The Divine Spark
A collection of personal stories of LGBTQ discovery. No matter where you are on your journey one thing is clear - God loves you just as you are!
By Corrine Chilstrom
These authors form a common bond as they come to us, sharing their lives. Rejection began at a young age, simply for being born LGBTQ through no choice of their own. Especially when as teens, troubled by their own same gender attraction or gender non-conformity, they began hearing condemnation loud and clear, from both church and the broader society. Their stories pull at your heart strings as they render authentic accounts of what happened to them.
Those most hardened against LGBTQ people believe they chose their lifestyle. If only they would “confess it as sin” or “get counseling,” they could be restored to a “normal, straight life.”
But stay with their stories and your defenses will crumble. You will see real individual souls who have carried, often secretively and alone, heavy burdens few could have endured.
So, dear reader, we invite you to relax, take in these stories with an open heart and mind. Unmask your own core, same as these “neighbors we have from God” have unmasked in themselves.
God’s Spirit will move you to help the LGBTQ community, to stand up for them and advocate for their justice.
God bless you as you ponder these stories from the very essence of people who long for acceptance. May your heart receive them openly, with the doing God requires. Listen to the prophet Micah from so long ago: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8 (NRSV).
Corrine Chilstrom, retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor, and Herb Chilstrom, retired presiding bishop of the ELCA, both in their eighties, reside in Arizona. They are forever touched by the loss of their son Andrew, a freshman at Gustavus Adolphus College, who took his life on November 11 1984. In 1992 Corrine wrote Andrew, You Died Too Soon, A Family Experience of Grieving and Living Again. Herb’s new book, When a Father Loses a Son came out in 2017
The Divine Spark represents a collection of stories from LGBTQ parishoners and others who answered the question: What would I say to someone of any age, but especially to a young person who is gender non-conforming, or to a young person who is starting to notice their own same-gender attraction, upon hearing the comments:
It is against God's will to be gay.
You can pray the gay away.
Men should not wear women's clothing
You are a girl. Stop changing who God made you to be.
Love the sinner, hate the sin.
God hates fags.
Messiah Lutheran council president Keith Holm wrote the first story. He said to me, "Just to let you know, this is a huge step for me even after all these years."
As the articles came in, I could feel their life-giving and lifesaving nature. I offer deep gratitude to each writer for their willingness to share experiences of rejection, non-acceptance, judgment, and isolation. Thank you.
Providing the LGBTQ community and straight people a resource to help us promote equality serves as the principal reason for this book. Readers might also wonder what lies behind the struggle and what can people do about it. Rev. Nate Aaseng explains the error of using the Bible to deliver such wrongful pain to LGBTQ people. Rev. Dale Chesley reflects upon his spiritual growth beginning with his first days of seminary when he could not understand how women could serve as pastors because the Bible forbade it. Dale's chapter lends insight and empathy for those who learn one concept, then eventually realize another, more compassionate view exists.
In the chapter, The Next Step, Executive Director of ReconcilingWorks Aubrey Thonvold has enumerated ways for us to work together to increase instances of acceptance, hope, and joy for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, as well as those who are questioning. ReconcilingWorks, a nonprofit organization, recognizes that racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, and all other artificial distinctions seeking to advance one group's privileges and preferences over another, conspire to diminish our world and church.
The last chapter contains a concise description of my sabbatical project, "Forming Life-Long Faith in a Loving God." Messiah Lutheran and First Lutheran churches will send me on a sabbatical in 2018, funded by the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program. This book comprises an integral part of the sabbatical.
Artist G. Scott Hanson designed the cover art. When asked how he came up with the image, he replied, "People are created with so much in common, yet at the same time, we are each unique." His art inspired the book's title. While reading the stories, I got the sense people are pleading,
Please see the love and light in me.
Please love and accept me.
God made me just as much as God made you.
Truly a divine spark lives in all of us. Let us grow in our ability to see and celebrate the Creator's work.
Love and prayers,
Rev. Nancy Hanson
Nancy Hanson serves as the pastor for Messiah Lutheran church in Washburn, Wisconsin and First Lutheran Church in Port Wing, Wisconsin
What People are saying about
The Divine Spark
Most of us hope to live an authentic life. The authors courageously describe the discovery and persistence required to strive for leading that authentic life. We are so grateful for their generous teaching.
Mike Miller and Mary Trettin
Mike is the President of Northland College. Both are members of Messiah Lutheran Church
Thirty years ago I began advocating for the acceptance of LGBTQ persons in the church. The going was tough. I never dreamed a book like “The Divine Spark” would appear so soon. It happened because of the uncommon courage of the brothers and sisters who contributed to this fine book. Thank you!
Herbert W Chilstrom
Former presiding bishop of the ELCA
As members of contributor Brian Henning’s family of faith, we are so proud of him and so grateful to have experienced his public witness to the person God created him to be. At the same time, we lament that similar stories and experiences of exclusion and prejudice continue to play out, even in our ELCA congregations. In fellowship we add our voices to Brian’s appeal for open conversation, vulnerable expressions of faith, and prayerful reconciliation so everyone might experience “thirty-seconds plus” of God’s divine applause, grace and love.
Rev. Scott Searl
Pastor, Shepard of the Hills Lutheran Church, Edina, Minnesota
This collection of stories beautifully illustrates the power of radical truth-telling and vulnerability as tools to foster change and understanding in community. Leonard Cohen wrote is his song Anthem, “There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” These storytellers have embraced their authentic selves (cracks and all) and have become beacons of light in a world that desperately needs illumination.
Mother, Photographer, and Author
Creator of the Words for Water project
Co-founder of FarmsNotFactoriesWI.org