Monday, August 24, 2009


I'm thankful that the night I was finally kicked out of the skyways at 3:00 am, was my last night in the streets. It must have been a shift change. An older man yelled and yelled. Then confirmed to a man Ina speaker, who had presumably found me in the security camera, that it was all taken care of.

I'm thankful for all the patrons who helped me on my wilderness walking. Thankful that after 3 and a half more hours I can hop on a plane an that tonight, I can sleep in my own bed!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day Seven, August 23, 2009

Sleeping on the streets of a city and living with those in poverty connects you to them in a way that you will never forget. Having done seven street retreats in San Francisco of the past 8 years and living with the poor in the barrios and campo of Nicaragua, each experience has changed the way I live. Since living with the poor in Nicaragua and visiting the sweatshops who make "Cuban" cigars, I have a sense of the health risks of cigarettes and cigars that most people don't know exists beyond second and first hand smoke.

Living in the skywalks in Minneapolis has opened my eyes to the inordinate expense that churches spend, that could go for so much good. First, calling myself out, attending churchwide assembly and sleeping in a hotel all week would have been a legitimate expense in WELCOME's budget. Yet here would be the cost:

Visitor's Badge: $50
Plane Fair: $500
Hotel Room (7 nights): $1,155
Food: $350
Total: $2,055

Total spent by me on this trip: $140 --- Savings: $1,915

Now remember that the ELCA had $1,000 voting members (not including all the staff). So at least $20,000 was spent on getting people to the event. Think of the additional fees for renting out an entire convention center, 6 camera's, 2 techies, 1 captioner, and all the walkie talkie equipment.

Now think of the money that exchanged hands. Each of the 7 worship experiences brought about $10,000 in offering. I raised more than $3,000, with more than $360 dollars in inkind donations for my food and entertainment.

Complete strangers offered me the opportunity to sleep in their house, hotel or car. Yet, I wonder how many offered the same to any of the complete strangers that actually desperately need it.

I know that people feel more comfortable giving to an organization than individuals sometime. And knowing what I was up to certainly helped people to give. And I am soooooooo grateful for all the support for WELCOME and will continue to work to raise the remaining funds we need to feed all who will show up at our door this year.

Yet, how do we tap the generosity that people have - in the church and in their own wallets. How do we learn to share our resources so that people don't have to hit their rock bottom before they are able to get the help and support they need to live healthy lives.

I seek continually to work to be this bridge. And I imagine that that may be what I take from this trip.

I imagine I will continue to process this and discover that over time. But those are my thoughts for now. Tonight I spend my last night in the skywalk (God willing), before I head to the airport and back to San Francisco.

Sermon- Really, Really, Really, Really

Preached on my 6th day on the street. Click the triangle above to play. If you don't see a triangle find the sermon at
Date: 08-23-2009
Description: A sermon preached at the 8:30 Jazz service at Salem English Lutheran in Minneapolis.
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : Salem English Lutheran - Minneapolis
Scripture : John 6:51-66

Sermon - The World Would be a Better Place if Everyone Was Naked!

Preached on my 6th day on the street. Click the triangle above to play. If you don't see a triangle find the sermon at
Date: 08-23-2009
Description: A sermon preached at the 8:30 Contemporary service at Salem English Lutheran in Minneapolis.
Key words: homeless,HIV/AIDS,health,justice
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : Salem English Lutheran - Minneapolis
Scripture : John 6:51-66

Night Six - Hard to think

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sermon/Bible Study- Rocky Goodsoil

Press the triangle above to listen. If you do not see a triangle you can listen to the sermon at:
Date: 08-22-2009
Description: Bible study and brief meditation the day after ELCA votes to have full inclusion of GLBT folk.
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : ELM - Churchwide Assembly 09
Scripture : Mark 4:1-20

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day Five August 21, 2009

Today, I had my t-shirt instead of a sign. So I shouldn't get in trouble, right? Wrong. I got in trouble for having a cup with money in it on the floor. However, members who had heard about what I was doing told their friends and people gave me $83 with no sign or cup.

This may be a lot like the homeless individuals who have been on the streets in a neighborhood for a long time and have folks who support them and help them get the food and other things they need for their daily survival.

