(By Emily Enders Odom, The Presbyterian New Service.) Amidst a trilling of trumpets, a shower of stoles, and a grateful congregation’s affirming applause – interposed with the shedding of more than a few tears – Lisa Larges, a candidate for the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) since 1986, was ordained as a teaching elder at the Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church.
Larges, who received her M.Div. with honors from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1989, where she was also a recipient of its preaching prize, has been called to serve the small, suburban Minneapolis congregation as its associate pastor for Congregational Care.
At once a historic occasion and a joyous celebration—30 years in the making—Larges’s ordination called the gathered body both to remember and to hope, not least Larges herself.
A lifelong Presbyterian, Larges had become a candidate for ministry in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in 1986. Because she felt as a matter of conscience that she could not serve the church without being open and honest about her identity as a lesbian, Larges “came out” to the presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry in 1991. Thus began a long judicial process and a protracted season of discernment for Larges, which did not lead immediately to ordination as a teaching elder, even after the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PCUSA removed the church’s constitutional barrier to ordination for all who are called and qualified regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The assembly’s action, which was subsequently ratified by a majority of presbyteries, took effect on July 10, 2011.
Larges has said her call—along with a measure of spiritual healing to the pain of the last thirty years—came into clear focus after she had decided to return home to Minnesota from San Francisco in 2011 to be closer to her family. It was then that she found a spiritual home in the Lake Nokomis Church, where she said she “can’t imagine feeling more truly and fully blessed.”
“All along, what’s sustaining for me is being connected with the heart of the church, which is its congregations,” Larges said. “Being a member at Noe Valley Ministry for 20 some years in San Francisco, and Lake Nokomis here in Minneapolis, provided that spiritual community where I felt fully known and valued, and where I and my gifts were welcomed. Looking back over the thirty years that I’ve been on this particular ordination journey, I can’t say that I would change anything, because I doubt that any other route would have given me the same chance to connect with such beautiful and extraordinary people—beautiful and extraordinary people from all across the church, and from every theological corner. Far more than anything else, my life, and the better parts of who I am, has been strengthened and formed and refined by having the incredible privilege of knowing so very many exquisite human beings.”
In the scriptures—Jeremiah 32:1-15 and 1 John 4:17-21—hymns, anthems, presbytery commission members, and worship leaders that were chosen for the service, it was clear that the long-awaited day was all about love.