministry visits LGBT bars
throughout the city and provides care and support to the drag court system.
Rohrer is happy to be a part of history.
"I am honored to be Grace's pastor and to be part of
this historic new opportunity for transgender pastors," Rohrer said.
"For over a decade I have been advocating and working toward a time when
LGBT individuals would be welcome in the pews and behind the pulpits. Despite
all my prayers, I never expected to see this kind of change within my
Post submitted by Diane Martin, HRC Religion and Faith Assistant
In 2010, Pastor Megan Rohrer was one of seven LGBT pastors in the San
Francisco Bay Area who, after being previously barred from serving the
church, were reinstated to the roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) in the first ceremony of its kind. Now, Pastor Megan
is the first openly transgender pastor to be ordained in the Lutheran
Church and to lead an ELCA congregation after being installed at Grace
Evangelical Lutheran Church this past Saturday.
But Pastor Megan’s work and ordination is not only notable as a first
for the LGBT and Lutheran communities, but as tremendously impactful for
the greater San Francisco community—so much so that this past weekend
Megan also received an honorable mention as an Unsung Hero of Compassion
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was in San Francisco for the
ceremony held by Wisdom in Action, a Bay Area nonprofit.
Pastor Megan has served for the past 12 years as Executive Director of
Welcome Ministry, working with homeless and impoverished people in San
Francisco. As Executive Director, Megan spearheaded several programs,
including the Urban Share Community Gardening Project and the Homeless
Identification Project, which have enabled more than 150 homeless
individuals to find and maintain residencies in the San Francisco area.
Pastor Megan has also worked closely with HRC’s Religion & Faith
Program to create resources and lead trainings for congregations taking
on conversations about gender identity within their faith communities.
We at HRC are grateful for Pastor Megan’s continuing partnership and
look forward to seeing what comes next from Megan’s inspiring ministry.
News Briefs: Trans person to pastor Lutheran church
compiled by Cynthia Laird
Megan Rohrer, a transgender person who has been running
Welcome Ministry, a group that helps homeless people in San Francisco, will be
installed as the pastor at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3201 Ulloa Street
(at 33rd) during a service Saturday, February 22 at 7 p.m.
Earlier that day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Welcome
Ministry will be hosting a health and vision event at St. Francis Lutheran
Church, 152 Church Street. SF CARES will provide free glasses for those who
need them. Rohrer said the event will be "like a mini LGBTQ Connect."
Folks from Project Homeless Connect will help people sign up for cellphone
service, a doctor will provide flu shots, and physical therapists will be on
hand for free consultations.
As for Rohrer's installation, she said that she would be the
first openly transgender pastor of a congregation in the Lutheran church.
On Sunday, February 23, Rohrer will be recognized with an
honorable mention as an unsung hero of compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
who will be in San Francisco for the event, being held by Wisdom in Action, a
Bay Area nonprofit.
The Journey To Grace: I was the kid in Sunday School who collected perfect attendance stickers even when I'd travel. I began my academic religious studies at Augustana College in my hometown of Sioux Falls, SD. I went to seminary at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.
I began my work as as the Executive Director of Welcome my second semester of seminary in June of 2002 and over the last eleven and a half years we have feed over 50,000 individuals, grown and given away 5.5 tons of food grown at community gardens, had 18,868 people join us for Bible Study that Doesn't Suck, provided 126 pairs of prescription glasses and touched countless lives.
My work at Welcome has been lauded with an Honorary Doctorate from Palo Alto University and in a few weeks I will receive an honorable mention as an Unsung Hero of Compassion from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
I have been prayed for, supported and mentored by the congregations who called me to my work at Welcome: Christ Church, herchurch, St. Francis and Santa Maria y Martha Lutheran churches.
I served as co-pastor, with Tommy Dillon, of the Community of Travelers
from 2010-2012 at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in San Francisco's
Diamond Heights. "Community of Travelers" was a group of folks figuring
out how to be a liturgical, Christo-centric, social justice oriented,
incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient- future church with
a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination.
I'm am grateful that I have been able to preach and teach all over the country, worship in so many diverse styles and theological expressions. Now, I'm excited to partner with the congregation at Grace to discover what kinds of worship and faithful programs might reignite the Lutheran community that once thrived at the corner of 33rd and Ulloa.
On Sunday, February 2nd, the congregation at Grace Evangelical Lutheran called me as their pastor. I am excited to see the unique ways we can support individuals who are hungry, to support the parents of the Grace Infant Child Care and to visit aging members of the congregation who have a hard time making it to church.
I hope you will pray for me as I begin this new chapter and that you will join us for an installation. We'll let you know as soon as we set up the date. If you would like receive email updates about the installation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to join me as I my move to Grace, I invite you to join me for my first Sunday on February 16th - in person or on live stream. I won't know who is new and if you're not sure when to stand up and sit down, we'll both be new together.
Thanks for all your support on this journey.
The LGBTQ Journey:
Refusing to obey the unjust policies against lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and queer individuals (LGBTQ) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America's (ELCA), I was ordained
Extraordinarily on November 18, 2006 and became the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church. Rostered by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, I served on the organizations Covenant Circle as Director of Communications and as Director of Candidacy.
In 2009, the ELCA changed its policies to allow LGBTQ On July 25, 2010 I was one of 7 GLBT pastors in the San Francisco
Bay Area who were previously barred from serving the church who were
received/reinstated to the roster of the ELCA. This service was the
first of its kind and received national media attention. Learn more on the blog for this service.
On February 16th, when I begin my first Sunday at Grace, I will become the first openly transgender solo pastor serving a congregation in the ELCA. Two other trans identified pastors have served as associate pastors in Lutheran congregations (First United and St. Francis Lutherans in San Francisco, who were not members of the ELCA at the time the pastors were serving) and there are a number of openly transgender ELCA seminarians. On February 16th, I will be the only openly transgender pastor serving an ELCA congregation.
The members of Grace called me to be their pastor because of the unique gifts I have for ministry and our mutual desire to reach out to neighbors in the Sunset, not because they were interested in making a political statement. Still, I feel honored to be called to a congregation that is able to truly live out their name and share Grace with the world. While the congregation may get some attention for calling me, I hope that over then next couple of years we can become equally well known for our faith centered worship, thoughtful mission and the ways that the members are able to care and support each other.