Yet, it's easy to forget about such things in the midst of such great change. One of the reasons I have called this venture begging for change is because the ELCA's was (as it has been for 20 years) talking about the ability for queer folk to get married and to be ordained. Both passed today. See the New York Times article I'm quoted in.

These issues are connected for me because so many of the homeless in San Francisco are actually from the Midwest. They fled the homophobia (real or perceived) in their communities, only to arrive in the most expensive city to live in and the city with the highest addiction rate.

The homeless called me pastor, during the time when I was unwilling to fight to become a pastor in the ELCA because of the discriminatory policies. My response would be to explain the carefully nuanced stance of the ELCA, after which they would simply nod their head and say: "whatever Pastor!'

Obviously I eventually gave in and became a pastor. And so believing in the priesthood of all believers (and to return the favor) I venture to the streets again and again reminding the homeless that they are pastors too. And even though the church too often only sends pastors to those who can afford them, or can afford a church building, they are very worthy of love and care.

In this my 8th year of working as the Executive Director of WELCOME, I confess that the homeless have taught me more about scripture, faith and humility than I feel I have been able to offer them.

So today I pray for all those who have not yet received the news that they are pastors. I pray for those who did not live to see this day. Good night sweet followers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day Four. August 20, 2009

While I spoke yesterday about the privilege that I was given because of my power and my badge. Today I learn how far that privilege goes as I was told by the ELCA staff that I am not allowed to have my cardboard sign or raised funds here. When I asked if I could take the part off my sign that asks for money, I was told: "absolutely not, and whatever you do you better not raise any money here."

All day long I listen to all the causes the ELCA wants me to give money too. So far, this has only included issues related to world disease - but nothing involving domestic hunger issues, despite the fact that we are in the worst recession this country has seen since the Great Depression.

In seminary I was taught about stewardship and every Sunday I'm expected to ask for "offerings." Politicians, girl scouts and facebook friends with birthdays are respected when they ask for money, and yet if you are poor (and likely) actually need the money for your daily bread, medication, feminine hygiene or rent you are not supposed to ask for money... unless it's Lent.

So, today I ask you to think about all the time's you've been able to ask for help when you truly needed it, how hard it was to actually admit your vulnerability. Imagine if you like the Sarophoenecian woman seeking medical care for her daughter (Mark 7:25-30), the bleeding woman (Mark 5:21-43), or Jeremiah had a constant need that people had decided to stop listen to.

Are we afraid that if we listen to those cries that we will be overwhelmed by the injustice in the world, or that if we help everyone in need we still don't trust anyone will do the same for us. Good fiscal responsibility is a good thing and yet we must not ignore the lines of women with children panhandling in downtown Minnesota.

Yesterday I raised more than $2,500 for the hungry in San Francisco, today without a sign I could only raise $16 (all made I had to put my sign away). Cardboard signs are a symbol of someone willing to be vulnerable enough to ask for the help they need. Could you sit in your cities busiest part and ask for what you truly and deeply need on a cardboard sign? If you did what would it say:
  • Will Work for Companionship
  • Need medication, please help
  • Need a tutor for biochem
  • Job needed
  • Addict, please help
  • Credit Jubilee Needed
  • [Insert your deep need here]
I have the courage to say that I am worried that we won't be able to feed the additional 5,000 meals that we will need to meet the demand of our new economic reality. I've raised half of the needed $6,000 - will you be willing to help us raise the rest (now that I can't hold up my sign). If so you can donate online (all matters of change accepted via cash, check and credit card) at:

Prayers: Today I pray that we have the courage to admit our deep needs with the world, and that that world responds to our deep need by offering hope, resources and when we need it, cold hard cash. Again, I also pray for the transgender saint of the day:

August 19: St. Sussanah/John- Female born ascetic who wore male monastic habits. Refused to give up her identity even when accused and condemned falsely for seduction and rape. (Excerpt from Queerly Lutheran, Wilgefortis, 2009)

Video of Night Three on the Street

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day Three: August 19, 2009

Today was a very dramatic day. I was successfully able to sleep in the skywalk (thank God(dess). I was woke up at 6am by the guard of the convention center telling me I wasn't allowed to be there. That's the same time the guards wake us up in front of the UU church in San Francisco that I have so often slept in the back or in the archways at.

At the assembly, I panhandled until the Convention Center staff informed me there was no panhandling on the premises. Then seeing my collar he stuttered a bit and tried to explain I could full participate, but I needed to do it without my sign. I asked him what the difference was between my sign and the countless others strewn about the convention hall advertising things. He said "they're officially recognized by the show." The show he was referring to was the church. Which is as much me as it is the homeless and hungry that were escorted out of the building and the Lutherans tried to give them food, but the Convention Center staff refused.

In my favorite moment of the day Pastor Anita Hill and a pastor fluent in native languages were able to serve coffee to five homeless women and speak to them in their native tongue.

But then drama continued as a tornado hit our building (no really) and broke the steeple at the church across the street. The most deeply saddening moment for me, as my heart dropped as I thought about those who had no shelter and who were continuously being sent away from safe spaces like the building I was in. Again it's a reminder of the privilege I wear around my neck (my collar and my name badge).

It's also another reminder of how all the things people feared for my saftey on these streets are so little compared to the weather. This is to be expected, as it is always the things we can't control that scare us the most. The vulnerability of the street is living life on the other side of the illusion that the locks on our doors, the insurance we buy, the faithfulness we have that cannot really protect our fragile bodies from the chaos of life, nature and the Spirit.

So tonight I pray mightily that I can once again sleep in the skywalk. Or that I can find another suitable place. Again it is supposed to rain as it is tomorrow.

Today I raised $2,565 for the Welcome Ministry and was given enough meal tickets for the rest of the assembly to be able to ensure that 100% of the panhandling money I get this week will go to WELCOME. This brings us nearly to the halfway mark of my mission to collect $6,000 to enable the feeding of 5,000. I invite you to help as you are able. A friend from twitter brought me a soy hot chocolate, so I know the internet can provide. (begging again and again- you can donate online at:

Still there is more concern for my safety tonight and I confess the weather has me worried. I know that it is bigger than me. I promise to stay as safe as I can. And I trust that your prayers will help too. Blessings to all of you, I hope you have warm beds to sleep in tonight.


August 20: Feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (According to the Old Roman Calendar)- 1090-1153 CE; Bernard was a French Christian churchman who was a merciless zealot, had an erotic relation with Jesus, his divine lover and husband. After Bernard’s death, many French individuals believed that if they passed under the rainbow of St. Bernard that they would undergo a gender metamorphosis.

(Excerpt from Queerly Lutheran, Wilgefortis, 2009)

Videos of Night Two - Megan in the Sky(way)

Bedding down for the night

Waking up to a loud boom at 3am

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day Two: August 18, 2009

Sleeping in the airport was suprisingly similar to sleeping in the shelters in San Francisco. It's sleeping on the floor with the lights on surrounded by lots of noise. Also, you don't know what the rules are and have a hard time sleeping because you think at any moment that you will be kicked out. And frankly with the strict Homeland Security rules I'm kind of surprised that they let me sleep in the airport without a flight to catch the next day.

The Churchwide assembly today was a lot of meetings about creating a Lutheran response to Malaria and human sexuality. I found it interesting that if the speakers who were speaking against homosexuality had said the same things about Malaria they would never have been able to get away with it.

Today I learned that the homeless in Minneapolis sleep in the walkways that connect buildings which makes a lot of since - as the walkways are designed to make it so people don't have to walk outside in the extreme heat. So tonight I'll find out how the police feel about the homeless sleeping in the walkways.

The Lutherans have been very generous to me. Today I got free meal passes for both lunch and dinner and $60 which will go to WELCOME to help with my goal of raising $6,000 on this retreat. These funds will help us feed an additional 5,000.

Insert pitch here begging you for money! Donate online.

I don't know if I have any thoughts yet about the differences between the homeless in Minneapolis and in San Francisco. Hope to learn more over the next six days.

Prayer: Tonight I remember the queer saint of the day...

August 18: Death of Pope Alexander VI- 1431-1503; Pope Alexander VI, born Roderic Borja, was allegedly bisexual. Fathering several children with several mistresses, he was also thought to have had several handsome male pages as lovers as well as a man named Jem. (Excerpt from Queerly Lutheran, Wilgefortis, 2009)